Lacrosse Community Comes Together to Support Bellarmine Coach Jack McGetrick
Courtesy of Inside Lacrosse
Spend a few minutes going over the stories that folks around the game of lacrosse will tell you about Jack McGetrick, and you'll get the impression that the Bellarmine head coach is a cross between Paul Bunyan, Brodie Merrill, Dr. Phil and Bill Brasky.
There's the tales of his playing career at Cortland, where he came in as an elite attackman, became an All-American defenseman and was a captain of the soccer team in his spare time. Then you hear about how he used to race his players at the University of Hartford - where he earned the 1997 NCAA Coach of the Year award despite being a part-time college coach and full time high school teacher a half hour away - in a 3-miler every fall, and didn't lose to the guys 20-years his junior until a former cross-country star joined his team. Or players talking about his open door and hanging out in his basement while he rode an elliptical bike and broke down film with them for hours while his kids did homework nearby.
He played college ball with Bill Tierney and Dave Urick under Jack Emmer for the Red Dragons, was drafted by the professional Box League Montreal Quebecois in 1976, ran a sub-3:00 time in the Boston Marathon AND won the 35-40 age group at the Cape Cod Ironman in the same year.
With that larger-than-life yet endearing personality, it was a shock last month when the lacrosse world found out at the IMLCA Convention that McGetrick had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"I'm determined to beat this," says McGetrick, who has not yet missed a practice and doesn't intend to - he's too excited about the Knight's first ECAC season to let his chemotherapy keep him off the sidelines.
"The [chemo] knocked me on my rear end at first, but I'm still able to function. They tell me its incurable, but I'm planning on getting it into remission and keeping it there."
McGetrick coached more winning teams at Hartford than all other Hawks coaches combined (Hartford Athletics)While his outstanding fitness and resolve have helped McGetrick get through his treatments thus far, one thing the coach was struggling with was the cost of his treatment, with a single pill (among the several in the therapy) uncovered by his insurance that costs $300 per dose.
That's where the lacrosse world that he's given so much of himself to comes in.
Spearheaded by the IMLCA, school's around the country will be running youth clinics on January 24th, with proceeds going to a fund to benefit McGetrick.
"[The IMLCA] has made donations to coaches in need in past situations, because our mission is to serve college and high school coaches from both a professional standpoint and whatever other needs they might have," says IMLCA president Phil Buttafuoco.
"Leading into the convention, we knew of coach McGetrick's situation and after some discussions, we realized that in addition to a general donation from the organization, the coaches could help out in their own way."
Full details haven't been released as of this morning on exactly who will be participating or what the costs to participants will be, but the preliminary list included schools all across the East Coast and had some of the biggest names in Division I coaching committed to the cause.
"This is a great effort for the right cause," says Urick, who intends to host a clinic but is still working out details. "We all do everything we can to compete with each other every Saturday in the spring, but it's still a community when the game is over, and hopefully that is something that will never change."
Buttafuoco says that the IMLCA intends to create a fund specifically for situations like this in the future - one that can be used to help any coach in need down the road.
For his part, McGetrick is floored that such an effort is being taken on his behalf, considering his relatively low profile in the game in spite of the work he did at Hartford (the Hawks have had 11 .500 or better seasons since their records begin in 1975 - McGetrick was the coach for eight of them) and has done in Louisville since that program got off the ground.
"The letters and calls that I've gotten from coaches and players, my jaw just dropped - it's like ‘It's a Wonderful Life‘," he says. "As human beings, we often don't realize the good we do for other people until something like this happens and it causes folks to really tell you how you've affected them.
"In a strange way, it's been the greatest experience of my life, with that and how it's made me a better person spiritually."
Emmer, who coached the Cortland teams that challenged for top honors in the NCAA prior to the separation into different divisions (the defending DIII champions made it all the way to the semifinals of the tournament in McGetrick's senior year, where he was also named a first-team All American) says its not hard to see why McGetrick has such a devoted group of colleagues and former players wanting to help him in his time of need.
Despite his treatment, McGetrick will continue to coach the Knights (Bellarmine Athletics)"He's always had a drive - I remember his first year, he was coming off an injury when I first got there and converted to be a defenseman and worked hard enough to get to the top level at a completely different position," he says. "He carried that attitude into coaching - whether it was as an assistant somewhere or as the head coach at Hartford while he still had a full-time job as a teacher. It's just this energy and enthusiasm that makes things happen, and you're seeing it in Kentucky even now after five years."
For NEILA president and Sacred Heart coach Tom Mariano, McGetrick also represents the most common man in the world of the lacrosse coach - the worker. "There's a handful of coaches that do well financially, but most of us are out there and working every day to do this," he says. "He keeps to himself, but he'd give you the shirt off his back, and people respond to that."
But for a guy like McGetrick, such concepts aren't what he wants to talk about. There's work to be done and a season to get underway. Sure, he'll have some extra hurdles to clear in 2010, but he's more interested in talking Bellarmine Lacrosse than he is Jack McGetrick.
"Sure, my quality of life isn't great right now, but I'll get through it. I'm just excited about the program. We have a new facility, we just got money for a second assistant - Bellarmine is heading in a good direction and I intend to be there to carry it out," he says.