The Buffalo Bandits may be better in 2014 than they were in 2013. They may be worse. They'll definitely be different.
The news about the departure of Darris Kilgour on Monday was shocking but not surprising, if you know what I mean. When a team goes on a six-game losing streak and is the only team in the league to miss the playoffs, the coach obviously is a likely target. In some sports, waiting six weeks to make such a decision would be odd, but indoor lacrosse works under a different clock.
Still, Kilgour was a public face of the franchise. Except for a brief break more than a decade ago, he's been with the team since Day One as either a player or head coach. Yes, John Tavares has been with the team non-stop, but Kilgour has been more visible as the coach and major spokesman to the media. Kilgour also brought an aggressive style of play to the team that had its good points (the Bandits were always tough to play against) and bad points (sometimes that spilled into bad penalties). But until the past few seasons, the Bandits always won.
There have been rumors of front office disharmony throughout the season. Kilgour shot down any talk of problems with general manager Steve Dietrich, but said he didn't agree on some issues over the years with Director Dave Zygaj. And we know who wins that type of argument, ultimately - the boss, one way or another.
Any Bandits coach and general manager has a different sort of pressure than many teams in the National Lacrosse League. Many of the other franchises are worried about staying afloat and not losing money. The Bandits, as well as Colorado, draw about 15,000 per game. That means they're certain to keep playing from year to year, but they also need to keep the turnstiles humming by winning.
Was that a factor in some of the Bandits' personnel decisions? Hard to know from the outside. Certainly, though, the Bandits were quick to give up high draft choices in trades for veterans, especially at a time when the league was getting younger and more athletic by the year. In other words, the deals sending first-round picks for players like Tom Montour and Tracey Kelusky haven't worked out as well as was hoped.
So now what? The first phone call probably goes to Tavares, so he can be asked, "Have you made a decision on playing next year?" followed by "Are you interested in becoming a coach?" If he wants the job, it would be tough to turn him down.
Troy Cordingley is an obvious candidate, with many Buffalo connections and a proven track record as a winner. He is the current NLL coach of the year. One catch - Cordingley and Kilgour do bring the same intensity to the game, and it's easy to wonder if a different approach might be appropriate for the Bandits after 11 years of Kilgour's fire.
Speaking of that, Rich Kilgour certainly would offer a more relaxed approach if he were moved up to head coach. He knows the game, and is a head coach in summer ball. Rich has the type of personality that creates a level of warmth. Still, it's hard to picture him taking over the Bandits - if only because of family loyalty.
From there, who knows? There are plenty of people out there with coachng experience, and the job certainly will attract plenty of phone calls. Lacrosse is a small world where everyone knows everyone, and Dietrich like any GM probably had a list of coaching candidates in his desk just in case.
As for Darris, I wouldn't be surprised to see him connected with Rochester at some point, although I'm not suggesting that he immediately take over a team that has won two straight championships under Mike Hasen. But the league would be less interesting and colorful without him around in some capacity over the long term.
--- Budd Bailey