The 2012 NLL season was over for about a month and a half before we had out first off-season employment casualties. Within a week of each other, Calgary’s Dave Pym was told that his contract as head coach was not being renewed and Buffalo’s Darris Kilgour was relieved of his GM duties, though he remains head coach. While neither of these moves were expected, one is a lot more surprising than the other. I will get to Mr. Kilgour in a couple of days, but right now, let’s look at the most active NLL coach on twitter, Dave Pym.
Pym only coached the Roughnecks for three years, and finished with a 33-15 record and two West Division banners. What he didn’t do is bring a Champion’s Cup to Calgary. The Roughnecks have been a dominant team for years, and have won two Championships, but you can’t fault Calgary management for not resting on their laurels and demanding more. In Pym’s three years in Calgary, they’ve had great regular seasons but have only made it as far as the division finals once. In two of those three seasons, the Roughnecks were expected to be Champion’s Cup contenders, if not favourites, so from that point of view you could say they underperformed in the playoffs.
But in 2011, the Roughnecks traded both Josh Sanderson and Tracey Kelusky, who were numbers 1 and 3 on the team’s scoring list the previous year. Many picked the Roughnecks to finish out of the playoffs but Pym coached the Roughnecks to an 11-5 record, first overall. With all due respect to Mike Hasen, Pym really should have been the Coach of the Year in 2011. In 2012, the Roughnecks got a game better, but then bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. They got smoked 19-11 by the surprising Rush, who in the 2012 playoffs played the best 2½ games of lacrosse in team history.
In three years, the Roughnecks won more than twice as many games as they lost and so in a one-and-done playoff format, it’s hard to blame coaching for their lack of success in the playoffs.
Pym is a successful and well-respected coach, and it seems unlikely that he remains unemployed for long. But where could he go? Derek Keenan and Chris Hall aren’t going anywhere. Mike Lines just won Coach of the Year, and Bob Hamley turned the Mammoth around in a single season, so it seems unlikely that there will be any coaching opportunities available in the West. In the East, Darris Kilgour is staying as Bandits coach, and defending champs Rochester aren’t likely to fire their coach. Troy Cordingley is likely safe as long as Terry Sanderson is around in Toronto, and he’s not going anywhere either. But what about Philly? The Wings made a lot of big player moves last season but still underperformed, and while Johnny Mouradian has seen a fair bit of success as a GM (five Championships with the Bandits and Rock), he hasn’t had as much success as a coach. Could Pym come in and finally return this storied NLL franchise to respectability?