Tag Archives: John Danowski

Danowski: Greer Decided Against Duke In The Fall

Over at Inside Lacrosse, Jon Brand has a Q&A with Duke head coach John Danowski about Zack Greer’s decision to play his fifth year at Bryant, in which Danowski says Greer decided not to use his extra year at Duke last fall and looked at graduate school opportunities throughout the year. Greer considered playing hockey and lacrosse and Danowski says he visited Denver and Ohio State and thought about St. Lawrence, a school closer to his home in Ontario.

“Zack and I had talked in the fall and he had said he was not going to come back to Duke,” Danowski told IL. “The whole thing, in the end, has to be viewed from an academic aspect. This game’s just a means to an end and it’s about looking at how you can position yourself the best way possible…He could have gone straight into the NLL; he didn’t have to play college lacrosse again… Our conversations [in the fall] were about what is going to make you happy, what are you going to get out of a fifth year and we talked about his options.”

Another point of note: Brand asked Danowski about the possibility of adding Bryant, led by former Duke head coach Mike Pressler, to the schedule. His response:

“I don’t think so, not this year. With the lawsuit pending and so many distractions, I don’t think it’s the right timing for the sport. We need to get away from the distractions of the situation right now, but maybe one day, when everything goes away–not that it ever really will–it will could happen.”

–by Ben Cohen

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Danowski Keeps Loss In Perspective

Audio from John Danowski

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Despite the Blue Devils’ obvious disappointment associated with coming up short of the program’s first national championship, head coach John Danowski wasn’t too outwardly upset about the loss.

“The sadness I feel–it’s not losing the game today,” Danowski said. “Listen, I’ve learned in the last two years the games aren’t that important. But you know what, I’m going to miss seeing these kids tomorrow. That’s what I’m going to miss: being with them, going to meals, being in the hotel with them for another day. I don’t get to do that now. And that’s what I’ll miss.”

Danowski praised his outgoing seniors, who helped raise the program to new heights but were unable to get over the hump and take home the national title. From the fifth-year players, who have been criticized for being allowed to play another season, to the senior class, which stuck with the program during the 2006 scandal, the head coach defended his team.

“This is one of the neatest groups of young men I’ve ever been around,” Danowski said. “There’s nothing that they don’t do well–academically, socially, community-oriented, lacrosse-wise. And the fifth-year guys had a chance to play again. They’ve been vilified for choosing to play a fifth year…. Why? You love to play lacrosse. Would you like to come back and maybe play in front of 40,000 people? I mean, come on, it’s a no-brainer for these kids…. Their legacy is they didn’t win the game today. They’re going to be very successful in life, and this is going to be a small bump in the road for all of them.”

-by Joe Drews

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What Went Wrong?

It’s the morning after Duke’s shocking 10-9 loss to Johns Hopkins in the national semifinal, a defeat that the ESPN analysts were fond of calling one of the biggest upsets in lacrosse history. And, on paper, it certainly was–this was a Blue Devil squad that absolutely dismantled Hopkins 17-6 back on April 5. So what went wrong Saturday?

We’ll take a more in-depth look into it in the coming days–including a game story and analysis later today–but to start out week of coverage, here’s a look back at Matthew Iles’ blog post from Wednesday, when he wrote that the players knew this wasn’t the same Blue Jay team and explained Duke’s reason for success last time against Hopkins:

“John Danowski inverted his offense, placing Crotty, who usually initiates from in front of the net, behind the cage. With Danowski and Greer on the wings and their defenders reluctant to slide from them, it became like an isolation play for Crotty. A strong dodger from anywhere on the field, Crotty is particularly dangerous from behind the cage, able to beat his man, turn the corner and fling the ball past opposing goalies with incredible skill. It was no different against Johns Hopkins, as Crotty scored three unassisted goals in this manner before the first half was over. Thanks to Crotty’s success, the Blue Jays were forced to slide from Danowski and Greer more, which helped them register seven points each.”

On Saturday, Crotty didn’t score and, perhaps as a result, Danowski and Greer combined for just three goals, and Danowski’s two strikes came in the game’s closing minutes. The two stars’ performance was eerily similar to their games in last year’s national championship, when the usually prolific scorers were held to one combined goal.

After Duke’s win over Hopkins in April, Iles wrote about Duke’s vulnerability to playing six-on-six sets, a story that looks remarkably prescient now.

So now, one lingering question remains: who will be back next year? A group of seniors needs to decide whether to enroll in graduate school at Duke, as they all graduated two weeks ago. The two most critical Blue Devils with a looming decision are Greer, already the NCAA’s all-time leading goal scorer, and midfielder Brad Ross, who scored Saturday. The MLL Draft deadline is Tuesday at 9 a.m., and we’ll keep you updated with their decisions.

Be sure to keep checking the blog for progress on that, and more insight into Duke’s Final Four loss.

–by Ben Cohen

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The Fairness Of The Fifth Year

During a brief layover in Philadelphia before hopping a plane to Boston for this weekend’s Final Four, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye on a TV in a nearby bar.

Bob Ley was on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, which showed images of Duke lacrosse players practicing. I couldn’t hear the audio, but of course I didn’t need to. All I needed was to see Duke’s head coach, the jovial and smiling John Danowski, interviewing with a light in his face and a furrow in his brow.

Still suffering from the long-armed grasp of the alleged rape scandal that hit the front pages of every media outlet in the country two years ago, the Blue Devils were featured to discuss the legitimacy or fairness of the NCAA’s ruling last year to allow an extra season of eligibility in response to the truncated 2006 season.

Virginia’s head coach Dom Starsia has complained about the NCAA’s ruling as often and as loudly as he can since the decision was announced. And in response, I’ll offer a prediction.

If Duke does win it all, Starsia will act just like that annoying friend of yours who makes excuses whenever he loses in pickup basketball: “Well, of course they won. They had an unfair advantage.” But you didn’t see him turn away Peter Lamade, one of the “super-seniors” awarded an extra year when he transferred to Virginia, and you won’t see Lamade sitting on the bench this weekend, and you certainly won’t hear any apologies for reaping the benefits of that “unfair advantage” if the Cavaliers take home the title.

Perhaps I’m coming down too hard on one side (obviously, this post is more of a column than a feature, preview or game story). For another take on it, read Patrick Hite’s column on ACCNation.com, a piece that earned him a seat on Outside the Lines today to discuss this issue. Also check out the ESPN.com poll currently posted posed the question “What’s your opinion of the NCAA decision granting Duke lacrosse players an extra year of eligibility?” Eighty-three percent voted “Prudent and compassionate” over “Hasty overreaction.”

None of these players deserved what happened to them two years ago. And none of them want to win a championship unfairly, either. They didn’t make the trip to Boston this weekend to stir up more controversy and grab more headlines. They’re here to play lacrosse, something which was once taken from them. The fact they’re here, to me, seems like a wrong that’s been righted.

–by Matthew Iles

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A History Lesson: Duke-Johns Hopkins April 5

It’s only fitting that it turned out this way.

Heading into its third Final Four in the last four seasons, Duke must once again face Johns Hopkins for a chance at the program’s first national title. The Blue Devils lost to the Blue Jays in each of their last two visits to the post-season’s last weekend, both times in the championship game.

A five-game winning streak, including a blowout win over Maryland, helped Hopkins (10-5) eek into the field of 16. Now, after 10-4 victories over Hofstra and Navy in the first two rounds, the No. 5 Blue Jays—who have won more national titles than any other school—are back in the Final Four again.

Even though Johns Hopkins suffered a program-worst five-game losing streak in the middle of the season, and even though No. 1 Duke (18-1) handed the Blue Jays their worst lost in 20 years with a 17-6 thrashing back on April 5, they are still alive. And they’re a different team, too.

“They almost didn’t make the tournament, and here they are in the Final Four,” midfielder Ned Crotty said. “Hopkins is a playoff team. They’re not the same team as they were earlier in the year.”

Crotty was a major factor in Duke’s big win over the Blue Jays earlier this year. Head coach John Danowski anticipated that Johns Hopkins would attempt to stymie stars Matt Danowski and Zack Greer by never sliding from them. Basically, the Blue Jays’ tactic was to force the other Duke players to step up and get involved.

To counter this, John Danowski inverted his offense, placing Crotty, who usually initiates from in front of the net, behind the cage. With Danowski and Greer on the wings and their defenders reluctant to slide from them, it became like an isolation play for Crotty. A strong dodger from anywhere on the field, Crotty is particularly dangerous from behind the cage, able to beat his man, turn the corner and fling the ball past opposing goalies with incredible skill. It was no different against Johns Hopkins, as Crotty scored three unassisted goals in this manner before the first half was over.

Thanks to Crotty’s success, the Blue Jays were forced to slide from Danowski and Greer more, which helped them register seven points each.

Another huge factor in that victory was Duke’s strong riding game. The Blue Jays only cleared on 13 of their 22 chances, including a 2-for-8 third quarter in which the Blue Devils piled on six goals. This has been a key aspect of Duke’s game all year long, forcing turnovers in the opponent’s defensive end and scoring quick, easy goals with the defense out of position. Johns Hopkins has shown vast improvement in this area, though, clearing on 83 percent of their opportunities in its first two playoffs games.

When asked after Duke’s 21-10 quarterfinal victory over Ohio State if he thought the Blue Jays would try a similar tactic or employ an entirely different one, Crotty said he had no idea. All he did know, he said, was that it was going to be a fun rematch.

Either way, the Blue Devils all echoed the same sentiment. It doesn’t matter who’s next, they’re ready.

“It’s just the next game,” Zack Greer said. “It’s the next team we’ve got to play. We’ve got to prepare for them, but it’s about doing our own thing. We gotta come out and play our game, we gotta play right, do the things we do best…it doesn’t matter who the opponent is.”

–by Matthew Iles

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