The New England Black Wolves ended the 2015 National Lacrosse League season searching for a new leader of the pack after head coach Blane Harrison announced he would not return for another season behind the bench.
“I’m not coming back next year,” said Harrison at the time. “My wife and I are living in New Jersey right now and we’re moving to Michigan; that makes it a little more difficult to make the seven-hour trip to get here. I think it is better to give somebody else who is a little more accessible a chance to take over.”
Harrison had a 10-26 record during his time as a head coach of the Black Wolves franchise. The search for a new head coach was quiet, but intense as the Black Wolves organization wanted to find just the right fit for the position.
A few weeks later, in the final few days of June, the Black Wolves announced the hiring of Glenn Clark as the team’s new head coach, as well as assistant coaches Jim Veltman and Tracey Kelusky. The new coaching staff is full of experience, both as players and as coaches. With a tough 2015 season lingering in the minds of players and fans, Clark, Veltman, and Kelusky have a lot of work to do.
“The process of improving on last year starts with the off-season,” Clark said. “We’ve spent a lot of time as a group evaluating our roster and determining what areas we need to strengthen. I’ve used all of my coaching experiences to get better at the coaching craft. As a coach, you are constantly looking at ways to improve and challenge yourself. We have a great group of lacrosse minds on this staff and we will rely on each other to drive this team towards our ultimate goal.”
Veltman and Clark have a lot of experience relying on each other, dating all the way back to their Toronto Rock days. After retiring early in the 2008 season after a Hall of Fame career, Veltman moved behind the bench, acting as an assistant coach for Clark until the end of his tenure.
“Glenn and I live in the same small town in Ontario and we are close friends,” Veltman said. “We have sons that are the same age, play lacrosse together, go to high school together and are best buds. We are both high school physical education teachers. I understand and have a lot of respect for Glenn and the way he teaches and coaches. I do not know Tracey as well, but I always liked the way he played the game as a player and I can’t wait to share our knowledge about the game together.”
Though Kelusky and Veltman do not know each other as well, there is plenty of time to build that chemistry and trust. The former Calgary Roughnecks great and likely future Hall of Famer Kelusky, who ended his playing career with Philadelphia before moving into his current coaching role, is returning for his second year as an assistant coach. The hope is that he will be able to give the new hires a much better idea of what went on behind the bench and on the field during the pack’s bumpy debut season. Focused on building a foundation of success, the trio is working hard this offseason.
“So far, we get along just great,” Veltman said. “With the free agency period coming up, most conversations right now center on the current personnel of the team so Glenn and I can get a better understanding of the players we have and the areas we may need to improve in. A big part of our job is planning for the upcoming season – reaching out to players, going over game film from last year, planning systems, and preparing for important league events like free agency and the draft.”
“It’s a group with potential and ownership that is committed to sustainable growth,” Clark added. “We want to build a foundation that will allow for long-term success. I like the challenge of building a team that will be competitive for years to come.”
The Black Wolves were in for a tough debut season from the start, but with a new coaching staff comes a chance at redemption for a pack hungry for success.
“We didn’t expect to come straight from Philadelphia into New England and have everything going,” said Black Wolves assistant general manager Rich Lisk. “We had to put in the process to get everything going in the right direction. We’re in this for the long haul; we’re not in it for the quick fix.”
Story by Alyssa McLaughlin (@BlackWolvesBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Khoi Ton.