The Denver Outlaws are undefeated and the Chesapeake Bayhawks have landed the second seed in the MLL playoffs. But one man, Brian Reese, is getting less credit than deserved for his part in building these clubs.Almost no one in the history of Major League Lacrosse have been as committed to the league as Brian Reese. He played for three years with the Chesapeake Bayhawks, and was the first ever general manager of the Denver Outlaws starting in 2006. He left the team to manage the Bayhawks after the 2011 MLL season. Reese also served as the Outlaws coach for four seasons.
Reese stepped away from MLL after last season when his Bayhawks won the MLL title. Reese’s two teams, the Outlaws and Bayhawks, have ended up the top two teams in 2013 with the Outlaws going undefeated. Reese doesn’t deserve to go unnoticed.
“I take a lot of pride in it.” says Reese of seeing the two teams’ success. “If the Bayhawks are playing the Outlaws this year, I feel like I can’t lose. Both are terrific organizations with great players and staff and are a lot of fun to watch the people I know compete.”
Reese made a lot of the moves to shape the teams, including trading for John Grant Jr from the Lizards last season. “I have always been a fan of John Grant’s game. I’ve had the unenviable job of playing against him and have a lot of respect for the fact that he is still competing at such a high level. Coach Cottle and I knew what a great player he is. He had a down year for Hamilton/LI a few years ago while he was recovering from a knee injury and was available. We thought it was a no-brainer to bring him in. He is a pro’s pro, a gamer and is the type of competitor you want on your team. We gave up some good players to get him but it was totally worth it.”
Last season Reese made the moves not only for Grant but also for players like Kip Turner, Drew Westervelt and he also drafted Matt Mackrides, Drew Snider, Matt Gibson and Grant Keklieu. Gibson was traded to the Lizards for Grant and ended up the rookie of the year for 2012.
With the undefeated Outlaws, there is no doubt Tony Seaman and Jim Stagnitta have done a terrific job. But Reese has also made a couple of moves that built what might end up being the best pro team in the sport’s history.
“Guys like Schwartzman and Mundorf were draft picks. Brendan was taken at the end of the 2nd rd and Jesse was a 4th rd pick. In terms of trades, getting Lee Zink from the Bayhawks prior to our 1st season was a huge trade for the Outlaws. I was able to play with Lee my last year in the league and watched him while at Maryland. I think I told him his 1st season that he was going to be one of the best defenders in the league. He has been that and more. He is one of the best defenders I have ever seen. A very technically sound defender that doesn’t do it with flash, but is so effective and dependable each week.
“I think they have a great shot to win it this year and obviously having a perfect regular season record is an accomplishment on its own.” says Reese about their chances. “What stands out the most is how the guys like Schwartzman, Mundorf, Zink, etc are now veterans where before they were outstanding players but going against some older veteran teams. Now, they are the veterans and still the top players in the game.”
Mundorf is one guy who has become a standout in the league, as a league MVP and all pro. He missed time in last year’s playoffs, but he should be good to go this year. Mundorf was one of Reese’s best draft picks. “I don’t know if you ever expect a guy to be a league MVP and All-Pro player each season. I thought he could definitely be a starter and had skill the skill set to be a very good MLL players. I have to give a lot of credit to the Outlaws Head Coach at the time, Jarred Testa. He was an assistant coach at UMBC and worked with Brendan a few years prior and was instrumental in getting him to Denver. What we could never have seen is how hard Brendan worked on his game after his college career. He has become better and better each season and has that drive to be the best.”
With the Outlaws Reese went 30-14 for a winning percentage of .682, the highest in the league during that span. With the Outlaws he drafted Brendan Mundorf, Jesse Schwartzman, Geoff Snider, Casey Cittadino, Drew Westervelt, Max Seibald, Dan Hardy, Chris O’Dougherty, Connor Martin and Ken Clausen and Dillon Roy.
Even though he is out of the game, Reese is always active on social media during games, communicating with media, fans and players around the league. He says that he does get that itch sometimes, but enjoyed his year off. “I miss the competition in the MLL, and game day but I really enjoyed spending a little time away from it. I got the chance to do some things like coach both of my sons teams this year. That is something that I wouldn’t have been able to do before and I enjoyed the extra time with my family.”
“I still love the MLL. I try to watch every game I can and the exposure the league gets on TV definitely makes it easy to follow the league. I want the league to get to that next level, getting more sponsors, more fans, more teams and paying players more. Its not easy but I think its attainable in the next five years.”