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Division I Lacrosse Through the Eyes of Max Fischer

Assessing the college lacrosse landscape through the world's finest lacrosse team manager.

Max Fischer -- the subject of Wes Anderson's documentary Rushmore -- is a student and lacrosse team manager at Rushmore Academy. He is our spirit guide for our erratic walk through college lacrosse.

Herman Blume: What's the secret, Max?
Max Fischer: The secret?
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don't know. I guess you've just gotta find something you love to do and then . . . do it for the rest of your life. For me, it's going to Rushmore.

There aren't a lot of coaches that stay at one place forever. John Desko is one of those guys -- Desko played for Roy Simmons, Jr. at Syracuse in the late seventies, moved directly into a 19-year assistant role with the Orange after his playing career ended, and succeeded his mentor in 1999, winning the national championship five times as the program's navigator. Yet, there is a sect of Orange fans -- most of the sociopathic variety that spend their days protesting the existence of the post office and their nights plotting how to weaponize a ham and cheese sandwich -- that earnestly believe that Desko should be shot out of a cannon and into the sun because he's stale or hasn't won a title in a half-decade or any other reason that drips from the mouth or fingertips of the clinically insane.

This remains one of the oddest insane fan-coach relationships in college lacrosse. I mean, seriously:

  • Desko's 198-63 record going into the 2015 season stands as the best winning percentage of any active NCAA Division I coach. Overall, he is seventh on the Division I list for career winning percentage. Let's put that another way: There aren't a dozen coaches with a better winning percentage than Desko and only two coaches -- Roy Simmons, Jr. (six) and Bill Tierney at Tierney (six) -- have more Division I NCAA championships as a head coach than Desko (five).
  • Even though Desko hasn't collared a national title since 2009, Syracuse has a silver medal in its pocket from 2013 and has progressed to the NCAA Tournament in each of the five years, these trips marking invitations to college lacrosse's biggest even in the most competitive era of the game. Over the last 10 seasons, the Orange have finished with an average record of 12-4 with an average LaxPower ranking of eighth and an average LaxPower strength of schedule ranking of fifth; over the last five seasons, the Orange have finished with an average record of 13-4 with an average LaxPower ranking of ninth and an average LaxPower strength of schedule ranking of seventh. Among Duke, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and Virginia, only Duke is definitively in front of the Orange in the five- and 10-year splits. Desko has maintained Syracuse's position among the nation's best even with the rest of the nation catching up to the Orange due to the increased number of legitimate national title contenders on a year-in and year-out basis.

Desko's secret has worked out pretty well for Syracuse.

Max Fischer: So you were in Vietnam?
Herman Blume: Yeah.
Max Fischer: Were you in the shit?
Herman Blume: Yeah, I was in the shit.

Monmouth and UMBC played to a murder-fueled 4-2 decision last weekend. The weather was miserable in New Jersey, and the boxscore illustrates just how tough the game was to witness:

  • There were a total -- total -- of 48 shots taken in the game. Not by one team. The Hawks and Retrievers combined for 48 shots, each triggering 24. Half of those shots were on goal -- UMBC accounted for 14 of them -- but that fact is outweighed by the reality that Fairfield -- as a team -- took more shots (50) and shots on goal (35) than UMBC and Monmouth did in the aggregate. Blergh!
  • On an estimated basis, there were 43 total possessions in the game. 43! And Monmouth only had about 18 of those 43 possessions. If there is a place I don't want to be, it's watching a 4-2 game played at a deathly slow pace -- the average pace of a game in 2014 was around 60-ish possessions -- in 29* weather with both teams not shooting the ball. UMBC's offensive efficiency was around 16 percent while Monmouth's offensive efficiency was around 11 percent. Icky!
  • The teams combined for 33 turnovers, 15 of which were caused. On an estimated basis, the Retrievers were the victim's of a caused turnover on 44 percent of their offensive opportunities while the Hawks committed an unforced turnover on approximately 83 percent of their offensive opportunities. Blech!