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Scott Marr: Conductor of the Dane Train

From his love for the Grateful Dead to his unique coaching style, an inside look at what makes UAlbany's men's lacrosse coach unlike any other.

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It’s 7:50 a.m. on a cold November Friday. Inside the University at Albany’s varsity weight room, men’s lacrosse head coach Scott Marr is sporting a gray UAlbany sweatshirt, dark gray pants, black sneakers and has a Dunkin Donuts large coffee in hand.

“The last Wednesday of every month here at school is Workout Wednesday, so we get to wear workout clothes. Scott’s entire life is going in workout clothes,” his wife Traci jokes.

Today is squat day, meaning his players are divided based on weight and lifting ability.

For Marr, this is arguably the most important time of the week. Different than the typical running around at practice the team will do later that day outside at Casey Stadium, this is Marr’s one-on-one time to interact and check in on his team.

Marr walks around to each and every one of his players to talk to them. The conversations vary to everything from checking in on a player’s family, talking about a favorite show on TV and how classes are going. Some athletes have crazy majors, like astronomy or engineering.

Ironically, Marr graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in social and behavioral sciences.

Scott is bigger and taller than most of his players. During his playing days, he squatted anywhere between 250-300 lbs. His back issues forced him to stop.

He daps up his players like they’re his best friends. He’s essentially just another one of the boys. He throws in a couple of air guitars as well while the speaker music plays heavy metal in the background.

“When people are talking to him [Scott], they’re not lifting,” Eccles said laughing. “Sometimes he’ll get going and you’ll have to be like, ‘Coach, I’ve gotta work out.’”

Eccles, his roommate Sean Gleason and Marr always talk about the New York Rangers.

When they aren’t doing well, they’ll always hear about it from their coach.

Marr stresses the importance of the camaraderie and chemistry of his players. The team started the tradition last year of going to rent cabins at Dippikill, an 850+ acres wilderness retreat in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains owned and operated by the UAlbany Student Association, in the offseason.

There’s no cellphone service there and the experience really allows the players to all get to know one another– especially the upperclassmen and the new freshman.

The thing that Eccles remembers most from that weekend last year: Coach Marr falling way behind on the team’s hike.

His upperclassmen players have told Marr that the chemistry of this year’s squad is particularly close.

Marr is quick to point out to the team’s head trainer Tony Tullock that the Great Danes’ America East championship banner is missing “2018.”

Tullock said he’s “working on it.”

Marr and Tullock huddle the team at the end of lifts around 8:45 a.m.

“I’ll see you guys at 1:15 p.m. at Casey Stadium. We’ll do some running, drills, tug of war and of course lacrosse.” Tullock said.

Marr shakes his head no to the lacrosse part. The team erupts in laughter.

——-

The Beginning

After a college career at Johns Hopkins (1987-90) as a player which included winning a National Championship in 1987, Marr started his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at the University of Delaware in 1991.

It was that unpaid role that gave him his start in the profession. The gig also led to him meeting his wife Traci.

He needed a job and Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw hired Marr to come on. Traci ended up working at the same elementary school that Shillinglaw’s wife Tina worked at.

She was unloading all of her books on the Labor Day weekend before the start of the school year, carrying everything inside the building.

Marr had an interview that same day for the equivalent of a paid clerk/monitor position. The job really allowed him to just talk to people. He brought a positive and enthusiastic energy with him.

With his mullet in full force, Marr introduced himself. The two ended up eating lunch together for the remainder of the school year.

Eventually, Scott invited Traci to come watch a Delaware lacrosse scrimmage at the end of September that was being played at the high school she went to.

After the game, he invited her to join him and the rest of the team at Klondike Kate’s, a local bar. She waited two hours but Marr never showed up.

“Remember, this was well before the age of cellphones,” Traci recalls.

Thankfully she was not waiting by herself. She went to school at Delaware, where she was a Division I volleyball player, and had plenty of friends there. Although she didn’t like being stood up, she recalls it wasn’t officially a date so it was OK. She even left and came back two hours later. Still no Marr.

At school on Monday, he apologized, explaining that it was the first time Coach Shillinglaw had asked the coaching staff if they wanted to go out together. They tried to convince him to go Klondike Kate’s but Shillinglaw didn’t want to go somewhere they might run into athletes.

That led to Tracy asking Scott to go to an Oktoberfest with her. She had a really great time and thought the feeling was mutual. Instead, Scott then asked if her friend Amy had a boyfriend.

“They never did end up going out,” she recalls with a laugh.

Despite the setback, the two continued to have lunch every day. Eventually, around the holidays, Scott called and asked if she wanted to spend New Year’s Eve 1992 with him.

That was their first official date. They got engaged in April of that same year and married in August. The wedding was in Coach Shillinglaw’s backyard. And now, 26 years later, the rest is history.

“If Scott Marr won the lottery tomorrow, he would still be involved in lacrosse. A lot of people would leave their job. He wouldn’t,” Marr’s wife Traci says.

——

The Albany Way

Marr enters his 19th season leading the helm for the Great Danes in 2019, the only in the program’s Division-I history. He joined UAlbany in 2001 after serving as a coordinator/assistant for both Delaware and Maryland.

With the Yorktown, NY native leading the way, the Danes have done nothing but win. A lot. He’s a six-time America East Coach of the Year and has coached UAlbany to nine America East tournament titles.

Last season, Marr led the Danes to a 16-3 mark (tying a program record) while spending six weeks ranked No. 1 in the country in the USILA Coaches Poll and Inside Lacrosse Media Polls.

They went on to reach their first ever Final Four appearance before falling to the eventual National Champion Yale Bulldogs.

As a coach, Marr is widely known for his unconventional approach. He isn’t a micromanager. His teams have a free-flowing offense, giving the power to the players to make the decisions they best see fit.

“As they like to say, he just lets the boys play,” Marr’s mentor and current Denver head coach Bill Tierney explains.

“We go over to his house on Easter and he has a long sleeve tie dye Grateful Dead shirt on and bandana,” senior midfielder Sean Eccles says. “It’s the same guy you get at practice…We respect the shit out of him for it.”

It’s a fast and free-flowing style of play that very few teams can counter.

He has a 179-114 career record at UAlbany and has coached Tewaaraton Trophy winners (2014-15), 35 All-Americans, six Tewaaraton finalists, etc.

“[His players] just like him,” Tierney said with a laugh. “Free-willing, not afraid, inventive, they’re fast and they have fun doing what they do.”

————-

Rock ‘N Roll Marr

Marr has plenty of interests outside of lacrosse. Still, his wife Traci is also quick to point out that although Marr may not always be at the office, the game is always on his mind.

He loves music. He loves to camp. “He just likes being outdoors. It’s his favorite place,” she explains.

During the offseason in August with no recruiting at the top of the agenda, the family has a boat on Saratoga Lake. They get to spend time together and do a lot of swimming.

Sitting in his grey Jeep Cherokee, Scott controls all the music in his car. The person sitting in the passenger seat must be ready to be a part of the drumming corps or have Marr tap on their leg/ shoulders to the beat of the song. He might even use their arm as a piano.

“When dad is driving, no one can change the music,” daughter Jordyn explains, a sophomore on the UAlbany women’s lacrosse team. His son Kyle, an All-American and senior midfielder at Johns Hopkins, confirms, adding that the women have more luck trying to get him to budge.

Inside Lacrosse Editor in Chief Matt Kinnear knows Scott well. He has been covering the game since he was a journalism student at the University of Maryland at College Park from 2003-07.

Kinnear and Marr both share a love for the band Pearl Jam. According to Kyle, it’s a tough decision, but his dad’s favorite song is “Alive”.

Marr and Kinnear will even have text conversations about the band. Whenever they see each other, it’s one of the first three or four things that comes up.

The other, asking Kinnear about his newborn son, who was born on the day of the Great Danes’ 15-3 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last year to begin their historic 2018 campaign.

After UAlbany’s upset loss to Hartford 11-10 in overtime of the 2016 America East semifinals at Casey Stadium, Kinnear and the rest of the media waited for Marr to enter the postgame press conference room.

Scott was clearly upset. His team would still end up receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament but it likely cost them a home playoff game and left a sour taste in their mouth. They’d end up losing 11-9 on the road to Syracuse in the First Round to end their season two weeks later.

Kinnear had been at a Pearl Jam concert at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia a few weeks earlier. They played their album “Ten” in its entirety.

Scott walked up to Kinnear after the loss and said, “Hey, that must’ve been a hell of a Pearl Jam show to be at.”

That same year, Kinnear had also attended a Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field. Kinnear heard someone calling his name when he walked off the subway. He turned around, and of course it was Marr. He had made the trip with Kyle.

“I flew over to Chicago from Baltimore and he had driven over there with his son. Never in a million years did I think I was going to run into a Division-I lacrosse coach I deal with all the time.”

Kinnear puts it simply: “He is authentic. He doesn’t put on an act for recruits or anyone. He is who he is.”

———

The Edell Effect

Marr spent six seasons as an assistant on Dick Edell’s Maryland staff. The Terps made five NCAA Tournament appearances during that period and were the Division-I national runner up in 1995, 1997, and 1998.

The Terrapins broke the school’s single-season scoring record with 236 goals when the program captured the 1998 ACC regular-season and tournament titles. Their lethal attack averaged 12.5 goals under Marr’s time there from 1995-2000.

“Those six years at Maryland really molded me into the part where I could become a head coach.” Marr said.

The two first met at a lacrosse camp at Army when Marr was 11. He took a blow to the head and Edell personally brought Marr to the hospital to make sure he was OK. From there, he was a hero for Scott.

More than anything else, Edell taught Marr how to interact with and treat people. To Edell, everyone was the same. Marr instills the same philosophies at UAlbany.

Even the custodians all know Marr. He stops and talks to them. They come to games to support his team. He’ll do the same with the average fan in the crowd at Casey Stadium.

As his daughter Jordyn explains with a laugh, going out with Marr in public is the worst. Everyone knows who he is.

The family went Christmas tree shopping earlier this month, and when Traci took a picture for them Scott stayed back for five minutes to talk to the dad.

“My poppy was the same way. He’s kind of like the mayor of the town.” Jordyn said.

“If dad disappears, it’s fine,” Kyle explained. “You know he’s just talking about lacrosse with somebody. Could be a complete stranger, doesn’t matter. To him, it’s as if everyone is his best friend.”

His parents and especially his dad, his biggest influence, taught Marr to always treat people the way he wanted to be treated.

He stresses it to his team. The same thing when he speaks in public.

“To me, everybody is somebody. It doesn’t matter what title you’ve attained. People are people.”

———–

Jam for JP

15-year-old JP Honsinger, a Clifton Park, NY, native and student at nearby Shenendehowa HS, suffers from Niemann Pick Type C, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system.

Honsinger has been an integral part of the men’s lacrosse program since 2013, spending time with student athletes and coaches, assisting on the sidelines and cheering from the stands.

On a snowy fall afternoon, there is Honsinger. Sitting in a golf cart as he watches the Danes practice. He talks to assistant coach Merrick Thomson. The conversation: Honsinger trying to convince Thomson to go the bar with him that night. Why? That’s where the girls will be.

Marr and the Danes hosted a lacrosse scrimmage event at Casey Stadium along with Johns Hopkins, Army and Vermont the month prior. The event was dedicated to Honsinger as their “hero of the day”.

As his parents describe when he goes to a game or practice, his entire mood changes. Despite everything he’s going through, when he’s with the Danes, he feels “really good”.

Marr loves to talk about lacrosse being a medicine game. For JP, it’s no exception.

The team also attended the “Jam for JP” event in November with around 35 players participating, to help raise money and awareness about his disease.

An emotional Marr holds back tears as he talks about Honsinger.

“It’s neat to be in a position to help…When you have an opportunity as a coach to be involved with and do things for people, it’s not about you or your team. It’s about trying to help heal and help people get through tough situations.”

He feels that all coaches have an obligation to be involved in their community and make things more positive for others.

“Life is not always fair. It’s not always equal.”

——–

Luke Beats Darth Vader

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for Bill Tierney,” Marr explains.

Born and raised in Yorktown, NY, Marr received high school All-American honors while twice leading the storied Yorktown High School program to the state’s semifinal round.

Tierney gave Marr his start in the sport. He was the only Johns Hopkins coach that saw Marr play and recruited him.

As an assistant for head coach Don Zimmerman, Tierney took a plane to visit Marr for a home recruiting visit. They took an alumni’s plane. As Tierney recalls, it was a miserable night in the winter.

It was raining sideways and cold enough to snow. Their small four seater plane was bouncing all over the place.

“I literally thought I was going to die,” Tierney said.

He recalls asking Zimmerman, “Is this guy good enough to die for?”

“Yes, he is,” he replied.

There were only 26 lacrosse programs at the time. It was a smaller sport and Hopkins was a powerhouse, having been to 10 straight national championships. Its success spoke for itself. All the doors that were opened for Marr in the sport started with Tierney.

Fast forward to this past May with a 15-13 victory over Tierney’s Denver team in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Division-I men’s lacrosse playoffs at Hofstra University on Long Island, Marr’s Great Danes advanced to their first ever Championship Weekend.

The 17 years prior with Marr at the helm, they had some remarkably talented teams but had never been able to get over the “Final Four hump”.

Legendary players like Lyle and Miles Thompson, Merrick Thomson, Connor Fields, etc. High powered offenses. Goal machines. Albany swagger. But never had the purple and gold been one of the last four teams standing.

On top of that, it was also Marr knocking off his mentor in Tierney.

“He’s a gold standard in the sport. It was an honor to beat him…his seven national championships speak for itself.”

He lost to Tierney in the national championship twice while an assistant at Maryland. He lost to him in the quarterfinals with the Terrapins as well.

His first ever tournament appearance at Albany against the Princeton Tiger’s lacrosse team followed the same story, a game where they led at halftime. Playing at Denver in 2013, Marr and the Danes’ game ended the same way.

“It was like Luke beating Darth Vader” he said with a chuckle.

For Marr, it was especially challenging mentally. He had to focus on not paying attention and looking at Tierney on the other sideline.

They spoke for 10-15 minutes before but once it started, he didn’t even make eye contact with his mentor until the last two minutes of the game.

“To beat Coach Tierney, he set the standard. To beat someone at that level is really satisfying… it was a great day for our university.”

———

Father First

“My wedding, my first son, my first daughter, my second daughter and then my national championship. Those are the five best days of my life.”

Marr is quick to note the 1987 National Championship with Hopkins as a player was number one, but got bumped down when he got married.

When the clock struck zero, he was the first one to run to goalkeeper Quint Kessenich, now an analyst at ESPN. He still remembers ending up at the bottom of the dog pile celebration after the win.

“I got trampled!” Marr remembers.

Ultimately, fatherhood is at the forefront of everything that Marr does.

As described by his family, “Scott the coach” is very similar to “Scott the father.” He believes wholeheartedly the more you give to other people, the more you’ll get back.

He feels the relationships you build in lacrosse are the most important thing. As a parent, he always tries to get that same message across.

“At the end of the day, he’s not a lacrosse coach that has kids. He’s a father who coaches lacrosse.” Kinnear said.

“He just has the biggest heart,” daughter Jordyn said. “That sums it all up. He just wants the best for everyone.”

Traci puts it simply: “He is my partner, without a question.”

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Rob "Lep" Lepelstat is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. Along with the ASP, Lep works as Vice President of ATV and sports director for WCDB. He's also had internships at CBS/ Westwood One Sports, ABC Television in NYC, ESPN Radio Albany, etc.

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