Special to Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/11/12
Note: This is the first of an exclusive weekly series profiling members, coaches and executives of the Philadelphia Wings, who open their 2012 NLL season Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center vs. the Rochester Knighthawks.
Get To Know Your Wings: Majority Owner Michael French
Michael French has been a former Philadelphia Wings player, coach, general manager and team advisor since the team’s inception in 1987. After being a partner since 1998, this offseason French became the leader of the majority ownership group for the Wings.
An accomplished player, French led the Wings in scoring in the inaugural season and prior to that was a three-time First Team All-American at Cornell University. He captained the 1976 undefeated National Championship team at Cornell and was named The Ivy League and NCAA College Player of the Year.
In 1991 French was honored as the first Canadian player inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and in 2001 he was was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. On February 16, 2007, French was inducted to the National Lacrosse League Hall of Fame.
Now, French wants only one thing: For the Wings to win and become a bigger part of the Philly lacrosse community.
Q: Now that you are the majority owner of the Philadelphia Wings, what changes do you have in mind for the future of the franchise?
French: “We are now locally based. Our principal goal is to connect with the Tri-State lacrosse community. We have the best players in the world on our team. All of our players are All-Americans including three recent Tewaaraton Trophy winners that have graduated from some of the finest colleges and universities.
“Our players are great role models and teachers in our respected lacrosse community. Our team is implementing programs that will dramatically change how we have leveraged our players.”
Q: You’ve been involved with the Wings organization as a player, coach, GM and advisor for more than 25 years. Can you talk about the increase in popularity of lacrosse in and around the Philadelphia region?
French: “Lacrosse has exploded on both the men’s and women’s front in our area. The reason is quite simple. It’s the fastest game on two feet and it’s a combination, and in many ways, an enhancement of all the more traditional sports, specifically basketball hockey and soccer.
“Lacrosse has more scoring, contact and athleticism. I’d also add it’s the ‘coolest’ for both boys and girls and if you play it well, you’ll end up at Duke, Cornell, Princeton, Stanford, Northwestern, Penn State, Drexel, Delaware or Harvard [to name a few].”
Q: In your opinion, what skills can outdoor lacrosse players better develop by learning the box lacrosse game?
“Off-ball play can and will be more important in the outdoor game at all levels. The ability to be able to operate in close quarters and make decisions more quickly is enhanced by indoor play. Backdoor movement, slip picks, pick and rolls, quick transition opportunities improves precision shooting and passing and ultimately results in more efficient scoring opportunities.
“Outdoor players can significantly increase their skill level by being exposed to the indoor game.”
Q: What are your expectations for the Philadelphia Wings this season?
“We have a very dedicated team of coaches that teach. We are committed to fitness to make us the most athletic team in the league. As mentioned we have three Tewaaraton Trophy winners in (Max) Seibald, (Matt) Danowski and (Ned) Crotty that have greatly accelerated their knowledge of the indoor game. We have proven Wings scorers that know our tradition in (Drew) Westervelt and (Brandan) Mundorf.
“We have added two of the greatest leaders in lacrosse on the offensive and defensive ends in Brodie Merrill and Dan Dawson. We have the consensus number one rookie (Kevin Crowley) who will have an immediate impact on our offense as well.
“As our coaches would say, we have grit and sandpaper on defense with an athletic group that includes Thomas Hajek, Brett Manney, Paul Dawson, Pat Heim and others.
“Our last line of defense will be anchored by another one of our team leaders and in my estimation one of the best goaltenders in the NLL, Brandon Miller.
“With all that said, my expectations are advance beyond the playoffs and to contend for the Champion’s Cup.
Q: As a former coach and talent evaluator, what advice would you give to high school lacrosse players seeking to play in college?
“Listen to your coaches. Play as hard as you do on the field and/or floor in the classroom. Having mental discipline is critical. Being a successful student athlete means commitment inside and outside of the classroom.
“Also, play as much as you can, both indoor and outdoor lacrosse. I also recommend that you play other complimentary sports if you can – basketball, hockey and soccer come to mind.
“And finally, if you can get to know some or any of the Philadelphia Wings players, they’ve done it and have succeeded at the highest level… they know the road map. By the way, your parents will like as them.”
Don’t miss the Wings at the home opener, January 14 at 7 p.m. vs. the Rochester Knighthawks at Wells Fargo Center. Click to purchase tickets!