By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
The Buffalo Bandits pulled a surprise on Thursday morning. They didn’t hire one coach. They hired two.
The team announced that Rich Kilgour and John Tavares would hold the positions of co-coaches for the 2018-19 season, which begins in December. They will replace Troy Cordingley, who has been moved to the position of assistant general manager and director of scouting.
One other move was announced. Rusty Kruger will move from a scouting position to assistant coach.
All of this answers one big question – who will coach the team this coming season? It’s an issue that’s been lingering since the end of last season, which was at the end of April. In other words, this has been a subject of discussion for nearly five months. That’s far too long, and it probably caused a lot of stress for all concerned.
TWO GOOD CANDIDATES
The speculation picked up once word leaked out that Cordingley wasn’t going to be back as head coach. The Bandits had two candidates for the head coaching position on hand. Kilgour had been a longtime assistant coach with plenty of head coaching experience in Ontario’s summer league. He might have left the team had he been passed over again for a head coaching job. Tavares remains the face of the franchise, and that carries a lot of weight in these circumstances. It was almost as if the Bandits thought they needed both of them, and this was a way to keep them around.
Co-coaches are a rather unusual situation in pro sports. The Colorado Mammoth had three coaches split the duties a few years ago. Now it is down to only Pat Coyle. Usually, though, one person gets to make the final decisions.
In real terms, there shouldn’t be that much difference. Tavares will continue to run the offense and Kilgour will guide the defense. They have been connected to the Bandits for more than a quarter-century, so you’d think they’d get along. I’m not sure which one will address the media after games, but that’s more my concern that yours.
Will it work? It certainly can in the short term, but it’s easy to think that something else in terms of titles will emerge after time passes. In other words, someone will become the head coach. The fact that the Pegulas soon will be controlling another National Lacrosse League franchise in Rochester adds a little more uncertainty to the situation.
SLIGHTLY SAD ENDING
In the meantime, it’s easy to feel a little sympathy for Cordingley at this point. I can understand that a change in style was needed behind the bench in Buffalo. Between Darris Kilgour and Cordingley, the Bandits’ coaching voice has been a loud one since 2003. That can supply urgency, but it also can tire out those on the other end of it – such as players and officials.
This wasn’t Cordingley’s first rodeo in the NLL, and he knows that missing the playoffs for two years in a row in Buffalo is considered unacceptable by all concerned. But no one deserves to be held in the dark for so long about their professional future.
In that sense, it’s good that Cordingley has a job in the organization. It would have been difficult to land a spot elsewhere at this point, and this way Buffalo can put his lacrosse knowledge to use. In a year, Cordingley will be able to see if there’s a job he might like better elsewhere.
Next up for the Bandits is the draft, which will be held on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Buffalo will go third and fourth in the first round. At least we’ll know who will be coaching them in the coming season.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.)