Coach Towers checks in with us to talk about the PLL tour model, the CHAOS LC roster, and more!!!
Like most lacrosse fans, I have excitedly followed news about the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) from rumor through reality. When the PLL announced the six teams’ names and logos on February 26th, Lax Twitter saw people enthusiastically declaring their favorites. A name and logo wasn’t enough for me. Instead, on the morning of Monday March 4th, when player assignments started trickling out, I found out that I was a CHAOS Lacrosse Club fan. The first CHAOS player announcements that I saw were those of Connor Fields and Troy Reh. As a UAlbany fan, that might have been enough, but as the day went on learning that Miles Thompson, Blaze Riorden, Kyle McClancy, and Joe Resetarits sealed it. I’m CHAOS LC – ride or die!!!
The CHAOS Lacrosse Club will be coached by New England lacrosse legend Andy Towers. A recent inductee into the United States Lacrosse Connecticut Hall of Fame as well as the Brown University Sports Hall of Fame, Towers had an illustrious career as a player. As 1987 graduate of New Canaan HS, Towers played both varsity basketball and lacrosse for HOF Coaches, Don Usher and Howard Benedict respectively. As a lacrosse player, he helped the Red and Black win 3 straight CT State Championships, earning HS All-American along the way as a HS junior. In 1988, Towers played for the 19 & Under USA Team that won the World Championship in Adelaide, Australia. From there, he went to Brown University to play for legendary HOF coach, Dom Starsia. While at Brown, he led the Bruins to Ivy and New England Championships, earned Division 1 All-American 3 times at 2 different positions (1st-Team AA at midfield 2X & HM at attack once), All-Ivy 3X, All-New England 3X, and Ivy League Player of the Year honors once. He graduated with both the season and career goal scoring records, the last of which he held this past spring until it was broken by 2016 Tewaaraton Award winner, Dylan Malloy. After college, Towers continued his playing career in the professional indoor (National Lacrosse League – Philadelphia Wings, Boston Blazers, NY Saints) and outdoor (Major League Lacrosse – Boston Cannons, Bridgeport Barrage) leagues, earning All-Star Honors in Major League Lacrosse while leading the league in face-off winning percentage at 58%.
As a Division 1 College Coach, Towers held head coaching positions at Dartmouth College (2009-2014) and at the University of Hartford (2003). He also has assistant coaching stints at Yale, Brown, and Fairfield in the mid-late 1990’s.
Currently, Towers resides in New Canaan with his wife of 18 years Carlene, his daughter Tyler 16, son James 12, and their dog, Franc. In addition to just being named the Head Coach of the CHAOS Lacrosse Club in the Premier Lacrosse League, Towers also owns Lacrosse Draws, a company committed to moving the game of lacrosse forward for boys and girls at the youth and high school levels through individual and small group player development camps and clinics.
Coach Towers recently took some time away from preparing for the inaugural PLL collegiate draft to talk to us about how he came to coach in the league, the CHAOS roster and more:
Gary Govel: How did you become involved in the PLL?
Andy Towers: I became aware that the league had the potential to develop through a buddy of mine who was friends with some of the guys that were forming the PLL and I expressed interest in coaching in the league. I had been a long time Division I coach, but decided to leave college coaching in 2014. The main reason that I got into coaching was going to practice and helping guys become better players. I love being on the field, I love going to practice, I love the games. That sort of stuff gets pushed to the side as you move up the ranks and become a Division I Head Coach. As my kids got older, I didn’t want to be a slave to the recruiting schedule and all that sort of stuff. I wanted to get out of college coaching, but I still loved coaching and still loved the game. I had played in the MLL, where I earned All-Star recognition, so the idea of being able to coach professional lacrosse was always in the back of my mind. The PLL is where that has come to fruition.
To be able to have it be just lacrosse – to be able to work with the best players in the world where you’re not as worried about them being able to throw the ball around the perimeter without dropping, it or throwing a bad pass. You’re dealing with the best players in the world and having it be just lacrosse, it was always something that I really wanted to do that I never really thought would happen. As it turns out, Paul and Mike created this league, and I was introduced to Paul via email through a mutual friend and expressed my interest in coaching in it. After their process, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to do it and jumped at it.
GG: What are your thoughts on the tour model that the PLL will be utilizing vs city-based models traditionally found in team sports?
AT: I’m really, really excited about it. Outside of the business benefits to it in terms of minimizing expenses that leagues traditionally have to manage when playing a geographic based schedule, I think that it’s going to be great for the fans in the respective cities. It’s a one-shot deal – they’re going to get to see all these players who are accessible through social media, and the idea that all six teams converge on one city for essentially a Final Four type of experience with better lacrosse than they’ve seen in the Division I Final Four, it’s going to be awesome. If I was a fan, and didn’t have anything to do with it, I would be excited to bring my kids to go see it. If I’m a season ticket holder in a geographic based league, I don’t see myself going to all of the games. I feel like it can become old, but when you’re looking at the league converging onto one city and making it one big, celebration and event, there is going to be a real draw for the people each week. It’s an awesome way to go about it.
GG: With a roster filled with the top players in the game, will your role as head coach differ from your experiences coaching in NCAA lacrosse?
AT: I actually coach a 6th grade team, a high school team, and now a pro-team. This role will be significantly different. When you’re coaching college, high school, or below, not only are you often times discussing the finer points of the game, but you’re also addressing a drastic establishment of scheme, tweaking scheme, structuring practices to develop skills within the framework of scheme. In the PLL, due to what is going to be a very quick shot-clock, and the fact that you’re dealing with the best players in the world, and because there is a shortened shot clock, scheme is going to have less of an impact on the outcome of a game. The greater impact is going to be from player buy-in, team unselfishness, teamwork ethic, and team endurance. I think coaching in PLL will really be about managing personalities, and getting the right combinations of players on the field. It will be more about saying what needs to be said if things aren’t productive on the field, than it is saying “Catch that with your outside hand, and get upfield to maximize your shooting angle”. I don’t see myself saying that to the best players in the world. I think our job is to remind them that this is a team endeavor to win the PLL championship, and to keep everyone focused on playing within the goals of the team. It’s going to be cutthroat for playing time. The reality of it is with a bigger roster than you are able to dress each game, there is going to be a natural competition among the players to dress, and ultimately to play, so managing the balance between that and the constant of being on the same side of the fence and trying to win, the challenges are uniquely different from the PLL to anywhere else.
GG: As a UAlbany fan, I’m thrilled to see a concentration of Great Dane alumni on the CHAOS. Can you give us a little insight on how the initial PLL teams were put together?
AT: First and foremost, when they put together the teams, they wanted six even teams and I think that they did that. Beyond that, I think they wanted to create teams where they may be able to lean on some existing chemistry. Meaning whether the players played together on the pro level, internationally, or in college, if you look at the rosters you see little groups of players that seem to go together and have played together in one of those three or four different environments.
As it relates specifically to the Albany guys on my team, I couldn’t be any happier in the way that it broke down personnel wise. Number one – I’m a huge fan of Scott Marr and the way that he works with his players and allows them to play with creativity and freedom. His success as a coach is well documented, so to have a bunch of players from Albany who played for a coach whose style I think is perhaps the closest to what I think will be successful in the PLL really couldn’t be a better scenario.
I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have the roster that I have in the PLL. When you look at the skill set of the guys on our team, we have several Canadians and Native Americans, I think their style of play is really unique. Obviously really exciting to watch – you never know what you’re going to see next, but also really hard for other teams to replicate to prepare to play against CHAOS Lacrosse Club on game day this summer. It is tough to emulate in a practice situation what these guys can do, so the hope is that we’re going to be hard to prepare for, and perhaps be the most exciting team to watch. We’ve got a bunch of guys that have already shown that they are the best players in the world, playing in a free-flowing environment which I think the PLL is going to exemplify.
While the league put the initial rosters together, starting with Monday’s draft, and then the player pool, ultimately as time goes on, we as coaches will have more of a footprint on our respective rosters. The initial groups were given to us, but we’re going to be able to mold those groups within the framework of what we want to do as coaches in the league.
GG: The CHAOS roster includes several players with extensive box lacrosse experience. Will their box backgrounds influence the team’s style of play?
AT: It’s going to be really, really positive. The PLL, and NBC want a fast paced and exciting game. That’s going to create a lot of shots. Arguably the best finishers on the planet are box players, and that plays to our strengths as a team. I’m excited to see what our guys can do this summer. I think the format, and the goals of those that have put the league in place will accentuate our distinct advantages this summer.
GG: The CHAOS will have the 6th and 7th picks in the PLL’s inaugural college draft on April 22. What are your thoughts on your draft position, and how will you approach a draft which will occur before you’ve ever seen your team together?
AT: Certainly, I follow the game. I watch a ton of college lacrosse – I have for years. I have some familiarity with a big portion of our roster, but there’s also a fraction of our roster that I don’t know anything about. Until I see those guys playing together, and against each other in a practice setting, it’s tough to totally feel like I have an idea of precisely what our team positional needs are, and style needs. You may think you want two defensemen, but you may want two different styles of defensemen. You have to have an idea of your starting point, and I do, but there are definitely guys on the team that I’m way less familiar with than others. That sets up a situation going into the draft where you think you have an idea of what you need, and I’m confident that I do, but with that said you have to go on the knowns. The knowns are what do I know about the current college seniors and watching them play over the last four year. Let’s face it, they’re all the best players in the senior class, so I’m quite familar with the guys in the draft. If I look at my current roster and what I know about it, I can use both sources of information to make what I think are the best choices for the future of Chaos.
GG: The PLL training camp will be held at IMG on May 17-22. What are your goals and expectations for that camp? How much contact have you had/will you have with the Chaos players in preparation for the training camp?
AT: I’m so pumped for training camp, and I know that our guys are as well. IMG is obviously a world class facility, so it makes a huge statement to everybody that is a fan of the sport that the PLL is holding the first training camp there. We’re going to be doing a ton of culture building, and getting a familiarity with who we are on the field, but also gaining familiarity with who we are off of the field. There are a bunch of players on our team who know each other already – through box, through college, like we laid out before, so I know that there is going to be very good team chemistry for us. Establishing ourselves as hopefully the most unified, hardest working, and team-first group out of the six teams that are down there is the challenge. It’s really the challenge for all six teams that will be down there. That’s something we’re going to focus on – being straightforward and transparent about what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s a professional sports team and we’re trying to win the league championship. It’s a competition to make the team. It’s a competition to dress on game day, and it’s a competition against the other teams. The good news is that you’re talking about the best players in the world who have been competing in, and been successful in those situations every step of the way up until this point in their lives, so I’m very confident that they’re all anticipating the type of situation we’re going to be in.
A lot of my guys are in the NLL right now – maybe the biggest portion of any of the PLL teams. While I reached out to everyone when our roster was created, I’m also mindful that these guys are coming down the stretch of the indoor season and their focus should be in winning the NLL championship and I embrace that. I reached out to them in the beginning to introduce myself and let them I’m excited to be working with the team, and my role within that, but I’ve limited my communications with them to administrative needs. These guys are professional indoor players, as well as professional outdoor players in a lot of instances, so I don’t want to disrespect that dynamic in their lives at the expense of what I’m involved in right now. Our time together will come. Until that happens, I’m supportive of their individual and team goals related to their current professional indoor obligations.
GG: Austin Staats’ amazing NLL rookie season recently came to an end due to a torn ACL. As his future coach in the PLL, what are your thoughts on this unfortunate occurrence?
It’s definitely a hit whenever you lose someone like Austin Staats. It’s a crushing blow. I feel just awful for him, but I’m confident that he’ll be back better than ever. Ideally, he’ll heal up quickly and lead the San Diego Seals to an NLL championship next spring, and then ultimately be 100% for our season next summer. That’s what we’re hoping for, and that’s what we’re confident will transpire. That’s part of the deal. As coaches, we have to do the best we can to respond the right way if something negative happens. Certainly, this is a challenge for Austin individually, and a challenge for us, but he’s going to get past it and he’s going to come back better than ever. We’re going to get past it, and we’re going to be better than ever once he gets back in the lineup for us. Until then, we’ll work hard with who we have and I’m confident that we have enough to compete for the PLL championship.
Using Connor Fields as an example, he was the best player in college lacrosse until he had his knee injury, and still may have been the best player in college lacrosse after the injury. With that said, I’ll take Connor Fields at 70% over just about anybody else at 100%. It’s part of the nature of the sport. Injuries happen and you have to manage the impact and challenge associated with that situation.
GG: On Sunday June 9th the CHAOS will take on Atlas LC, featuring Paul Rabil, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. What advice will you have for your players in matching up with the boss’s team for the first time?
AT: That won’t be on the mind of any of them. Everyone is grateful to Paul and Mike for taking on an endeavor like this, but that will be forgotten once the whistle blows and the game starts. He’s going to be an opponent like anyone else on their roster. I doubt anyone is going to give him a free pass in any way.
GG: Any final comments for the fans?
AT: As coaches we are excited in working with the best players in the world – to be able to do it revolutionizing the sport is humbling for all of us, and something we’re all excited about.
PLL Announces Albany Tour Stop:
PLL College Draft Broadcast Announced:
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