He can recall the 19-11 Division Final loss to the Edmonton Rush so vividly in his mind that almost four months later, the newly appointed head coach of the Calgary Roughnecks hasn’t watched the game tape.
For Curt Malawsky, anything short of a championship win is a failure.
“I think guys have to look in the mirror and figure out how they prepared for that final game,” he says. “They need to consider what they did and didn’t do right, because what they didn’t do right has to be changed.”
Ahead of the 2013 National Lacrosse League season, Malawsky doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels from the previous three years behind the Calgary bench as an assistant coach in the offensive end. Instead, the 42-year-old plans to bring a fresh look to the table with his own recipe for success, while knowing he needs to earn the trust and respect from the players in his new role.
“Most of the guys trust us but it’s going to be different than the last three years because I want it done my way; it’s black and white, there’s no grey area.”
After three consecutive seasons in the playoffs without a championship title, something needs to change and Malawsky is ready to make tough decisions in the coming months.
Though it’s unclear as to what players will continue to be a part of the organization in veteran roles and the like, he’s confident there will be no sense of entitlement from any Roughneck come training camp.
“Everybody has to earn it. We’re going to form our own identity as a leadership group and establish the type of identity we’re going to have as a team. After that, we’ll come up with what we think is the best formula for winning the championship.”
With such an abrupt end to the 2012 season, players didn’t sit down with coaching staff for exit meetings, however, once contract negotiations are complete after the October 1 NLL draft, team roles will be evaluated. Individual meetings will be held to review to how each player performed last season, and talk about what they can contribute this time around.
While all players from the 2012 roster may not return, Malawsky makes it clear that the contributions from everyone involved in the Roughnecks organization will not be forgotten.
“Once a Roughnecks, always a Roughneck,” he says, a phrase which neatly sums up his own experiences in Calgary.
Malawsky was part of the Roughnecks squad who brought home a Champions Cup title in 2009, during his two-year stint in Calgary, prior to taking on the role as assistant coach and assistant general manger with the club in the summer of 2009.
Throughout the duration of his twelve-year NLL career the resident of Coquitlam, British Columbia, was a member of five teams, winning a total of three National titles in addition to the 2001 Mann Cup and a World Championship title with Team Canada in 2003.
As a coach, Malawsky led the Burnaby Junior ‘A’ Lakers to Minto Cup victories in 2004 and 2005 and coached the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs to a Minto Cup win in 2010, experiences which prove he knows what it takes to see success at the highest level.
But, paying his dues and learning from the people around him over the last fifteen seasons, is a big part of what’s helped Malawsky trust his own knowledge of the game.
“I rely on what guys like Dave Pym, Troy Cordingly, Terry Sanderson, and Bob Hamley taught me about coaching and Brad Bannister was also a big part of that. So I trust what I know and what I’ve been taught over the years and will continue to lean on my instincts.”
As Malawsky takes on the role of head coach, the Roughnecks supporting cast also has a slightly new look.
Former Roughneck Bruce Codd, someone Malawsky says he would trust with his life, is making his debut as a coach in the league after 13 seasons as a player, including a four-year term in Calgary. Codd joins Bob McMahon, who returns to the bench after two seasons as an assistant Coach with the Roughnecks.
“Brucey might know the defense better than anybody and that’s the key and what he does will not be second-guessed by anyone in that room. And Bobby is like a father figure on the team. He is a real good man on the bench but he’s an even better man off of it. He’s earned his stripes.”
With a combined 15 years playing at every level of lacrosse and well over 20 years coaching experience collectively, the 2013 coaching staff should be highly-regarded and trusted by the players on and off the floor.
“One of my sayings is ‘personal sacrifice for the betterment of the team’ and it’s something I lived by as a player and I expect my players to do that as well. I know Bruce and Bobby believe very strongly in that and they’ll both be great compliments to the organization.”
After a record-setting 12-4 finish to the 2012 regular season and a 9-2 record against division opponents, the May 5 loss still stings for Malwasky. The tone of his voice changes as he recalls the five players who did most of the work against the Rush, while making it clear, under his watch a game like that will no longer be acceptable.
“We’re all pulling on the same rope. It’s not going to be six guys that get the job done, it’s not going to be the offense one night and the defense another; it’s going to be the Calgary Roughnecks. It’ll be 26 guys strong and we’ll all be working towards a common goal, because nothing less than a National Championship will be deemed a success.”
“It’s all about winning. That’s been the plan from the first day I was hired and will be until the tender runs out.”