Jamie Batley has one of the tougher jobs in sports.
He was hired earlier this month as the coach of the Vancouver Stealth, replacing Dan Perreault. Coaches who are hired in midseason rarely walk into a good situation. They usually take over a team that is losing, and management hopes a coaching change can reverse the franchise’s fortunes in a hurry.
Batley has tried to keep his goals simple for the time being.
“Sometimes the culture goes stale, so we’re just changing the culture a little bit,” he said. “Sometimes the guys get out of focus. We’re just trying to refocus them on the task at hand. Every game is an opportunity to get higher in the standings, so we’re focusing on each game. We’ve got to win that game as we try to move up.”
Vancouver’s loss on Friday to the Buffalo Bandits lowered its record to 3-9, the worst in the National Lacrosse League. Batley has coached teams in Colorado, Chicago and Toronto in the NLL in the past, and has been active in box lacrosse in Canada for many years.
“I’m obviously happy to be back in the NLL,” he said. “This is the highest level, coaching the best players in the world. It’s good to be back with Jim Milligan,” who was hired as an assistant coach with the Stealth, “as well. We’ve worked really well together so it’s a great situation.”
While seven years is a long time between jobs in the NLL, Batley doesn’t think it will take him long to get up to speed on the league and its players.
“Jim and I have been watching games forever” in Canada, “whether it’s a Senior A, or MSL, or junior game. We’ve watched a lot of lacrosse,” he said.
Batley’s return to coaching didn’t go as well as he had hoped. The Stealth were outscored, 8-1, in the fourth quarter by Saskatchewan in a 24-16 loss. The Rush can score on anyone, but Batley was encouraged by the team’s offensive play.
“I thought we shot very well last week,” he said. “I think their coach was upset with” Saskatchewan goalie “Aaron Bold but I don’t think he played that badly. We hit a lot of good spots, and no goalie could have saved most of them. That’s a key to scoring.”
Batley’s first road game as the Stealth coach happened to come in Buffalo, where he played in 1995 and 1999. He has some good memories.
“When I played, I was on the third line and didn’t play a lot,” Batley said. “I enjoyed my time here. Playing in the Aud was very special for me. With 17,000 people in the stands, it was great. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I had a lot of fun.”
What does a lacrosse coach do with a week off, as the Bandits had last week? Troy Cordingley got to spend a little time with his family, which is a luxury at this time of the year.
But as could be expected, lacrosse was still on his mind.
“I watched a lot of lacrosse – a lot of games that we played and watched the Vancouver game to prepare for them with a new coach,” Cordingley said.
The Bandits came into Friday’s game on a three-game winning streak. Teams almost hate to take a week off in such situations, but a little rest is always welcome.
“It’s a good break,” Cordingley said. “It’s our only break this year. You want to continue when you’re going well, but we got to rest some guys who had nagging injuries. It was good that way.”
Batley hoped to say hello to Sabres broadcaster Rob Ray at some point on Friday. The two played hockey together with the Whitby Lawmen during the 1984-85 season. Ray was 16 years old that season. He finished with 15 points and 318 penalty minutes. Batley was a defenseman. ... Billy Dee Smith sat out Friday’s game for the Bandits with what was called a nagging injury.