9/20/2018 4:09:00 PM / Chris Ryndak
The jersey numbers of John Tavares and Rich Kilgour hang next to each other in the rafters of KeyBank Center and starting this season, the two Buffalo Bandits greats will be standing next to each other behind the bench as head coaches.
In what could be considered an unconventional move, Bandits general manager Steve Dietrich announced Thursday that the organization has promoted both assistant coaches to the head coaching position. Kilgour becomes head coach after serving as an assistant for the Bandits for the previous eight seasons while Tavares has been a Bandits assistant for the past three seasons.
Dietrich said that the decision was not made lightly.
“It’s been a tough summer, I’m not going to lie. Any time that you’re looking at making a change in your organization, it’s tough,” he said. “It’s even tougher when you take the personal aspect of being friends with everybody involved [into account].”
Tavares and Kilgour have made their marks on the franchise as players and now they’ll look to do it together as head coaches. Tavares, a four-time NLL MVP and all-time league leader in games played (306), goals (815), assists (934) and points (1,749), will focus on the offense. Kilgour, who served as the team’s captain for 12 seasons and recorded 317 points as a defensive specialist, will run the defense.
They were also big contributors to the Bandits’ four championship seasons.
“On top of being legends as Buffalo Bandits, they’re tremendous people, [they have] incredible knowledge and they know it’s important to win in this market,” Dietrich said. “They know that the fans deserve a championship and I know it drives them as much as it drives me. We just know that they’re going to do a tremendous job.”
“I really wanted to be a head coach in the NLL for a while now and to finally get my number called, especially by the franchise that really made me – and not to selfish, I think I helped make them – is a great honor,” Kilgour said. “I wanted to be here for a while. I’ve got the chance now and I’m going to punch in, just like when I was a Bandits player, do the best job possible for the Buffalo Bandits.”
Rusty Kruger will transition to the role of assistant coach, helping the head coaches on the bench during games this season. Kruger spent the past six seasons as the Bandits’ Eastern scout.
Former head coach Troy Cordingley has been reassigned to assistant general manager/director of scouting, a role in which he will oversee scouting duties at both the NLL and amateur levels, as well as assist Dietrich with player transactions.
As for how practices will run, Tavares said it will be a collaborative effort that will evolve as the season wears on. They both stressed how important open lines of communication are going to be in this new arrangement.
“When the season progresses, Rich and I will talk on the phone, discuss what needs to be improved and implement that into the practice plan,” Tavares said. “Two heads are better than one.”
“Ditto,” Kilgour responded. “We’re on the same page.”