Darrell Russell has been an integral part of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League since its inception in 1987.
So, when Russell, a Baltimore County District Court judge, informed the MILL last month by letter that he would not be returning as general manager of the Baltimore Thunder, league officials figured it was as good a time as any to reorganize its internal structure.
In its effort to improve player development and expand its fan base, the league announced this week that it will be eliminating the general manager from each team and creating two new posts.
Russell, who cited personal reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family as reasons behind his decision to step down, viewed the league's elimination of the general managers as a "step backward" and added, "One of the reasons I'm getting out is because they have been so conservative.
"Image-wise, it doesn't look good getting rid of the general managers," said Russell, a Loyola College graduate who returned to the Thunder as general manager in 1989 and helped Baltimore's franchise compile a 19-23 regular-season record and earn three postseason berths.
"Practically speaking, there are a lot of things a general manager does that a coach can't or doesn't have the time to do."
Mike French, who served as head coach and general manager of the Philadelphia Wings, has been elevated to Executive Adviser for Lacrosse Operations of the American Division, and John Mouradian, who led the Buffalo Bandits to championships in 1992 and 1993 as general manager, will assume the same position for the National Division.
French and Mouradian will work in tandem with the MILL executives and the teams on issues, including player and staff development, rule interpretation and general operations.
Their first order of business is finding another city to field a team in the National Division, which recently lost the Detroit Turbos because the league could not come to an agreement with Joe Louis Arena.
"We sat down and evaluated what we were trying to do with the league and this just seemed like the appropriate time to reorganize and streamline how we do business," said MILL general manager Mike Mathis.
"The new structure will give us the resources to go out and recruit players and concentrate on player and staff development. These are things we haven't had the luxury to do in the past."
With the departure of Russell, who first served as the Thunder's assistant coach before being named MILL commissioner, come added responsibilities for Baltimore coach Skip Lichtfuss.
These extra duties won't be foreign to Lichtfuss, who served as general manager of the now-defunct Pittsburgh Bulls, and he doesn't expect to be overwhelmed by them.
"I don't think it will take away from my responsibilities as a head coach," said Lichtfuss, who watched his team struggle to a 1-7 record in his first year.
"I'm not certain of what impact [the restructuring] will have on the league, but if it doesn't work, we can always go back to the old way."