On Tuesday at Calvert Hall, workouts for the lacrosse team were canceled. It was not the day to lift weights, not when what the Cardinals needed more than anything was uplift.
Dave Huntley, a Towson resident and longtime assistant coach at the school, had died the night before at a coaching clinic in Florida. Over his 60 years, he had been an All-American and two-time national champion at Johns Hopkins, an assistant coach at Loyola College, a coach in the National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse and a Canadian Lacrosse Association official, not to mention a father and a friend and a business partner, and tributes from seemingly every walk of Huntley’s life filled Twitter as news of his passing spread from Baltimore to beyond.
Those people were the lucky ones, friends fortunate to have met someone whom Calvert Hall head coach Bryan Kelly called “just an unbelievably incredible human being.” The Cardinals student-athletes who were expecting Huntley to return to the sideline after a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship last spring — they were the ones who might not have grasped the magnitude of his love, his passion, his intellect. So Kelly opened his locker room Tuesday afternoon to over two dozen alumni. For an hour, they talked with the team about what they’d lost and what they’d gained.
“I think the kids looked up to him like a father figure,” said Scott Rodgers, a goalkeeper for MLL’s Ohio Machine and strength and conditioning coach for the team. “It was a day to tell stories about Coach Huntley. I know at first there were some tears, but then it was honestly joyous and a celebration of his life.”
“A lot of tears,” Kelly said. “A lot of laughter.”
Kelly met Huntley around 2000 or 2001, when Huntley’s son, Kevin, was looking at high schools. After Kevin decided on Calvert Hall, where he would star before an All-America career at Hopkins, his father wasn’t far behind him. He joined Kelly’s coaching staff in 2002 and, aside from a hiatus when Kevin was playing in college, had been a fixture by Kelly’s side ever since.
“He just loved the kids,” Kelly said. “He loved our coaches. He just loved everybody. You know, Dave was a truth teller. He told you what he thought, and he was usually right. He just was an incredible, incredible man. He was like my brother. He was my best friend. We talked every day, and he was like a second father to my five boys, to my kids.”
He always had time for others, Kelly said. He recalled Huntley swinging by his home to teach Kelly’s children how to shoot in lacrosse. One day, when Calvert Hall assistant coach Torre Kasemeyer needed last-minute help in watching over his 2-year-old, who has Down syndrome, Kelly said Huntley left work to see to the boy’s well-being.
Huntley treated his pros much the same. In 2010, as coach of the now-defunct Toronto Nationals of MLL, he picked up Rodgers, the team’s first-round draft pick that season, from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and drove him across the border to practice. From that day on, it was clear to Rodgers that Huntley was a players’ coach, someone like the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich. He might toss out a dirty word if the occasion called for it, “but he talked to us like we were men.”
“That's just the kind of guy he was,” Rodgers added. “He was tough on you. He was honest. And he would always tell you how it is. If you didn't play the best game, he'd let you know, but he'd also pick you back up and let you know that you had the ability to do great things.”
It was a confidence that reflected his own accomplishments. A devoted husband and loving father, a Ravens superfan and a master tailgater, he was also a principal with HR Investment Consultants, a Towson-based investment consulting firm. Even that, said Joe Valletta, his business partner of 28 years, “was a means to be able to help all the kids and people that he helped in the lacrosse world.”
That’s where they had met, after all. When Valletta played at Loyola College in the early 1980s, Dave Cottle was his head coach and Huntley an assistant. Valletta was a “grinder” on a team that had to lean on its conditioning to win, and he still remembers Huntley casually flicking his whistle around his finger after another run in practice before declaring: “Ah, that wasn't good enough. One more time.”
Six years later, Valletta was working with the coach he once regularly cussed out (in the safety of his dorm room, of course). He became “like an uncle” to Valletta’s kids, but that was just his nature. At work, Valletta and Huntley sat across from each other, close enough in their office that Valletta could grasp how important his friend was to so many people.
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“I can't tell you how many many people called asking, 'Can you get my son tickets to this game?’ ” Valletta recalled. These were for young kids who just wanted to meet a player they looked up to. “And he was always a guy who said, 'I'll do it,' and then he did it. It was no B.S.”