Toronto Rock owner, president and general manager Jamie Dawick today announced Matt Sawyer as the new head coach of the Toronto Rock. Joining Sawyer on the bench will be assistant coaches Blaine Manning and Bruce Codd along with goaltending coach Pat Campbell.
The 41-year old native of Orangeville, Ontario has served in several roles since returning to the Rock for the 2012 season. He was most recently an assistant coach and the assistant GM during the 2016 season.
“I think Matt is the right guy for the job,” said Dawick. “This is a long time coming for Matt, he’s earned this opportunity. Matt pays attention to details and he’s focused on the little things that make a team successful. I owed it to the team and the organization to explore all my options and go with the best candidate and I’m happy to say it’s a guy in our organization.”
This will not be Sawyer’s first head coaching job in the NLL as he was the bench boss of the Boston Blazers in 2011, guiding them to a playoff berth. He has also spent time as an assistant coach with Montreal and Ottawa and had a previous tour of duty with the Rock, running the offence and winning a championship in 2005 alongside head coach Terry Sanderson.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to be a head coach in the NLL again,” explained Sawyer. “There are only nine of these jobs and having a chance to coach one of the most storied franchises in this league is a pretty special opportunity, it’s a real honour. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Jamie and for the Rock.”
Sawyer’s fingerprints are all over the NLL as the list of players around the league that he coached at the Junior A level with the Orangeville Northmen is a lengthy one. His first hand knowledge of the players in the Rock locker room extends far beyond his recent work with the Rock. As the head coach in Orangeville, he won three Minto Cup Canadian Junior A Championships, capturing the title in 2008, 2009 and 2012. During those recent championship runs, Sawyer coached current Rock players Rob Hellyer, Bill Hostrawser, Nick Rose, Jesse Gamble and Bradley Kri to Minto Cup wins.
“Some people might view it as an advantage, being very familiar with our personnel. It’s also about being familiar with how things operate with the Toronto Rock. As a new coaching staff, we want to put our own stamp on things and we have some ideas about how we’ll move forward, grow and get stronger. Last season is in the rearview mirror but we know what happened here and there’s lots of room for improvement.”
Manning, an all-time Rock great, returns to the bench in the same role as the previous three seasons, running the offence. Codd moves over to the Rock bench after spending the last four seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary Roughnecks. Campbell will continue to cultivate strong relationships with the goaltenders on the current roster and will play a key role in scouting and game preparation.
“I’m very confident in this staff and I’m looking forward to working with the coaches and management,” said Sawyer. “I’ve worked with Blaine and Paddy over the last number of years in Toronto and they are two familiar faces that bring a lot to the table. Bruce and I enjoyed a lot of success working together with the Northmen and he will be a tremendous asset on the defensive side of things. It was a classy move by the Calgary organization to give him the opportunity to come home and join our staff in Toronto. They are all great coaches in their own right and we will operate as a group with everyone contributing and having a strong voice in how we move forward.”
With the coaching staff in place, the attention now shifts to free agency, which opens August 1st, followed by the NLL Draft at the end of September.
“This week’s an important week, we need to get a few guys signed before free agency opens,” said Dawick. “We also prepared well for the opening of the free agency period, we have done our homework and we’re ready to explore some options. From there, the focus shifts to the draft and upcoming season.”
Dawick, along with assistant GM Josh Sanderson, had a recent trip to British Columbia to take in some Western Lacrosse Association action, having a look at some of the western Canadian talent that will be available in the upcoming draft.
“With every team, at this point in the calendar, the draft is next on the radar,” said Sawyer. “We have a strong organization and it’s important to draft well. I’m confident Jamie, Josh and our staff will make the right moves come draft time. It’s their job to get us the players, we’ll do the rest and coach the players we are provided.”