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'One team, one family'

Leadership philosophy will guide first-year lacrosse coach Chris Kolon

By VITO CHIRCO / VN Sports Editor
On October 7, 2014

With no disrespect to former men’s lacrosse head coach Matt Holtz, Chris Kolon is ready to carve his own path as Titans head man after serving six years as an assistant under Holtz.

And he’s going to receive a bevy of help in his first year from five assistant coaches, including former standout performers at UDM A.J. Levell and Alex Maini.

Via the usage of Levell and Maini, plus fellow assistant coaches Graham Adams and Jeff Turner, Kolon hopes to focus more on the “big picture” and on player development from both an on- and off-the-field perspective.

The transition for Kolon to overseer of the program will be made easier if Levell (in his second year away from the playing field) and Maini (in his first) are able to make the jump from being players to coaches, and they are doing just that, according to Kolon.

For Maini – the all-time leading point scorer in Titan history – going from a top-notch player on the field to the sidelines has meant taking a step back and being cautious with his language when directing former teammates and members of the team with whom he never shared the field. 

Kolon hopes Maini’s experience as a captain in his senior campaign last year can help mold the team’s young attackmen into capable leaders, just as Levell did last year with Jason Weber, the MAAC Rookie and Defensive Player of the Year.

As a freshman, Weber recorded a UDM record 179 total saves.

Kolon believes such a season for Weber would’ve never occurred without Levell’s tutelage.

“My aim is to help the young goalies, such as Weber, accelerate the mental aspect, allowing them to play at the level of a senior or junior,” Levell said. “I think the other coaches and I have had a lot of success with that.”

After showing that he can get it done in net last season, Weber will take on more of a leadership role, Levell expects.

Fellow sophomore Connor Flynn also will see time in net.

Add in capable scorers in seniors Shayne Adams and Mike Birney, and the Titans don’t expect to see a significant jump in caused turnovers per game. Last season, the Titans finished 19th in the nation in the category.

The drop in the category for Kolon’s defensive unit – a noticeable one for Detroit after it finished with the best forced turnover rate in in both 2011 and 2012 plus the second-best mark in 2013 with 10 per game – can be attributed to the improved efficiency of the Titans’ offensive attack led by Adams and Birney and senior Scott Drummond, according to Kolon.

The Titans turned the ball over less in Holtz’s final season, causing there to be a diminished urgency for the defense to cause turnovers.

Off the field, Kolon appears to be approaching the season differently than Holtz, as made evident by the weekend the team spent before the start of “fall ball” with the coordinator of the undergraduate leadership minor program, Dr. Don DiPaolo.

DiPaolo proved to be engaging and a good influence on Kolon and his players, as they developed a brand for the first time in program history. The brand incorporates the team’s goals and values for the upcoming spring season.

Young and veteran players alike are expected to buy into Kolon's philosophy that the Titans are “One Team. One Family.”

By getting the Titans to come together as a team and to become a family, he believes this year’s squad will begin to realize the importance of having strong “shoulders,” meaning the ability of some players to carry the load and for other, perhaps less-experienced, individuals to lean on the shoulders of others throughout the season.

The middle layers of his philosophy – faith, pride and discipline – make up the “heart” of the new men’s lacrosse brand.

Two items make up the bottom-most layer of the philosophy: accountability and true brotherhood.

For Kolon, accountability and true brotherhood comprise the base, and for a strong one to be formed, both must in practices, games and extracurricular activities.

“Everything we do is based on it,” Kolon said. “This is kind of like a 10,000-foot view, if we look at what we do in practice, how we travel, what kind of offense we run and how it’s all going to relate to this basic symbol.”

This major difference in coaching philosophy from Holtz to Kolon is what Kolon expects to put the Titans back on the map in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2015, after a disappointing end to Holtz's tenure with only one win at home and three wins in conference last season.

“We had a lot of one-goal losses last season, so what we need to fall back on are the principles we’ve talked about since day one,” he said. “Sometimes, we’re going to have to shoulder the load and have more heart, and at other times, we’re going to have to rely on the strength of others in order to continue moving forward into a better direction.” 

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