Steve Dietrich has been named the new general manager of the Buffalo Bandits, and it's easy to see why. He certainly hits the obvious checkmarks that you'd want in a team executive here in Buffalo.
Want someone that knows the league? You'd have to say Dietrich qualifies. He played 18 seasons in the National Lacrosse League, with stops in Baltimore, Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. Heck, he could double as traveling secretary. Dietrich most recently served as an assistant coach in Toronto.
Want a good player that can command respect? Dietrich was the first goalie to be named most valuable player in the NLL, with the honor coming in Buffalo in 2006. He was a finalist for the league's hall of fame this summer, and I would guess that he'd have a good chance of getting in. If it's not this year, it will be soon.
Want someone with a connection to the Bandits, but not too close of a connection? Dietrich spent six seasons here, so he's familiar with the fanbase, tradition, etc. But Dietrich has been associated with enough other teams that he's liable to bring some fresh ideas to Buffalo.
This is not an easy assignment for Dietrich. Some of Buffalo's best players are relatively old, and the league seems to get younger and more athletic by the year. Darris Kilgour often has preferred veterans to youngsters. That's understandable for an organization that sells 16,000 seats a game and wants to keep selling them. In other words, mortgaging the future to contend in the present is more than defensible.
Buffalo only has one first round draft pick in the next three years, the third overall choice this fall. That's where stars come from, and the Bandits need to make that pick a good one. Otherwise, restructuring the roster while staying good will be a challenge. Will Dietrich stick to Kilgour's plan of using mostly players within commuting distance, or will he broaden the team's sights?
I'm always fond of saying that it's impossible to guess who the next great sports executive will be. It's particularly tough in lacrosse, where there are some unexpected factors. A key player may decide for personal reasons that he needs to either be traded closer to home or will retire. That can be good (Luke Wiles' acquisition last season) or bad (Sean Greenhalgh's move to North Carolina for a job before Buffalo had a chance to see him at 100 percent.)
Can't wait to see how this turns out.
--- Budd Bailey