LOUDONVILLE — In the days since he accepted the Siena College men’s lacrosse head coaching position, Liam Gleason said it has been “humbling” to receive so many encouraging messages from people around the program.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the program,” Gleason said Thursday at his introductory press conference, “and there should be.”
Keeping that excitement level up is the top challenge facing Gleason as he moves from his role as University at Albany associate head coach back to Siena where the 33-year-old once served as an assistant for three seasons. While Gleason helped build UAlbany into a national powerhouse under head coach Scott Marr in recent years, Siena has struggled. The Saints haven’t posted a winning season since going 11-6 in 2014, and they went 14-39 in former head coach John Svec's final four seasons.
Gleason sounded a lot like his former boss at UAlbany as he illustrated his focus for his first year leading the Saints.
“My goal in our first year will be to a build a culture of positivity, passion for the game and a mindset of [having a] competitive nature in everything we do,” Gleason said.
In past years, Gleason has interviewed for head coaching positions. Each time, though, he left those interviews not ready to move on from his alma mater UAlbany.
“I’d always walk out of the interview not feeling that I wasn’t ready,” Gleason said, “but feeling I didn’t want to leave Albany yet.”
But when the opening that came up was one at Siena?
“It was a no-brainer,” Gleason said.
New @SienaLacrosse head coach Liam Gleason said @UAlbanyMLax head coach Scott Marr had been pushing him for 4 years to take a head coaching position.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) June 28, 2018
Marr's message when Gleason got the Siena job: "Go kill it."
"That's who Scott is," Gleason said.
For several years, Gleason said Marr had told him he was ready to run his own Division I program. The two men were in contact throughout Gleason’s interview process with Siena.
“When I told him I was looking at Siena College, it wasn’t, ‘Hey, let’s see what we can do to try to keep you [at UAlbany],” Gleason said. “It was, ‘Go kill it.’”
Marr said it was a “great moment” for his program, which is coming off its first-ever appearance in the national semifinals, to have one of its alumni and coaches become a head coach.
“It’s never an easy decision to leave or to take on a new challenge,” Marr said. “It’s a big commitment, a big jump, so we had plenty of talks along the way about it — and I know he made the right decision. I know he’s going to do a great job.”
Gleason and Marr said they haven’t discussed their programs rekindling their rivalry after not playing the past couple seasons. The programs won’t play in 2019, but each head coach left the door open for the schools playing against each other in the years beyond that.
“I’d imagine we’ll see Siena-Albany playing again in the near future,” Gleason said.
Siena athletic director John D’Argenio said Gleason’s combination of experience at UAlbany and time spent at Siena made him an ideal fit for the Saints’ job.
“Not only does he know lacrosse,” D’Argenio said, “but he also knows Siena.”
Away from the playing field, D’Argenio said Gleason’s role in recruiting at UAlbany should help him at Siena.
“In any sport, it’s so critical who you recruit,” D’Argenio said. “All of his experience in recruiting are areas we’ve been in during the past and where we need to re-emerge again.”
Several current Siena players were in attendance at Gleason’s press conference. Anthony Tebbano, a rising sophomore goalie from Clifton Park, said he was excited to play for Gleason.
“Obviously, coaching changes are a little intimidating, but when I heard his name was in the mix, I was very happy,” Tebbano said. “To hear that he got the job was a big relief and I’m happy he got it.”
Going forward, Gleason said he’ll need to restock his wardrobe with Siena colors after filling it with UAlbany gear.
His mindset, though, is already back on being a Saint.
“I always had a little bit of gold and green still in me,” Gleason said.
Gleason inherits a program that last won a MAAC title in 2014. The new head coach said his initial focus is on rebuilding the Saints, but his long-term goals revolve around building a program capable of competing every year for conference championships and winning NCAA tournament games.
“This is a true goal for us,” Gleason said, “a realistic goal for us.”