Lacrosse coach Bob Shriver leaving a 36-year legacy at Boys' Latin

Boys' Latin coach Bob Shriver addresses his team during a timeout in a game against Loyola on May 1. Shriver's last regular season game, after 36 years at Boys' Latin, is May 5 at St. Paul's. Then, after the playoffs, Shriver is retiring.
Boys' Latin coach Bob Shriver addresses his team during a timeout in a game against Loyola on May 1. Shriver's last regular season game, after 36 years at Boys' Latin, is May 5 at St. Paul's. Then, after the playoffs, Shriver is retiring. (Colby Ware / BALTIMORE SUN)

In the spring of 2006, Tuesdays and Fridays always started the same for Bob Shriver.

At Pepe's Pizza on Falls Road, he'd be on his second cup of coffee with his nose in the sports page when his youngest son, David, would join him for breakfast before they headed off to Boys' Latin.

It was a game-day tradition for the school's longtime lacrosse coach and his son, a resourceful attackman in his senior year. With David's best friend and teammate, Brian Farrell, often tagging along, the conversations were mostly light.

They would joke and laugh, talk about school, social lives and friends. And, of course, chat up lacrosse.

A victory followed every one of the 21 breakfasts, the last the biggest when the Lakers knocked off McDonogh to win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship and complete a perfect season.

The 63-year-old Shriver, set to retire after 36 years, will depart with a remarkable resume that's not quite complete: a 506-138 record heading into his final regular-season game today at St. Paul's, along with six league championships (and nine more title game appearances), and three perfect seasons that resulted in No. 1 national rankings.

Sifting through all the years of success, Shriver puts 2006 a notch above the rest.

"I've always thought just being around sports was a great way to be able to enjoy time with your kid. And when David was younger, he used to come to practices and hung around a lot," Shriver said, "Then, all of a sudden, to have the opportunity to have him out there playing and be a very valuable member of the team — yeah, that's pretty cool."

A passion for lacrosse

Shriver tries to stay a step ahead. His parents did the same.

Growing up playing baseball in Roland Park, Shriver was going to be transferring to Boys' Latin in the eighth grade. Knowing baseball wasn't offered at the school, his parents gave him a lacrosse stick and ball as an Easter present when he was in the seventh grade.

"I didn't ask for one, so it was forethought on their part," he said.

He found scoring goals much more exciting than hitting singles. Lacrosse became Shriver's passion.

"In a goofy kind of way, when I first started playing, I had the realization that you could play by yourself. And the thing I remember most is how much fun I had just throwing it against the wall on the side of our house," he said. "So practice became fun and stick skills came along relatively quickly."

In his junior year, he made varsity playing attack and then moved to midfield in his senior year, which gave him a broader view of the game.

After a stellar playing career at Washington College, where he was twice a captain and All-American before graduating in 1973, he returned to Boys' Latin as an assistant coach and science teacher in 1975. He became the head coach in 1979 and won his first championship in 1985. He's never had a losing season.

Sitting in the school's lacrosse office earlier this season, Shriver was asked how he has maintained his success.

"Just look around …," he began. What you find at Boys' Latin is a collection of dedicated assistants, a steady flow of some of the highest skilled players in the country, a beautiful campus and a storied tradition.

Shriver trusts his coaching staff and willingly delegates, but always has the final say. He has a wealth of lacrosse knowledge and an uncanny ability to get it across to his players. His passion for the game keeps him up to speed as the landscape has dramatically changed throughout his tenure. The third perfect season and sixth championship came last year when the Lakers went 19-0.

"He's a great teacher and he demands effort," said athletic director Michael Thomas, a 1987 graduate who played for Shriver. "He doesn't want you to try, he wants you to do. And there's a big difference. A lot of kids think I'm going to try and that's enough, but he tells you to do it and actually get it done."

Fundamentals and fight

Shriver demands consistent competitiveness and fight from his players.

"He does a great job of telling you straight up what you're doing wrong and what you need to improve on," said Shack Stanwick, last year's All-Metro Player of the Year who finished as the program's all-time leading scorer before moving on to Johns Hopkins. "He treats you with respect and teaches you how to respect others and how to not only play the game, but how to go about carrying yourself. I think that's a really important part."

That method has produced excellence.

"Since 1985, when he won his first championship, we marked each season by: 'Are we going to win it all this year?' Maybe or maybe not," said former assistant coach Steve Dubin. "But those 'maybe not' years, we were always going to be competitive. And if you're competitive, anything can happen. To continue to do it year after year after year — to have that level of success consistently is pretty remarkable."

Shriver's 506 wins is the top total in the metro area and ranks second in the state to Landon's 40th-year coach Rob Bordley, who reached 600 on April 25. (New York's Mike Messere has the high mark in the country with 796 and counting.)

But Shriver coaches in the MIAA A Conference (previously the Maryland Scholastic Association), widely regarded as the toughest league in the country throughout his tenure and it remains that way despite the sport's growing popularity, continually producing top-level college talent. During the spring, Tuesdays and Fridays in Baltimore feature grinding clashes.

When playing Boys' Latin, Loyola Blakefield's 13th-year coach Jack Crawford knows he'll always be up against a highly skilled team that executes its system with precision.

"When you consider the number of games he's won and the number of championships, it means there's great attention to the things that really allow you to be successful and that's mainly fundamentals, knowledge of the game and the willingness to study and learn from the game," he said. "To draw an analogy, people talk about how talented Duke's basketball team is. But there's a lot of talented Division I teams in men's basketball. Duke is more noticeable because they execute their system very well and I think that's always been very noticeable with Boys' Latin as well."

A different side

Shriver is as intense a competitor as there is. That shows up on game days with his sideline rants, whether he's barking at a referee or in the face of one of his players. His shrill voice is distinct and takes over the field. But listen to anyone he's close with and a different, compassionate side emerges.

That starts at home. He and his wife of 32 years, Jasmine, also have an older son, Bobby Jr., who has Down syndrome. Shriver has a smile waiting for him at the end of every day.

"Bobby knows I coach lacrosse and he knows David played lacrosse, but he doesn't have any idea whether we won or lost. So when you come home, it brings you back pretty quickly," Shriver said.

That side of Shriver regularly spills over at Boys' Latin. He cherishes his time with his assistant coaches. And he tries to treat all his players — one through 35 — the same.

Shriver's chest puffs out when he watches one of his former players compete for a college national championship.

"Years ago, when I was about to leave the secret service and take this AD job, who was my first call? Coach Shriver," Thomas said. "I said 'Coach I have a little baby at home who is just learning to walk, but he doesn't know me. I love this job, I love the people I'm working for, but I think I need to get home."

As the conversation continued, Thomas asked his coach what he thought: "And he just said, 'Do it. Come home.'"

After the final buzzer sounded in the 2006 title game, the dogpile celebration had broken up and the awards were handed out, David Shriver spotted his dad by himself.

"It's one of the moments I'll never forget," David Shriver said. "I just came over and gave him a hug and told him I loved him and he said the same. And then we just walked off the field with the biggest smiles on our faces."

One last run

Shriver will walk off the field for the final time at the end of this year's playoffs. His one-time breakfast companion, Farrell, is succeeding him.

Has it hit yet, that this is it?

"Not really," he said recently. "Not yet."

He has work left to do, leaving no time for reflection.

This Lakers team isn't at the level of last spring's undefeated, championship squad. But after knocking off then-No. 1 Loyola Blakefield, 13-11, in his final regular-season home game on Friday, the Lakers (14-3) claimed the No. 1 spot in this week's Top 15 poll. With a 6-2 league mark and one game left in the regular season, Boys' Latin shares first place with No. 2 Loyola, No. 3 McDonogh and No. 4 St. Paul's. The playoffs start Friday.

Think he'll miss it? You bet.

"From a pure lacrosse junkie's perspective, does it get much better than a nice day in Baltimore playing competition on Tuesday and Friday that's enough to make you go bald?" Shriver said. "That part is as cool as it gets."

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