One on One With Boston Cannons GM Kevin Barney

I would like to welcome Kevin Barney the Vice President and General Manager of the Boston Cannons. First and foremost thank you for taking time to answer our questions today.
You have a very impressive New England sports background with the Patriots and the revolution. What drew you to the MLL?

I became a lacrosse fan at Springfield College. They won the DIII National Championship my freshman year and I was friends with some of the guys on the team. I had been working for the Revolution for 8+ years and was looking for something new when a friend of mine saw that the Cannons were hiring and suggested I apply. When I met with Mark Kastrud, the GM at the time, the similarities on the business side to the Revs and MLS were very similar. I loved the dynamics of the small front office staff and everyone whatever it takes to put on the games and make the business successful.
You have the dual role of Vice President and General Manager. What does each role entail?

With a small staff titles don’t mean much. We all do a little, or I should probably say, a lot of everything each day. I oversee every aspect of the business from ticket sales, marketing, sponsorship and merchandise to paying bills, insurance, IT and HR duties. I also oversee the team operations and personnel. I leave almost all final player decisions up to my coaching staff and head coach John Tucker. I am on all the calls and in meetings with them to be a sounding board and to make sure player transactions fall within our scope on the business side with budgets and travel.
Could you introduce some of the rest of the front office to us?

Sure, I have a great staff that is dedicated and hardworking and deserves more credit than they ever get for all the behind the scenes work they do. Joe Shannon is my Director of Ticket Sales and is the longest tenured employee. He leads the ticket sales staff of Griffin Kirkwood, Matt Northrup and Aaron Stanton. Sara Berry is my Director of Corporate Partnerships. She handles all sponsorships, trade deals and manages several game day events such as pregame parties and the fan zone. Sean Desmond is Sara’s assistant who handles sponsorship fulfillment with Sara. Katherine Donnelly is my Marketing & Communications Manager. Katherine oversees everything from media, website, social media and game day production of PA, video boards and onfield contests. Matt Ryan is our Event Marketing Manager. Matt oversees our camps, clinics and merchandise sales as well as our intern program.
Your social media shows you very involved and hands on in day to day operations. Do you really make sure the jerseys get washed like you mentioned on Twitter?

Ha ha. Well, I actually have one of the best Equipment Managers in the business in Mike Fox. The challenge can be at times in that Mike lives in Philadelphia. He travels in every game and it’s not always possible for him to take all the towels and jerseys so there have been times in the past where I will take them home and spend a Sunday at the local laundromat. From the day I took over as GM I told the staff I am willing to do whatever it takes for us to be successful. Whether that is helping sell a major sponsorship deal or washing jerseys, I am in.
How do you prepare for home games versus away games?

There are obvious difference between home and away games, but really once we are about 10 weeks out from the start of the season, its planning and spending time each day on the next 4-6 upcoming games. Home games are much more involved as I am working with the stadium staff (security, parking, operations, concessions, etc) to make sure we are ready to go operationally. I am monitoring and working with the ticket staff as we get a majority of our group tickets the 2 weeks before each game. There is the operations of travel and scheduling both teams for hotel and practices. While being on the road is not as complex, it also takes a lot of planning and organization. I am traveling 26 people, usually from 5-7 different cities into the same airport, trying to get everyone in as close to the same time, then arranging ground transportation and working with the home team for practice times. The fun part happens when we have flight delays. And every MLL GM will tell you flight delays are the norm, not the exception. Once I get everyone to the city we are playing its just managing the group along to practices, team meals, to the game and then back to the airport the morning after the game.
What did it mean for you to have Cannons home games played in Gillette Stadium, a New England sports institution?

I think it was great for the Cannons and for MLL. We are trying to grow this league into a top professional sport so we need to be playing at professional venues. The players feel more professional when playing there and the fan experience is top notch from pulling into the parking lots to concessions and seating areas.
You mentioned once you would been seen as the guy that traded Paul Rabil, but the outcome brought Max Seibald and Chad Wiedmaier to the Cannons, two key pieces to the team’s success. Do you think now that fans now have a different perspective?

The hardest decisions to make in sports are the ones you know will come with backlash but that you know are for the better of the franchise. We could have received 19 players in return and fans still would have questioned it. And fans should be skeptical when there team trades away top talent. I saw and heard week to week though more fans excited and understanding of what we had done and where we were going with this team. It wasn’t just about that trade, it was a complete makeover of the team that missed the playoffs the past 2 seasons. It was a locker room, a mindset, an attitude and a style of play. The fans that watched us every week really appreciated the product we were putting on the field, and the results we began to get 1/3 the way through the season.
You did not stop with the trade that brought in Seibald and Wiedmaier and brought in Josh Hawkins for the playoff push and reunited him with Scott Ratliff one of the more recent dominant college defensive midfield lines. How much of the trade came from you, Coach Tucker, and Scott?

We had eyed Hawkins back in the 2013 draft. We had the 7th and 9th overall picks, and no offense to Josh, but we thought he would be there when it was our turn. D-middies weren’t known for going high in the draft. The trade was while in the works and started more from the conversations Coach Tucker was having with Charlotte. We were fortunate in the way this league works sometimes in that Hawkins lives in Western Mass and the travel logistics and cost were not ideal for Charlotte or Josh. We were thrilled to finally make that deal and we could not have been happier with the player we got. Josh fit right in with our group and style of play and was a big part of our playoff push.
The team was not picked to even make the playoffs by many people this past season, yet they came within a goal of going to the finals. At what point in the season did you realize how good they were going to be (the Denver game? The New York games?), or did you know from the start?

I remember Jan 26, the Monday after the draft, sending Coach Tucker a list of what I thought our 19-man would be once we got guys back from indoor and our college picks in. I smiled looking at the lineup and knew then we were going to be a team to reckon with. And that list was without Josh Hawkins too. I had 100% confidence that Coach Tucker would be successful in implementing the style of play we wanted out of this team. It was just a matter of time for everyone else to realize how good we were going to be.
Many writers described the Cannons as a “scrappy” team, but I felt they played with more of a chip on their shoulder because they were so good and overlooked. Which do you feel is more accurate if either?

All I told people at the start of the season is that we were going to be a fun team to watch. We put together a group of guys that were talented and athletic and we were going to give each team we played all they could handle by pushing the pace and being relentless. I wouldn’t call it scrappy or playing with a chip, it was more that we knew we had to do the little things to be successful. We weren’t always going to be perfect and that was ok, but we had to play with energy and do the little things.
What are you goals for next season?

I think every team has the same goal of winning the championship. And if you don’t have that goal then you are doing something wrong. It’s not necessarily the goal, but the steps along the way and how you are gauging your success as you go and what changes will you make along the way to reach that ultimate goal. We are going to look to improve at some positions, but while only making changes that fit into our mold. This is an always changing league and if you don’t try to improve each year you will fall behind. I learned that after winning the championship in 2011. We tried too hard to stay the same and did not make the necessary tweaks to stay on top. On the business side, we need to change what we are doing to continue to grow this league. We need to build more supporters of this team. We have a lot of fans who come to 1 game a year with their youth groups. We need more passionate fans of our players and our team to help grow our brand and ultimately the league.
How are you preparing for the expansion draft and what does it mean for the Cannons?

This will be my second expansion draft and it’s not fun. Especially after the season we had where we made so many changes and we are already looking at losing players. We first have to come up with our 23-man list. And then from that we develop a plan for the expansion draft. Its never easy to tell a player they are not being protected, but there will be several players that played in the playoffs for us that we can’t protect.
Where do you see the MLL in five years?

Tough question as so much has changed in the last 5 years within the league and within the sport of lacrosse. I think we all expect the growth of the sport across the country to continue to grow so that only means more and more kids each year will be taking up the sport. What that allows at our level is both new fans and new markets for expansion. If we can capitalize on both, I think you will see a league with 12 teams averaging 8-10,000 fans per game across the league. That would be great percentage growth as far as number of teams and total fans.
What are your views on the New York/Boston rivalry and do you feel the Cannons and Lizards could add more depth to it after three very good games this past season?

We need more rivalries in this league. We need fans passionate about their team and marking certain games down in the calendar based on who we are playing. There is definitely a small rivalry there because of the Boston/New York thing, but it takes winning to breed a rivalry. I think this was the first time since 2010 that both of us were in the playoffs. If success on both sides continues and we have tight games in season and meet in the playoffs a couple of times, the rivalry will grow.
If people could know one non lacrosse related thing about you what would it be?

Anyone who follows me on twitter or facebook basically knows all about me, I am an open book. And all of my time is spent working on the Cannons or with my family, probably not in the ratio my wife would like too. So along that lines, it would probably be to know that I wouldn’t be able to do this job without the support of my wife who puts up with the long hours, nights and weekends away from home. She allows me to have the best job and best family a guy could ask for.
Now we turn the tables and you get to ask me a question…

I always like to hear what specific changes people would make if they were in charge. So if you were in charge, of the Cannons or MLL, what are 2 changes you would make. One on the field and one off the field change to our team or league.
Ok. One the field there is not much to I would do except for find another dodging scorer. This team was a goal away from the championship and will be the mix next season. Off the field, I would try and shorten the indoor overlap or expand the game day roster to 20. I would prefer the former, but the latter may be more achievable.