FROM THE FLOOR TO THE BENCHFeatures | 5/4/2012 3:35:50 PM | Chris Ryndak
After 14 seasons, 195 games, 298 goals and 630 points, Dan Teat knew when it was time to step away from playing professional lacrosse.
He had signed a contract in October 2010 to play for the Boston Blazers, but halfway through training camp, he talked with his roommate Josh Sanderson – now with the Toronto Rock – and realized that the game had become work for him.
“We were just talking one night and I just looked at Josh and said, ‘I didn’t have any fun today,’” Teat remembered. “I went back on a Sunday and it was just one of those things where I think I knew.”
Teat retired but he didn’t stay away from the game for long. He served as an assistant coach for his hometown Brampton Excelsiors of Major Series Lacrosse under Rochester Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen over the summer, winning the Mann Cup championship. Shortly after, Team received a phone call from Buffalo Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour.
“Darris gave me a call and we talked for a while. He had some ideas of what he thought about me,” Teat said.
Teat officially joined the Bandits coaching staff as an assistant coach in November, and he’s spent this season working with the offense. For the 39 year old, being able to coach in the NLL was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise.
“I didn’t have plans to be an NLL assistant coach this year except that when the job came up in Buffalo, Darris had contacted me and I jumped out of my skin and thought it was a great opportunity,” he said “But as far as planning for it, I really hadn’t because I thought most of the jobs were pretty much set from what they were from last year.”
During his playing career, Teat played for six different teams including the Bandits. Teat spent five seasons in Buffalo (2004-08) where he got to know many of the players and coaches he’s currently working with. Darris Kilgour was Teat’s coach back then and Rich Kilgour was Teat’s captain. Rich Kilgour became an assistant coach with the Bandits prior to last season. Teat said that one of the best parts of his new job is being able to work with them.
“I’m still in my awe stage of how they approach things and how they prepare and how they get the guys ready,” he explained. “If you do know Darris, you know he’s one of the best motivators in the world and if you can’t get up for a game Darris and Rich are involved in then I guess there’s something wrong with your meter.
“It’s actually been a thrill so far and I’m learning as I go with those two. The amount of stuff that they know and the knowledge they have, I’m just going to sponge it up.”
With only being a few years removed from playing, Teat has also been teammates with most of the players he’s now coaching. He doesn’t feel that he treats them any differently than he did when he was a player.
Last season, the Bandits averaged 10.6 goals per game. This year with the addition of forwards Luke Wiles, Mat Giles and Kevin Buchanan to a team already laden with veterans like John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis and Tracey Kelusky, the offense’s production jumped to 12.4 goals per game under Teat.
Teat explained that those players have their own ideas about where they want to move the ball, especially with the man advantage. He lets them be creative and talk it out amongst themselves but he’s not afraid to say something if he may see something they might have missed.
“I have some ideas that I like to throw at them every once in awhile but for the most part, we’ve had a pretty veteran-laden group up there and they’re all smart enough to know what to do in certain key situations and stuff," Teat said. “I try to give them some guidance from what I see from a different perspective. No one wants to tell John Tavares where to shoot or Luke Wiles or Tracey Kelusky where to shoot, but when you’re standing six feet higher on a bench, sometimes you see things and that’s all I’m there for, to kind of guide the guys out the front door.”
Buffalo’s power play also finished second in the league with 53 goals for, 27 more than last year. Tavares accounted for a league-high 21 power play goals in 2012.
“It’s a hands-on, hands-off type of thing,” Teat said of coaching the power play. “Those guys have been so good that I don’t really want to interrupt what they’ve got going right now.”
Teat is still learning how to be a coach and one aspect that he’s focused on improving is his focus and keeping his composure during games. While he said that it’s important to show his players a calm demeanor, he can get carried away at times.
“Maybe it’s yelling at a referee or something or if something happens on the floor, I lose a little bit of my focus and the toughest part of that is trying to keep your bench management,” he explained. “You’ve got to have those guys ready to go out the front door and when you get unfocused or get distracted by something else, you lose that bench management aspect. That’s been the toughest for me is just trying to focus on the bench management aspect of it.”
One of the biggest changes Teat has had to deal with is in terms of preparation. When he was playing, he may have only keyed in on one or two defenders before a game. As a coach, he’s now preparing for the team they’re playing as a unit.
What hasn’t changed for Teat, specifically in his time between his stints in Buffalo, is his excitement when it comes to home games at First Niagara Center. His family is able to travel to see every game and he loves the atmosphere that comes with working in Buffalo.
“When you’re playing, there is nothing like playing in Banditland,” he said. “It is a nuthouse when you’ve got 18,000 people there. When you throw yourself in the middle of a crazy Banditland on a Saturday night, it’s just unbelievable.”