ALBANY — Getting used to the new assistant coach leading the University at Albany men’s lacrosse program has been easy for the Great Danes.
One of them, much-hyped freshman Tanner Hay, is a cousin of John Maloney. Plus, several of the team’s upperclassmen, such as senior Matt Perla, played with Maloney — a 2016 UAlbany graduate — during Maloney’s senior season with the Great Danes.
“And we were always really good friends with John — I mean, coach Maloney,” Perla said at last week’s media day event for the Great Danes.
When told earlier this week that Perla had corrected himself to “coach Maloney,” the new leader of the UAlbany defense laughed and offered an expression — “That’s awesome” — he used a number of times to describe what it’s been like so far be back with the Great Danes to take over for former UAlbany assistant Liam Gleason, who is now the head coach at Siena College.
After his college career playing for UAlbany head coach Scott Marr, Maloney played one season of Major League Lacrosse with the Chesapeake Bayhawks, and served as an assistant coach for Skidmore College in 2017 and St. John Fisher in 2018.
“I planned on being [at St. John Fisher] for a few years, but then coach Marr called me in July,” Maloney said.
After a best-in-program-history season, @UAlbanyMLax gets back to work.
— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) January 26, 2019
Already, Marr said he has confidence in Maloney’s ability to mold a defense that lost stars in goalie JD Colarusso and close defenseman Stone Sims.
“John’s done an outstanding job,” said Marr, whose team’s 2019 season starts Feb. 16 at Syracuse. “He’s really, in a short period of time, created a really good bond with the defensive guys.”
“Having coach Gleason leave, that was obviously a big change for us because he was here for so long,” Perla said. “Having John come back was definitely a change, but it’s been a smooth one.”
“He’s worked his tail off,” said senior Jack Burgmaster, another one of Maloney’s former teammates. “That’s really showing.”
The challenge to rebuild UAlbany’s defense is a formidable one with its direct personnel losses, but becomes more considerable the departure to Yale of faceoff specialist TD Ierlan is added into the equation. The Great Danes’ defense is likely to be tested on a more consistent basis than it was a season ago, when the program advanced to the national semifinals, but Maloney is confident UAlbany has the defensive depth to produce another stellar unit.
“The competition is going to be really good for us,” Maloney said. “That’s a good problem to have.”
In front of a rookie starter in goal that’s likely to be junior Nate Siekierski, UAlbany has a pair of returning starters in senior Erik Dluhy and Perla, plus several defenesmen such as junior Connor Filipowski with meaningful experience. Perhaps most intriguing on the defensive side of things for the Great Danes is what kind of impact Hay — likely the team’s top recruit — will make as a freshman.
“The best thing about Tanner is his IQ and his knowledge of the game,” Maloney said. “He’s always in the right spot and his stick is top-notch. If the ball is on the ground near him, he’s going to come up with it; if you’re throwing a skip pass, you need to look out for him because he has the mindset of an offensive player.”
Still, UAlbany’s defense will rely heavily on seniors this upcoming season — and if they want to call him “John,” that’s fine with Maloney.
“We’ve been through the wringer together,” Maloney said, “so they can call me whatever they want.”