Women’s Lax coach Joe Spallina driven by passion for the game

Joe Spallina holds a multitude of titles: Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse coach, New York Lizards coach, coach of his son’s football and lacrosse teams and, most important of them all, dad. Many would say he is crazy for taking on all this responsibility, but in Spallina’s mind, it is all for the love of the game.

From seeing him talk to his players after a game, during training camp, or anywhere in between, it is easy to tell that Spallina does not coach to bat orders and make a lineup.

“It’s not like I’m digging trenches or working a jackhammer, I’m doing things I love so it makes it easy,” Spallina said.

As he is always smiling (almost), Spallina’s relationships with his teams go far beyond driving to work and calling out drills.

“My kids love it, so the fact that it’s important to my family and whatnot through our lives, it’s who I am,” Spallina said. “I’ve got to love it.”

Entering Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, it is not surprising to see one of Spallina’s four children or wife around, shooting the ball or hanging out with the team. As down-to-earth as the situation may seem, with Spallina being one of the most friendly coaches one could meet, he is certainly serious in one aspect: his immense knowledge of lacrosse.

Coaches are never really looked at in a positive light in most sports. If their team loses, it is their fault. If their team wins, fans hail the players as heroes. In a way, it is a lose-lose situation.

Very few coaches are known for truly powering a team, being the “face of a franchise,” so to speak. Yet Spallina has brought many to prominence. His dedication could only help the cause.

On an early spring Friday night, when most others would be relaxing at home, Spallina did anything but, holding practices for all three of the lacrosse teams he coaches. As the night neared its end, there was Spallina, with the same energy as always, still trying to get his guys better.

As many casual fans may notice, a lot of successful teams in any sport maintain good player-coach relationships, rather than an “I tell you what to do and you do it” atmosphere.

Even though he was working on various facets of his team, Spallina still found time to individually talk to many players on subjects ranging from serious matters to cracking jokes. Everybody around showed nothing but respect for a guy that has the accolades to prove he deserves it.

Prior to becoming Stony Brook’s head coach for the 2012 season, Spallina did something along the lines of Phil Jackson, one of the most renowned coaches in all of sports, by leading Adelphi to three straight national championships at the Division II level.

Joe Spallina was not satisfied.

The Adelphi undergraduate with a master’s in health studies from Stony Brook took the leap from Division II lacrosse to Division I when he accepted the position of head coach of the Seawolves in 2012.

He completed the best turnaround of any team in the nation as he took the helm at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, engineering a four-win team into a 14-win team.

Joe Spallina was still not satisfied.

In 2013, Spallina led the Seawolves to, statistically, the best season in the program’s history. An undefeated season in the America East Conference and a win in the NCAA tournament were on the list of accomplishments for Stony Brook Women’s Lacrosse. Spallina was also the Synapse Division I Coach of the Year in 2013. Just by talking to him, watching him on and off the field, Spallina would not remind you of arguably one of the leading minds in the sport, yet the results just keep coming and coming.

Facing a new challenge with the Seawolves this season, Spallina lost one of his most dependable players from his days at Adelphi in Demmianne Cook. A new crop of freshmen phenoms have joined one of the best goalies in the country, senior Frankie Caridi, in an attempt to reach the very top of the NCAA. Off to a good start, the freshman class has looked anything but young, standing among national leaders in multiple goal-scoring categories.

“It’s fun, they’re eager to learn, they have a great love for the game, a passion for the game and I think the future is extremely bright,” Spallina said.

As bright as that future may be, Spallina surely will not be satisfied until his group reaches the pinnacle of the game with a national championship.

Regardless, Spallina will do anything to help get his team there, and have a ton of fun in the process.

“The biggest thing is, they work extremely hard, so when you have people that buy in the way they do, it’s not difficult,” Spallina said.

Come NCAA tournament time, if the Seawolves were to make it to the promised land, it is hard to believe that those that support the team would rather have any other coach at the trophy stand.

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