Greg Cannella is entering his 28th year as the head men’s lacrosse coach at the University of Massachusetts.
A 2019 inductee into the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame, he has developed a top program in Amherst that has reached the NCAA tournament nine times, including the national championship game in 2006.
Cannella joined “New England Lacrosse Journal’s Chasing The Goal” podcast to talk with host Jack Piatelli and staff writer Kyle Devitte about a number of topics, including what he looks for in a recruit and how new NIL regulations could affect his program going forward.
The full podcast can be accessed below.
Kyle Devitte: How much has changed for you and how you coach during your tenure?
Greg Cannella: When I became the head coach in 1995, college lacrosse, because of what Bill Tierney was doing at Princeton, was very defensive. You coached that way; you coached the defense first and you were very conservative with what you did on the offensive end. That’s how we played my first three or four years. We changed in the early 2000s, went more up-tempo like the way I played (in college), and tried to stick with that.
There are a lot of different changes. Obviously, the rules are ever-changing. But mostly it’s the technology. Not just the equipment, the sticks for the guys and the way they can handle the ball, but the video. We have practices filmed and we show our kids. It’s a different learning process for your players right now.
And recruiting has changed, obviously. There’s such a large pool of players that are out there right now, whether it’s the club scene, high school scene. There’s more kids playing than ever. There are more teams in Division 1, 2 and 3. It makes it that much more competitive and difficult to make sure we’re getting the right people.
Jack Piatelli: How do you know when you’re recruiting a player that he’s the guy, that he’s the right fit for your program?
GC: I don’t think you do, fully. We watch them on film, watch them live, talk to people. You like to get to the high school coaches because typically those guys are teachers in the school, and you see how those kids act in the school, towards people, how they respect their teachers and their coaches. And you meet their family. But it’s not 100 percent perfect.
What we try to get are hard-working guys, guys who are willing to compete day-in and day-out, and persevere and work hard over their four years at UMass.
KD: What has your experience been, if any, so far with the NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) ruling with the NCAA and how that might affect your athletes, or teams within your school that might have experienced it?
GC: So far, we haven’t had any activity for our guys. I would imagine at some point we will. I know our men’s basketball program, there are a couple of gentlemen who are in already with some sponsors that have worked with UMass over the years.
The best thing that I’ve seen from it in terms of other programs is seeing guys donate their money to charity. Or one college football player is going to split what he makes with everyone else on the team. It’s going to evolve over time. Hopefully it stays clean for college athletics. I’m not sure how it’s going to end up but I think it’s good for some of the student-athletes who might have financial struggles.
JP: Are you looking forward to getting back to normal this fall, getting the boys going and having a regular season without having to worry about anything?
GC: I hope so. We’re looking forward to it. It was a lot for the student-athletes this year, a lot for the coaches, but also a lot for the administration. It was really difficult to sift through all this.