To the Maryland men’s lacrosse team, Dick Edell was simply “Big Man,” a moniker that spoke as much of the respect with which players held their coach as it did his height (6 feet 5). When he retired in 2001, having led the Terps to 171 victories, 13 NCAA tournaments and three title game appearances, Edell summed things up.
“I’m grateful that I got to do this for 34 years,” he said. “I had kids that played every minute like it was the last minute of their lives, and I will thank them forever.”
Edell died Wednesday morning of pneumonia at Howard County General Hospital. The Glenelg resident was 74.
Lacrosse was Edell’s passion to the end, said his daughter, Krissy Kelley.
“He watched the Notre Dame-Virginia [Atlantic Coast Conference men’s lacrosse championship] game on Sunday in the hospital’s emergency room,” she said.
At Dundalk High, he captained and played midfield on the lacrosse team that defeated Towson for the Baltimore County championship in 1960 at Homewood Field. Upon graduation in 1962, he earned an appointment to the Naval Academy but transferred after one year to Towson State. There, Edell earned an All-America honorable mention and scored five goals in a victory over North Carolina.
After college, he coached freshman lacrosse at Towson State for two years while teaching at Bear Creek Elementary.
Carl Runk, then Towson’s head coach, said Edell “wasn’t just about X’s and O’s. He taught some of life’s lessons.”
In 1970, Edell became a physical education instructor and head coach at Calvert Hall, where, in three years, he turned the woebegone lacrosse program around. The Cardinals shared the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference title in 1971 and won it outright the following year.
“I’ve always stressed that the best compliment you can give our team is to say, ‘My God, do they play hard,’ ” Edell liked to say. “Any athlete has good and bad days. But every day you can play hard.”
When his job was eliminated by budget cutbacks, Edell moved on to the University of Baltimore, where in four seasons he coached the Bees to a 45-23 mark. There, he doubled as soccer coach and led Baltimore to the 1975 NCAA Division II championship, despite never having played soccer himself.
Edell downplayed his role in that title drive.
“I could probably jump off the Empire State Building and land on a cushion,” he said.
Next stop: Army, where Edell inherited a 6-6 lacrosse team and coached the Cadets to seven consecutive winning seasons and four NCAA tournament appearances. Maryland took note and hired Edell in 1984. It would be his final and most rewarding stop. At College Park, he took the Terps to the NCAA finals in 1995, 1997 and 1998 and won three ACC titles.
“We recruited people who bought into the team concept,” Edell once said. “We were never based on a superstar. We were a bunch of parts pulling together to create something special. I always got a tremendous satisfaction out of that.”
Above all, his Terps were student-athletes. For a while, Edell’s office was near the team’s study hall so he could monitor the comings and goings of players.
Twice, he was named USILA Coach of the Year, in 1978 and 1995; three times, Edell earned ACC coaching accolades.
“I coached with emotion and I asked my players to play with emotion,” he told reporters.
On Wednesday, tributes poured in from those whose lives Edell touched.
“He was a Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame person,” said Dave Cottle, who followed Edell at Maryland and who coached the Terps from 2002 to 2010.
Edell seemed to remember everyone who contributed to his teams’ success, said Jeff Shirk, the Washington College coach who’d played for him at Maryland.
“We were at Duke — I think it was my sophomore year — and an elderly gentleman came up and said, ‘Hey, Coach Edell, you’re not going to remember me …’ and ‘Big Man’ said, ‘No, no, no, wait a second, give me a second,’ ” Shirk said. “And then he sat there for 3 to 5 seconds and all of a sudden fired this guy’s name out and said, ‘You drove our bus when we were up at Army.’ ”
Albany coach Scott Marr was 11 when, while attending Edell’s stick camp at West Point, he took a blow to the head and was rushed to the hospital by the Army coach.
“I’ll never forget being in the car and sitting in the waiting room with him” as Edell asked about his family and future, Marr recalled. “He was more than just a coach. He was a mentor to people.”
Stricken with inclusion body myositis, a debilitating muscular disease, Edell retired in 2001 after a 13-3 season. His record at Maryland: 171-76. His college career mark: 282-123.
In 2016, Edell was among the inaugural class enshrined in the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of the National Lacrosse, Maryland, Towson and Army West Point Halls of Fame. But his awards always paled in comparison to personal relationships.
“He had an ability to make the people he knew feel special,” Kelley said.
“I wasn’t, I hope, just a coach. I was a friend,” Edell told The Sun in 2003. “That’s a relationship I don’t ever want to end.”
Edell is survived by his wife of 50 years, Dolores (nee Billingslea) Edell; four children, Lisa Edell, of Towson; Krissy Kelley, of Mount Airy; Gregg Edell, of Short Hills, N.J.; and Erin Russell, of Baltimore; a sister, Linda Burnett, of Pylesville; and six grandchildren.
Memorial services are incomplete. The family asks that contributions be made to Shootout For Soldiers, a 24-hour lacrosse benefit for veterans June 20 at Troy Park in Elkridge.
Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.