Interview Transcript: Jim Stagnitta

Every week we will bring you an interview transcript from around the Lacrosse Radio Network. Today we have Denver Outlaws head coach Jim Stagnitta on LaxWorm Radio from last week.

(I)What does verbally committing mean? If I’m a freshman and I’m verbally committing to Princeton, what does that mean?

(J) Unfortunately that’s probably not the right one to use because they’re not going to take a commitment from a freshman. Because the Ivy, even though it’s moving quicker than it ever has, you still have to be able to demonstrate an academic profile that’s going to work for them, but if you were a freshman and you’re committing to a scholarship caliber school, to be perfectly honest with you it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Unless you just completely take yourself off the market and you’re sure that the decision, that that’s the place you want to be, it’s a roll in the dice that nothing is going to change in the next three years because you really don’t get a chance to make it official or sign a piece of paper that makes it official until November of your senior year. It’s a long time to sit and wait and hope that you continue on that path and you continue to improve and it’s a long time to wait to make sure you know, you don’t get hurt and that you maintain the academic standards that are necessary. I think as it continues it’s going to become a little bit like football and basketball in that once you commit to a school then the recruiting process starts and everybody starts to recruit you.

(I)Talk to me a little bit, I hear and I see it all the time you know, 2016’s, 2015’s, etc. I’m verbally committing and it’s a big deal and we see it on there. Now, when I verbally commit, and Princeton I only used because of Ryan, but when I fully commit to a Duke, for example, am I taking myself off the market by verbally committing because this may be a misconception in some people’s eyes.

(J)I don’t want to take all the air time, but I think that there was a time a few years back where you were taking yourself off the market and there was kind of a gentlemen’s agreement in lacrosse that you wouldn’t do this, but let’s go back to Princeton. If you commit to Duke and in a year you reach that academic profile that Princeton needs, guys aren’t backing off any more like they used to. They’re going to continue to recruit you and I hear that from the guys directly. I think as this has become more prevalent the other schools are not just going to sit back and say okay, you committed we’re just going to leave you alone, they’re going to continue to commit because there is a compelling part of this that you know, for UVA or Duke or a Maryland that gets you to commit early and you’re sitting their thinking well, I’d love to go to Princeton or I’d love to have the chance to go to Yale or Dartmouth or Penn, but I have this offer on the table and what happens in two years if I don’t meet the numbers I need to, to qualify for one of these Ivy League schools, you know so I should think what’s on the table right now if it makes a lot of sense. But then what’s happening is when they do meet those criteria to be recruited by an Ivy League school, I think you’re seeing more and more that prior to the last three years that probably wasn’t happening very often.

(I) In response to whether being a former college coach how he viewed ivy’s going after committed players from an ivy standpoint and from the school with the verbal commit:

(J) It’s a catch twenty-two and you know, it’s a tough one and it’s more interesting for me than ever because I have a ninth grader who is a pretty good lacrosse player, and he’s my son and I’ve been very realistic with not just his level of play but where he is and, you know when you are ready to make an informed decision on college. When one of the big time coaches reaches out to you as a ninth grader and they put an offer on the table, you can certainly be brought into that and it’s tough to say no to it, and you know, I don’t blame the coaches on either side of it. I think that the Ivy’s, you know, as a former coach I had a problem with dealing with ninth graders…I just don’t think they’re prepared. If you’re prepared to make an informed decision and I think that’s where one of the things that I think is so great about the trilogy opportunity and the program, it’s about education, how we’re educated and how to make decisions and how to prepare yourself for the process because a big part of it, you prepare for the process before it hits you then at least you can make an informed decision. I blame the NCAA.  I think they’re washing their hands right now. There needs to be a little bit more control in college coaches like in every sport, they find a way to work within the rules, within the rules of the NCAA, but still able to recruit and reach out to kids before the NCA really dictates that you can, and college coaches are going to do whatever they can to gain an advantage and use their advantage so a scholarship school that can give you a scholarship and tell you that you can be admitted as a ninth grader, as long as you meet the minimum standard. They’re going to use that and you can’t blame them for that. But if you have the opportunity to go to a Princeton or a Yale or a Harvard and they come in later in the process and you change your mind, I can’t blame a family or a kid for doing that. There’s a flatter value in having the opportunity to attend one of those institutions, so as long as this goes on I continue to sit back and wait, thinking that the NCA is going to step in and be a little freer on this, and they haven’t. In fact, I’m seeing and hearing that they’re even opening it up more rather than fight it and say okay, now you can contact a kid directly that’s a junior. I think that’s the direction it’s going in right now and ease off and let them have access to the kids earlier, and I just don’t think that’s the right direction.

(I)So Jim, let me ask you. You said you were the father of a ninth grader. Do you think it’s an aphrodisiac? I mean let’s face it, we all are proud of our kids and we sit there and get really psyched up when something good happens to them, and here the big time coaches come walking in and they say “hey, we want your kid to play for us.” Whatever school it is, big time school, how much of this do you think the parent’s play in to this, and they say you know what, this is great.

(J)The average parent does not know nearly as much about this as I do. I did it for 27 years at the college level. I can find myself in a situation where I look at this and say okay, how many opportunities are there and you know, what’s the best fit going to be and what time table makes sense to not botch yourself out of the opportunity that exists there and I think everybody, you can’t help but to get caught up in it. We were laughing about it the other day in the office. You got a kid with an Auburn tattoo on his arm going to Alabama, you know? You certainly can get caught up in it and I think that the reason people can get caught up in it is that it’s secure and it’s a great opportunity. At the end of the day, what are we comparing? We’re comparing North Carolina, we’re comparing Princeton or in a lot of these cases Delaware compared to Loyola. We’re comparing in some ways apples to apples. I think what happens at the end of the day though is while you’re comparing, in most cases, comparable schools and great opportunities, what you’re not taking into account is where that kid is going be in 2-3 more years when maybe he doesn’t get any taller or maybe he doesn’t get any faster, maybe he doesn’t improve. We all know guys that have been in the situation where they, you know, peak as ninth graders. We’ve all seen guys mature and improve dramatically. There are 18 year olds that come to college as mature as 21 year olds and there are 21 year olds in college that are not as mature as 18 year olds. So, it’s not an exact science and I think that’s part of the problem.

(I)In response to at what point does it help almost the guy that doesn’t commit because he’s trying to work and improve himself. Meanwhile the other guy who gives a verbal commitment is just sitting around, sitting on his laurels. How much does that happen?

(J)I think Ryan can concur with this. We both hear the same things, and you see the same things and the complaint from high school coaches now is my guys are committed and you know, they no longer are at the level they were prior to that and there’s the high school aspect of it that becomes very secondary and even kids can become difficult to coach because they’re going on to play at a big time school and have kind of lost interest in where they are at that time. So, I hear a lot of that and a lot more of that than I have heard in the past. And again, I think that’s one of the risks with this. The minute you become comfortable and stop working on your game and you feel like you’ve arrived, somebody’s going to catch up to you. There’s no question about that.

(I)On the trade of Mark Matthews to New York, take me into your head. What are your thoughts on that decision and what brought on that decision?

(J)A lot of thoughts, and again we’re certainly very focused on the team. I think we proved last year that when you have the right players and they each handled the role and they embraced the role you can be successful. With Mark, it basically came down to [inaudible]. One of the people that we wanted, that I wanted since last year just because I know the young man well and I think he’s a terrific player, and I love the way he plays. There are two people we wanted to play in that position. The other one is on the other end of the phone (Ryan) and Boston wouldn’t let him go and we went with Boltus, great feel, light handed, and somebody that we needed. On the left hand side we have (inaudible), arguably one of the top attack men in the world right now coming off a great season. We knew he was going to be healthy. We had been following with (inaudible). And we had Bocklet who really stepped up down the stretch and was a more well-rounded player than we had ever imagined he was and was really terrific in the playoffs. Then you have Jordan McBride who scored an awful lot of goals last year committed to playing with us and not doing anything, putting indoor on the back burner when there was an Outlaws game, it was a log jam. To be honest, when you start to look at the bigger side of it, where were we going to get value? You know, we weren’t going to get a lot of people because of where Jordan lives. It didn’t make sense for them to pick Jordan up. We had to make some decisions at the end of the day. There were a couple guys that we wanted to get stronger that was in the middle of the field. If you remember last year, Mark Matthews played an awful lot of midfield for us. I mean, that was really where he got a majority of his minutes before the playoffs. He was running out of the box and running up and down and with the indoor game you know, and the beating you take there we had an opportunity, and if anything we’re pretty strong on the attack side and we’ll find out whether we were right or wrong, but at the end of the day you know, we felt pretty good about the group that we had and the only guy that we had there that we had any value for was Mark.