A Conversation with Dave Urick


Washington, DC, February 28 - E-Lacrosse sat down with Georgetown's Dave Urick and just talked for a while about everything from the state of the game to the ideal freshman. The setting is the assistant coaches' office, after Friday practice. The next day his 12th ranked Georgetown Hoyas would open with number 10 Brown University and E-Lacrosse would debut on-line. Urick checks out the weather update on a website I'd never seen before and leaves it up, returning to it every so often during our chat. A big green blob of bad weather over the Carolinas was slowly following the coastline northward. Even Urick's assistants Dan Levy, Rick Sowell, and Paul Padalino would stop by occasionally to check on the big green blob.

The blob dumped heavy rains throughout the Washington, DC area for all of gameday's morning and most of the afternoon. Urick's kids beat Brown 12 - 10 and get no rest, having three days before number 3 Syracuse rolls into town, coming off a 22-21 comeback opener over number 2 Virginia, played in the Orange Dome while this conversation was taped.


Where did it all start?

I Was born in Buffalo NY and grew up there until about the age of twelve or thirteen, when we moved to a suburb south of Buffalo, West Seneca, which is where I spent my high school and junior high school years. But I guess we consider Geneva, New York home in a lot of ways, because that's were my wife and I settled and raised our family. Our kids grew up there.

I went to Cortland State University in central New York, south of Syracuse...and interestingly enough, around and about the time I was there, a number of really well known college lacrosse coaches were there. Tony Seaman (Hopkins) was there before me. Richie Speckman, who is the head coach at Nassau Community College was in there. Paul Wehrum (Herkimer CC) and I were there at the same time. Billy Tierney was a few years after me. Ray Rostan, at Hampden Sydney and an awful lot of really good high school coaches on Long Island were there. Mike Waldvogel of Yale was there, as well. I went there, primarily for football. I played football in college for four years and my roommate was from Long Island. I wanted to play baseball my freshman year but they started throwing curveballs in baseball and that ended my baseball career. So I was looking for something to do in the spring...

So you didn't play high school lacrosse?

No! No, but [Urick's college roommate] was an avid lacrosse player and a very good one. The guy is Eddie Schreiber. His brother Doug was an All-American midfielder on some of the Buddy Beardmore teams (Maryland) in the mid 70's and won national championships, and then his youngest brother Chris played for Hopkins in the 80's. So Eddie was my roommate and...godfather of one of my children now. We've stayed very close after we got out of school. He's the guy that put a lacrosse stick in my hands. He's now a big time college lacrosse official. He's done the Division I Championship game and the North South game and all of them. So I got introduced to the game on the Cortland's freshman team (everybody did then). Then played three years of varsity lacrosse and played reasonably well. Mike Waldvogel, or "Bones", as we called him, was a year ahead of me so I had a good player to learn from.

It's kind of ironic. It's a good example of not really ever knowing what's going to influence your life. I mean, I never played high school lacrosse, picked it up in college, and ended up making a livelyhood coaching the game. I was a History Education Major at Cortland, and I was a teacher. I DIDN'T HAVE A JOB after I got out of college and I was putting in swimming pools for two dollars an hour when I got a call from my college football coach to interview in the Binghamton area. They needed a teacher and an assistant football coach. Just after that season, my football coach called me again, and said that one of his classmates ...had taken the Hobart College Football [Coaching] position and that they needed an assistant that could also coach lacrosse. So I resigned the teaching position in January and left to go to Hobart as Assistant Football Coach and Assistant Lacrosse Coach working with Jerry Schmidt in lacrosse and George Davis in football. I probably had no clue at the time where this was all headed. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. That was 1971. I worked with those fellas in lacrosse and football for 7 or 8 years, and then I became the head coach of the football team and then the lacrosse team. So I was doing both at the same time, for about 2 or 3 years, which was kind of tough. It's a little difficult to do with the recruiting, particularly, but the programs survived. I had some very good assistants. A number of my assistants are out as head coaches now. Its a tribute to them more than anything else, but they helped us to be successful. That's for sure. Terry Corcoran, Hank Janczyk, Mark Van Arsdale at Penn, his brother Guy who's at RIT, Danny Whalen at Colgate were all with me. They were all very good players and then continued as coaches. But it came to a point where I had to decide [which sport to continue coaching]. They [Hobart] weren't interested in me doing both anymore, which didn't disappoint me in the least.

Was that after you'd won a couple of national championships?

Um... Yes.

Was there any choice at that point?

Um... Probably not! The lacrosse program obviously did well. I chose lacrosse because it's a little bit more of a players game. It was a little more fun during the week, although football, I know, is still in my blood. I love Saturday afternoons. I think college football is a great game but lacrosse was the way to go. And at Hobart, that wasn't that tough a decision. So I continued to have great assistant coaches with me and the program did very well and off we went (8 more national championships in a row). An old Georgetown came knockin' on the door. I really didn't think I was that interested. They asked me if I'd be interested in coming down. I didn't really think I would be, but you never know. There aren't that many really great coaching opportunities that come by and when I got down here and spoke to the people at Georgetown, and it was pretty obvious to me that they were pretty serious about what they wanted to do. An um... the Urick's made the move. I was at Hobart for eighteen years. It was a tough decision. There was a lot of soul searching and late night talks. My wife and I really weren't sure. It's worked out great. Our kid's love it. That was our main concern. How would our children adapt to a new environment and new schools. For them, I think, it's been a real positive thing.

How old are your kids?

Well, I have two here at Georgetown. Holly's a junior English major, probably a Spanish minor. She's on the women's [lacrosse] team here. She volunteered last year at the Olympics. She played field hockey her freshman year but now just plays lacrosse, for what I think is going to be a very, very good women's team. They're pretty tough. Scott, is a sophomore although he has freshman eligibility after a red-shirt season last year. Both doing very well in school and otherwise. They both love Georgetown. And I got another that's looking now; Mindy. She's a junior, at Robinson [high school in Northern Virginia], playing lacrosse. She's gonna consider Georgetown, but she's looking at other schools as well.

Who were your heros?

I grew up with Jimmy Brown and Mickey Mantle. You know, they were plastered up all over my wall. I'm still a Yankee fan. I've been a Yankee fan since I was [a kid]. And still a Cleveland Brown fan, but I've got that on hold.

I used to wait by the doorstep for Sports Illustrated to come to my house and in 1963, I remember Jerry Schmidt on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and it kinda caught my eye, and I read the article. It's interesting how that circle completed itself. I remember seeing Jerry in that picture... and not that many years later, you know, I'm coaching with the guy. He was truly one of the great players at Hopkins. There've been a lot of great coaches at Hobart but Jerry really put us on the map, in the modern era of lacrosse. And I had the great pleasure and fortune to be able to learn a lot of what I know about the game from a guy like him. He was a great coach in my eyes. He's still a good friend of mine. His son, Will, played for me at Hobart, which was kinda neat. He ended up being a great defensive middie. He coached with me too, which brings the circle together even more. My first year at Georgetown, I had no assistant coaches. I had an office about as big as this desk. I inherited the team in August so there was no recruiting for that year and everything had to be done by myself. And Will was [working in Baltimore]... and he coached with me for a couple of years. He was a big help those first couple of years. We were just getting started.

The obvious thing we wanted to do was get off to a running start. There was a lot of momentum out there for Georgetown lacrosse. There was a lot of publicity. There was a lot of hype because they had made this commitment to lacrosse and because I guess making the decision to go from Hobart to Georgetown was a big thing in the lacrosse world. So we wanted to take advantage of that momentum and alot of the players that were here, while they weren't the best lacrosse players in the country, they were really exited about the future of Georgetown lacrosse. They were really pumped that the university had made such a commitment to the program. So I wanted those guys to have a good lacrosse experience, especially those seniors. They'd never had a winning season, in the program's history. I felt, what better than for those guys to go out as Georgetown's first team with a winning season. AND THEY DID! They were 8 and 5. We won more than we lost. We played a mixed bag of teams, [most of which] we don't play anymore but Princeton, Yale and Bucknell were on that schedule along with teams like Radford, Dickinson, Mary Washington and others, but those were the same teams that they were playing before with the same level of ability and we won. I'll never forget the game that we played to give us a winning season, our seventh win. We played BC at St. John's and those kids were excited. It was a monumental thing for them, and it should have been. They were the first Georgetown team in 30 years of lacrosse to have a winning season. Fortunately, we've won ever since. We've certainly changed the schedule a little bit. We're opening this season with Brown, Syracuse and Army in the first eight days of the season. So we've come quite a ways.

I got spoiled in a lot of ways at Hobart because it's such a great place to be involved in lacrosse. So many little things that you kinda take for granted. You've gotta build an office and a support staff and assistant coaches. It's been fun to build lacrosse tradition. That's what's going on here.

What's the ideal freshman?

I think the ideal freshman is a guy who comes into your program with a real sound fundamental base. That's very important. That's key. And I think more and more of our focus has been not only on guys with a solid fundamental Lacrosse base but just a solid fundamental athletic background. We look a lot harder at what else the guy does besides just play Lacrosse. The evaluation of athletes at the division I level is very important. We look for a lot of the little things; the solid fundamental base, good athletic ability and a willingness to work hard and to earn their spot. You want guys to come in and be real hungry and to push your other players and make it as competitive as it can be. But you certainly don't want guys who are going to get too wrapped up in how much playing time they get, initially. I mean, that's something you obviously have to earn. And I think that's what makes good programs good.

The adjustment they have to make from high school to college is so important, I think they are coming here highly motivated to play college Lacrosse at the division I level. At the top level of division I it takes a certain level of commitment and it takes a certain level of ability, and at the same time they're getting adjusted to competing academically at one of the better schools in the country. That's an interesting challenge for these guys and that's why we [the coaches] have to make sure we are paying attention to them off the field as well as on, particularly early in their time at Georgetown.

Do they need two hands?

Yeah. Absolutely. That's kind of important at this level. I think a truly, truly great player can survive being really dominant with one hand, but you don't see that as much anymore. The off hand doesn't have to be flawless, but you gotta be confident. You gotta be able to go there. That still improves once you get to this level. It's just a matter of repetition and practice.

Do you hesitate to play freshman?

No, I don't. I never have. Better guys play, you know. I've played freshman goalies, attackmen, middies, it doesn't really matter. When developing a program, during my first few years here, that was obviously a real hook, I think. When I first started recruiting players at the national level, the guys could come into Georgetown and feel reasonably certain that they were going to be able to step in and play, and play pretty quickly. And they did. We started that first recruited class that came in. I think we started seven freshman. I didn't hesitate to play them.

I think I hesitate a little bit more now then I would of 8 or 9 years ago because I think I appreciate the maturity factor more, but Greg McCavera is a good example. We played Greg last year and he took a bump or two. And he made a mistake or two as a freshman but I think it is already obvious that he's benefited tremendously from that playing time. We might have suffered a little bit, playing him as a freshman, but in the big picture, he was the right guy. He's going to make us look like we're real good coaches before it's all over, and that's because he played a lot as a freshman. You'd rather have your program at a stage where you can bring those guys along a little slower and you've got enough depth or talent at those positions that freshman don't have to come in and play right enough. But if it's the right guy... I mean if you've recruited well enough, and you've got the right guy, then you get him out there. There's no doubt about it.

What's a twelve year old kid have to do now if he want's to play Lacrosse at the highest level?

I think he's got to develop his athletic ability, and that's not just his Lacrosse skills. I think that's important, as they get older. I'd hesitate to encourage kids that are too young to start lifting and weight training, but at the right age, that's important too. It's pretty obvious to me, after being here a very short period of time, that there is a difference between division I and division III and it's the same difference that there is in basketball and football. The guys that are here are bigger, faster and stronger. There is still room in Lacrosse for the guy who is smaller in stature, that can bring other real strong qualities to the table, like quickness, speed and toughness. But you've got to be mentally and physically tough to play this game and how do you develop that? I think you do it by working hard on your own, doing things where you have to push yourself, or working hard at a job or in school. You've got to develop that even physical and mental toughness.

They've got to understand that Georgetown and many of the top Lacrosse programs are also the top schools in the country. It's very important that they understand at a very early age the need to be competitive on and off the field. They've got to be able to budget their time and discipline themselves, not only to be good athletes but to be conscientious and good students. That's a big part of our recruiting challenge. There's an awful lot of Lacrosse players that we'd like to reach out to. But some of them, unfortunately, we can't give as much encouragement to. They are not going to be competitive at a school like Georgetown. You know, Duke, Princeton, Brown, Penn, Cornell, Carolina and Hopkins are all some of the best universities in the country. Lacrosse has that. One of the really unique things Lacrosse has is that you still associate the game with great academic institutions.

About 6 weeks ago, I saw what seemed like a 10 year old kid throw a behind the back pass to another kid who hit a behind the back shot. It seems that the stick skills become more and more refined with each generation of kids.

I would agree with that. I think the stick's a big part of it. We've had plastic sticks for a long time but over the last 8 or 10 years they have really refined them to a point where I don't know how much lighter they can get. It's really helped kids to develop their skills. They see what these older guys are doing. They see the guys in the MILL doing all kinds of nifty things. The kids are going to emulate that. I think that's fine to a point, you know. I wouldn't want to see it a the risk of not developing that sound fundamental base. But that's the great part about Lacrosse. While there's an awful lot of teamwork that's involved and things that have to be coordinated, there's also an awful lot of times where the athlete's individual athletic ability has a chance to surface. He can put his athletic ability on display really express himself out there on the field. I think that's kind of neat and an attraction of the game. That's what makes the game so appealing to a lot of younger athletes.

Describe the ideal senior. How does he leave you?

The guy going out is a little different, you know. I've always felt that whether its Georgetown or Hobart, if the guy doesn't change or the athlete doesn't change from the time he walks in 'til the time he walks out, then somehow we've failed as a university or as a college. I think his values change; what type of person he is. That's one of the things I enjoy about this position is watching how these young people change from the time you see them as 17 or 18 year olds until the time you see them as 21 year olds going out the door. We really lean heavily on our seniors for strong leadership qualities, we try to put the responsibility on their shoulders to point the way and try and make sure they know it's their team. It's not my team it's not Rick's team, it's their team. You give them the ability and the latitude to make it work for them. We're certainly there to make sure they're doing all the right things. Athletically, those are the guys that you really lean on as well.

There's no doubt that this year we've got a strong group of seniors and I think, god willing and the creek don't rise, we are going to be a pretty good team. And there's a lot of variables; a lot of questions that will be answered in the next few weeks. This is a strong group and it's a strong group because of our seniors. Not only are they strong players but they're strong people and I think that's, hopefully, going to be the key for us.

What do you think of some of the games changes over the last few years?

Well, I'm the chairman of the USILA rules Advisory Committee. It's made up coaches, and we make suggestions and recommendations on rules changes or point of emphasis to the NCAA committee. They don't always just rubber stamp our changes. If they think it's a good Idea, they change it. If they don't think it's a good idea, they don't change it. It's a way for the coaches to have some input. But I think, interestingly enough, if you were to look at basketball as an example, if it was up to the coaches, there would never have been a three point shot in basketball. The coaches weren't real high on that. That change came from other sources and I think in Lacrosse, we probably never would have gotten to this 10 second thing [time limit to clear the ball from the defensive end of the field].

I remember seeing the two-point shot [from outside the restraining box] down at the Loyola tournament one year, and that's great. I mean, you do that thing in the fall, and you try things out and see. One year in Big East basketball they had six fouls. I think there was some sentiment, after we put in a lot of these things [rules governing face-offs were also changed] to back off a little bit and just let the game go for a while. Let the officials get up to speed with the mechanics that are involved with the three man crew and the 10 second counts and all the little nuances that go with that. I'll tell you one thing I learned real quickly when making rule changes is that you better anticipate all the different situations that can come up and know all the different ramifications of a rule change. You say, hey, that's a good idea, we should make that rule change, and if you don't think it through thoroughly, you could create more problems than you thought.

There are only twelve teams and not 16 in the NCAA Lacrosse tournament and Georgetown has been slightly out of the field for the last few years. Is there sentiment toward changing that or is it just tied to the number of Division I teams who participate in the sport?

Yes, I think it's tied to that. You can make a real strong argument for increasing the field from a competitive standpoint. I really think in the last 5 or 6 or 7 years that those teams that are kind a between 8 and 18 or 8 and 20 have gotten much more competitive and that would justify taking a few more teams. I think and the revenue part of this is significant. The NCAA sponsors championships in 70 some odd sports in all division for all the different sports. They make money in four. Men's Basketball obviously; they make millions. Division one Men's Ice Hockey and Lacrosse make money and occasionally Division I AA Football and Division I Baseball will make money. Everybody else loses money.

We are also in a age of title 9 and gender equity so there are some other forces out there that come in to play when you talk about bracket expansion. It's going to be tough for Lacrosse to expand their bracket when you still have to bring the women's programs and the women's championships up to speed. I think you can justify it because we have a very competitive field and we are making money. Making money is not the end all for the NCAA, but they certainly would rather make money than lose money. Obviously, anybody would. So you know there are some good reasons for doing it. I think you'll see the bracket expansion in division II fairly quickly. There are many more teams playing in Division II, but when you only have 50 some teams playing in division I Lacrosse, justifying a 16 team tournament is a little tough, I guess. I'd love to see it. I think if you open it to 16 teams, with no buys and go with these pre-determined sites, you'd have built in double headers. I think it would be great.

You'd have been in the last three or four of them.

Yeah! We probably would have been dancing in may. You know like we'd like to be.