Legendary coach Jack Kaley, whose career spanned 50 years and included four NCAA Division II national championships with New York Tech, passed away Thursday on Long Island. He was 83.
In recognition of his outstanding career, which began as a high school coach on Long Island in 1964 and ended as the German national team coach in 2014, Kaley was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2010 as a truly great coach.
“At every level and with every team he coached, Jack developed a special bond with the athletes,” Rich Donovan, one of Kaley’s former players who later coached alongside him on the German national team, said during a tribute in 2018. “The enthusiasm he brings to the game is what he is always about.”
A graduate of Hofstra University, Kaley began his coaching career in 1964 as the head coach for Lynbrook (N.Y.) High School. He then moved to East Meadow High School and amassed a 227-90 record from 1968 to 1985 while winning four Nassau County championships as well as three Long Island championships. He finished with a cumulative high school coaching record of 245-124 and in 1985, was named Nassau County’s Coach of the Year.
After spending the next seven years as an assistant coach at St. John’s University, Kaley was hired in 1993 as the head coach for New York Tech’s start-up program. Over the next 17 years, he forged one of the most successful tenures in NCAA Division II lacrosse history.
Kaley amassed a cumulative record of 185-33 with the Bears and was Division II’s all-time leader in victories at the time of his retirement following the 2009 season. His 84.9 winning percentage was also the highest (now second) of all NCAA Division I and II coaches. Kaley’s squads won the NCAA Division II title in 1997, 2003, 2005, and 2008.
Known for his thick eyeglasses and impromptu whiteboard sessions, Kaley introduced several strategies still used today, including the backer-zone defense, swarming ground ball patterns, and the Hugo ride (“Wherever he goes, Hugo!”) that identified mismatches after stoppages.
But more than the wins and accomplishments, he was often lauded for his personal demeanor and care for others.
“The three best words to describe Jack are compassionate, considerate, and courageous,” said Bruce Casagrande, who served as Kaley’s assistant for nine seasons at New York Tech. “It wasn’t until I started to work with Jack that I realized it’s so much more than X’s and O’s that make a great coach.”
In total during his tenure at NYIT, Kaley led the Bears to five conference championships, eight NCAA Tournaments, and six national championship game appearances. Those successes led to numerous honors throughout his collegiate coaching career.
Kaley was a three-time conference coach of the year and a five-time Division II Coach of the Year. He was also named the USILA’s Howdy Myers Man of the Year in 2007.
Internationally, Kaley served as head coach for Team Germany in four world championship events (2002-2014), and he was the U.S. Men’s National Team assistant coach in 1974. As a Long Island lifer, he also coached with the NY Lacrosse Club, the Long Island Lacrosse Club, the North Hempstead Lacrosse Club, and after retiring from NYIT, with Igloo Lacrosse. All told, he compiled over 500 victories in his coaching career.
In addition to being a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Kaley was also inducted into six other Halls of Fame in recognition of his contributions to lacrosse. They were the USA Lacrosse Long Island Metro Chapter Hall of Fame, Sewanhaka High School Hall of Fame, New York Tech Hall of Fame, USILA Hall of Fame, East Coast Conference Hall of Fame, and the IMLCA Hall of Fame.