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Bandits’ new coach has familiar name

Steve Dietrich and Troy Cordingley go back for more than 10 years.

When Dietrich played for the Buffalo Bandits, Cordingley served as an assistant coach for five of Dietrich’s six seasons here, from 2003-07. Dietrich played for head coach Cordingley as a member of the Toronto Rock in 2010. When Dietrich retired after that season, he became the goaltending coach of the Rock under Cordingley in 2011 and 2012.

When the Bandits fired Darris Kilgour as head coach on June 10, Dietrich – now the Bandits’ general manager – figured to have Cordingley on his short list of candidates for the post. The personal connection between the men was renewed on Wednesday, when the Bandits announced that Cordingley had been hired as the seventh head coach in team history.

Wednesday’s announcement ended a whirlwind five weeks for Cordingley, who lost his job as coach of the Rock on May 31.

“I know in this business, you are paid to win as a head coach,” he said. “If you aren’t successful, you’re the guy on the chopping block. It’s been a ride for the last four or five weeks, but I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be back in Banditland.”

The fit between Dietrich and Cordingley was such a natural one that it was easy to wonder if Dietrich’s firing of Kilgour had anything to do with Cordingley becoming available. Dietrich said Wednesday there was no connection.

“Once the season ended, Scott Loffler and I went through a thorough evaluation of everything,” Dietrich said, referring to the team’s director of lacrosse operations. “We watched all the video, a copy of every game, to see what we needed for this team to make the next step.

“We thought it needed a new voice. We were in the process of putting together a list of names. When we heard the unfortunate news about Troy, he was another name for the list. This process was well underway. It was going to happen no matter who was available.”

Sources indicated that other finalists for the job were Ed Comeau, an assistant coach with the Colorado Mammoth, and Bandits’ assistant coaches Rich Kilgour and Dan Teat. Dietrich said the full list of applicants was a strong one.

“I joked around that I received emails from people that I hadn’t talked to in years,” he said. “It speaks volumes about how tremendous a market this is. This is the premier job in the NLL. I was blown away by people who were interested. All four guys we talked to, they were phenomenal interviews. We would have been comfortable with any of them. But Troy was the perfect fit at the perfect time.”

Cordingley has a long track record in the National Lacrosse League, and it started in Buffalo.

He was the team’s second-round draft choice in the fall of 1992, and won a title with the Bandits in his first season in 1993. Cordingley also was part of Buffalo’s championship season in 1996. He stayed with the team until 1999, when he was lost to the Albany Attack in an expansion draft.

Cordingley spent two seasons in Albany before retiring to take a position as an assistant coach there. He returned to Buffalo in 2003 to serve as an assistant coach under the newly hired Kilgour. Cordingley stayed through 2007.

“I do have some similarities to Darris,” Cordingley said. “I think that we are different coaches. Believe me, I learned a lot from him and I’m grateful for that. On the intensity part of the job, we’re pretty similar. Losing is unacceptable. It’s all about the wins.”

Cordingley left Buffalo to take over as head coach in Calgary starting with the 2008 season. The Roughnecks won a championship in Calgary in 2009. He then left to take the head coaching job with Toronto for the 2010 season, which was much closer to his Ontario job and home.

In the next four years, the Rock under Cordingley won a championship in 2011 and appeared in one other NLL final. Toronto was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2013 despite having the league’s best record. Cordingley won the second of his two Coach of the Year awards this past season. The firing was a surprise to everyone, including Cordingley.

“That kind of caught me by surprise, to be honest,” he said. “However, I am a realist. I understand the business of things. I’m just moving on and I’m looking forward to this challenge. I’m not worried about the past.”

After six seasons of coaching, his career record stands at 59-39. The Brampton, Ont., native gave the impression on a conference call Wednesday that he’s thrilled to come to Buffalo one more time.

“It is a dream job,” he said. “When I played here, we had some successful teams when Les Bartley was the coach. It was great playing as a Buffalo Bandit. ... When Darris took over, he asked me if I wanted to join him as a coach. That was huge for me. I bled orange and black and did what it took to win. Now, I’m coming back as a head coach.”

Bandits veteran forward Shawn Williams was very happy to hear about Cordingley’s hiring. Williams played for Cordingley in Brooklin, an Ontario summer league team, and against his teams in the NLL.

“The way Toronto played was a little bit different than the way we did here,” he said. “But lacrosse is lacrosse. It’s not always about X’s and O’s.”

Buffalo’s Mike Hominuck added, “I love his methods. I loved playing for him. When I think of Troy Cordingley, I think of two words – personable and passionate. You’ve seen him coach and how he gets fired up. It shows his passion for the game.”

Cordingley said he has a couple of names in mind as assistant coaching candidates, and will talk to them in the near future.

Now that the 2014 edition of the Bandits has a coach, the next big question probably centers on whether John Tavares will retire.

The 22-year veteran suffered a torn calf muscle late last season. Dietrich said everyone will have to wait for a decision from the star forward.

“He’s taking the summer off to get his body as healthy as possible,” the Bandits general manager said. “He is hoping to return. It’s going to be completely up to him and up to his health. He was frustrated last year. He came in with an injury and that set a bad tone for the year.”