Above: Over his career, Jack Kaley has coached 87 USILA All-Americans, compiled a career coaching record of 491-199, and led NYIT to four NCAA championships.
By Michael Schiavetta (M.A. '07)
With 185 wins, 17 years, and four NCAA championships, Jack Kaley transformed NYIT's lacrosse program into one of the best in the United States. He continues to hold the record for the highest career winning percentage in NCAA Division I and II lacrosse and is the only coach to earn the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coach of the Year honor four times. For a man who expected the best from his players, he certainly got it-the trophies, plaques, and championship banners that adorn his office demonstrate Kaley's ability to motivate, educate, and dominate what happens on the field.
And now, he is finally saying goodbye.
"It's time for me to spend more time with my family," he says. And though Kaley is firm on his decision, the 71-year-old coach still sounds like a guy who is not quite ready to close his playbook. And, in a fashion, he isn't. Kaley is retiring as head coach of the Bears, but he plans to hold part-time clinics throughout the United States to teach both students and parents about how to make the most of the student-athlete experience.
It's a role he understands well, having recruited and mentored hundreds of players during his 48-year coaching career. At NYIT, he wasted no time in bringing some of finest student-athletes available to establish a legacy of success. In his second season as head coach, the 1994 Bears went undefeated in the regular season and made it all the way to the NCAA Division II finals.
"That was a special team," says Kaley, who keeps a photo of that group of players right above his desk. "They set the tempo and the bar for the other teams to follow." He recalls in March 1994 when NYIT-considered a fledgling team-defeated the top-ranked Adelphi University by a score of 12-8.
"They took us lightly," he quips. But it was this game that put NYIT lacrosse on the map.
Over the next several years, the Bears continued to thrive under Kaley. His coaching philosophy, one that emphasizes hard work, heart, and hustle, made it clear that players did not have to be the biggest or the quickest-just the most determined. In 1997, this strategy proved effective once again when the Bears won their first NCAA Division II championship, a feat that was repeated in 2003, 2005, and 2008. These triumphs, besides positioning NYIT as a leader in collegiate sports, helped boost the university's reputation on the global stage.
"I still get e-mails from coaches in Europe asking about our pressure zone defense," says Kaley. And, he adds, many lacrosse fans around the world cite the Bears' overtime victory in the 2005 NCAA finals as one of the greatest college lacrosse games ever played.
Despite his tremendous success on the field, the most difficult aspect of being an NCAA sports coach-namely, the long hours, weekends, and vacations spent finding and nurturing the best talent-was also, ironically, Kaley's favorite. "That's what I'm going to miss most," he says. "Demonstrating to students that what we do on the field relates to life. It's all about the hard work, knowing the fundamentals, living a clean lifestyle, and teamwork."
He admits that it's tough for him to say goodbye to NYIT. "But," Kaley says, "we have a good thing going here. It should continue."
As for his office's collection of trophies, plaques, and other memories that chronicle 17 years of hopes and dreams, as well as pride and glory, Kaley intends to leave them right where they are.
"Those don't belong to me," the coach says proudly. "They belong to the Bears."