Steve Shaw was a dominant faceoff man and two-way midfielder on Bob Shillinglaw's first great team at Delaware. With Shaw and attackman Randy Powers leading the way, the Blue Hens went 12-4 and earned an NCAA Tournament berth in an era when only eight teams were selected.
Shaw, a Baltimore native, will return to his alma mater next season to watch his son play. Austin Shaw, also a standout faceoff specialist and senior at Boys' Latin, has signed with Delaware.
"I've now coached a few sons of former players," Shillinglaw said.
That alone speaks to the remarkable longevity of Shilinglaw, who just began his 38th season as head coach at Delaware. The Anne Arundel County native holds the all-time record for college lacrosse with 626 games coached.
"I've been very, very fortunate. It's been a great run and it's still going," said Shillinglaw, who ranks fifth among active Division I coaches with 322 career wins.
Shillinglaw initially felt a calling to coach while a three-sport athlete at Severna Park High – playing football for George Roberts and Andy Borland, basketball and lacrosse for Butch Young.
"I decided very early in life that my passion was sports and eventually realized I wanted to get into coaching," Shillinglaw said. "I had great coaching role models at Severna Park High and the University of North Carolina."
Shillinglaw was a four-year letterman and served as team captain as a senior at North Carolina under head coach Paul Doty. He graduated Phi Betta Kappa in 1974 and almost accepted the head boys lacrosse coaching job at now-defunct Brooklyn Park High.
"I really wanted to get into college lacrosse; so I took an assistant's position at Massachusetts Maritime for $800 a year," said Shillinglaw, who taught physical education at a local high school in Cape Cod to make ends meet.
Shillinglaw was promoted to head coach in 1976 and compiled a 24-17 record in three seasons while earning a Master's Degree from Boston University. He got wind the Delaware job had opened after Jim Grube left for Middlebury.
Shillinglaw became the first full-time men's lacrosse coach at Delaware as the position had previously been filled by coaches hired primarily for other sports (Grube was an assistant football coach under the legendary Tubby Raymond).
Shillinglaw did have to double as a physical education professor, teaching sports pyschology and related subjects.
"I didn't mind the teaching aspect at all. I was just happy to get foot in the door at the Division I level," said Shillinglaw, whose Blue Hens play at Navy on Sunday.
Shillinglaw led Delaware to a 13-2 record and an East Coast Conference championship in his first season, earning USILA Coach of the Year honors in 1979. Did Shillinglaw imagine at the time he would wind up spending four decades in Newark?
"Nobody knows what direction they're going to go. I was an energetic young coach. I figured I'd be at Hopkins in a few years," the 63-year-old said.
Not that Shillinglaw is unhappy to have stayed at Delaware for the remainder of his career. It has been a terrific run with the Blue Hens amassing 298 wins and making six NCAA Tournament appearances under his guidance.
"I found a wonderful home here at Delaware, which is a great school, with great academics, a great campus and great facilities," he said. "I've gotten great support from the administration and the alumni. It really has been a terrific situation."
Delaware has fielded some powerful teams over the years, beginning in 1999 when dynamic attackman John Grant Jr. led the way to the NCAA quarterfinals. Grant, a left-handed Canadian who has enjoyed tremendous success at the professional level, earned the Enner Award as USILA Division I Player of the Year.
Shillinglaw, who was named USILA Coach of the Year for a second time in '99, is too diplomatic to tab Grant as the greatest player in program history, but admitted "John had amazing stickwork and did some incredible things while he was here."
Perhaps the most special season for Shillinglaw came in 2007 when faceoff specialist Alex Smith and attackman Jordan Hall sparked a string of upsets that landed Delaware in the Final Four.
Shillinglaw suffered only nine losing seasons from 1979 through 2007 while operating without the full complement of 12 scholarships. A tenured professor at Delaware, he did not stop teaching classes until six years ago.
It speaks to the popularity of Shillinglaw among former players that Delaware lacrosse has an extremely strong alumni group. One of the most ardent supporters is Steve Mosko, chairman of Sony Pictures.
"Coach Shillinglaw had an innate ability to connect with his players," said Evan Washburn, a Severn School graduate who played defense at Delaware from 2005-2008.
Washburn, who recently served as sideline reporter for the Super Bowl and is a television analyst for college lacrosse, suffered a pair of season-ending knee injuries while at Delaware.
"I had to undergo two ACL reconstructions and Coach Shillinglaw was always there for me through the whole process," said Washburn, an Annapolis native. "I don't know if you could find a coach who cares more about his players."
Shillinglaw's 41 total years as a head coach rank second all-time to Walter Alessi (MIT) while his 38 seasons at the Division I level are second behind Glenn Thiel (Rutgers, Penn State, 41 years). He is two shy of joining Dick Garber (Massachusetts) as the only coaches to win 300 games at one one school.
Richie Meade, who has been a head coach for 23 years at University of Baltimore, Navy and Furman, called Shillinglaw's length of service truly amazing. Division I lacrosse has become ultra-competitive, to the point many successful coaches – such as Meade and Maryland's Dave Cottle – have been fired.
"You really have to admire what Shills has done. It takes a lot of effort to be anywhere for so long," said Meade, who played against Delaware while at Baltimore and Navy. "Delaware has been very competitive throughout his tenure and there have been years when he's had the right combination of talent that Delaware has been really good."
Shillinglaw is a past president of the United States Lacrosse Coaches Association and is actively involved its All-America Advisory Board as well as Rules and Equipment committee. He has also been active with the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association and has routinely voted in the Top 20 coach's poll.
"Shills has always been very active in the coach's association and has been a great ambassador for the sport. In my personal opinion, he is a very professional guy," Meade said.
A slew of Shillinglaw former assistants have gone on to become head coaches, including Matt Hogan (Pennsylvania), Kevin Warne (Georgetown), Andy Shay (Yale) and Scott Marr (Albany). Dave Metzbower, a highly regarded offensive coordinator at Princeton, Loyola and North Carolina, got his start as a three-year assistant at Delaware after playing for Shillinglaw.
Shillinglaw, who lives in Elkton with his wife of 38 years Tina and has three grown daughters, was asked how much longer he will continue coaching.
"I am still very passionate about the sport of lacrosse, I really enjoy working with the players and still get excited about recruiting young men to the University of Delaware," he said. "I guess as long as those factors stay the same."
DELAWARE @ NAVY
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