Joe Cuozzo kept nudging his former player and former rival coach, Tom Rotanz. Cuozzo, the nation’s all-time coaching leader in high school boys lacrosse victories at Ward Melville and Mount Sinai, had coached the U.S. Men’s Under-19 lacrosse team in 1999, leading the team to a national championship.
Cuozzo kept encouraging Rotanz, the coach of Shoreham-Wading River, to apply for a coaching position for the 2012 Games in Turku, Finland.
“He was kind of hounding me to do it,” Rotanz said. “He said, ‘Tom, you have the credentials to be one of the coaches.’”
Rotanz didn’t think much of it. He sent in an application, only to learn he had been selected as one of three finalists for the head coach position. While he didn’t end up as the head coach, he was selected as an assistant, marking the beginning of a journey that will last through the summer of 2012.
Once it became official, Rotanz admitted he was glad he wasn’t the head coach just yet.
“They kind of shy away from selecting a head coach without having been an assistant, which looking back at it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Not to have any background in it I think would be a disadvantage.”
In late October Rotanz found out he was one of three finalists for the head coach job. He was e-mailed 10 questions to prepare him for an interview that was to follow a few days later on a conference call.
They selected the head coach in November and a formal announcement was made Dec. 15.
Rotanz will work with head coach Tim Flynn, who coached Mountain Lakes High School in New Jersey, a team the Wildcats have played in non-league. The team has four coaches.
Rotanz said he will be in charge of the defense, which presents a challenge in adopting to the different styles of play by other countries.
“I’ll have my hands full with this and trying to go against a different style of lacrosse,” he said. “I’m excited but it’s also a little nerve-wracking. But I have a year and a half hopefully to talk to enough people that have gone against Canadians and put it together.”
The players for the team will be selected at a tryout in July. Each region around the country can nominate 12 players, for a total of around 150 that will get invited to the tryout. The team is narrowed to 24 players. Rotanz said additional evaluators are brought in during the tryouts to help the coaches determine the roster. No player from Shoreham has ever made the team. Mount Sinai graduate Colleen McCaffrey played for the women’s U-19 team in 2007 that won gold.
Rotanz has been named Suffolk Coach of the Year six times and has led the Wildcats to state championships in 2002 and 2007. As a player at Ward Melville he was an All-American playing under Cuozzo. He was also an All-American at national champion at both Suffolk Community College and Adelphi.