Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/27/17
From Press Release and Staff Report
Philly lacrosse legend Greg Gurenlian, the 2015 Coca Cola MVP of Major League Lacrosse who has been acknowledged as one of the top face-off specialists in the world for years, recently announced on Lax Sports Network that he will retire from Major League Lacrosse at the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Gurenlian – who starred at Springfield-Delco, for Duke’s L.C. and Penn State and has been coaching Philly face-off specialists through clinics and the Faceoff Academy for years – holds multiple league records, including the best single-season winning percentage for a faceoff man (73 percent in 2015).
Gurenlian, nicknamed “Beast,” was All-State at Springfield-Delco and still holds the Penn State career mark for face-off wins (508 of 875). He has played 11 seasons in the MLL, the last seven for the LI/NY Lizards. He has won 1,887 faceoffs in 3,191 attempts (59 percent) in his pro career.
The former MLL All-Star held a conference call with reporters last week to address his decision. The full transcript is below:
Q: What is the announcement you are making today and how did you arrive at your decision?
Gurenlian: 2017 will be my final season in the MLL. That decision wasn’t [taken] lightly, but there was three big parts of it. One was, you have a finite amount of time, right. So, every day I wake up and I have certain things I have to achieve, one of those for over a decade was trying to be the best possible faceoff man on earth and that’s what I did every single day. I had a wife who supported me. She was fine with me living my MLL dream and I was able to dedicate a ton of time to it and obsess over it. Then I also had the Faceoff Academy, which I’ve been building, and me and Chris [Mattes] and Jerry [Ragonese] and Brendan [Fowler] have been working tirelessly to make it as big as possible. I’ve been able to hop on an airplane anytime I need to and go fly and see my athletes and do everything I can to help them and that’s been great. That’s been part of our success. Then, you have Team USA. Team USA is a part of my life. It has been for years now and that’s another chunk of it. Now, we have our son, Jackson, and that’s been kind of the catalyst where it’s like, ‘OK, I have a finite amount of time, but I don’t have enough hours in the day anymore,’ and something’s got to give. When you look at the things I’ve accomplished in my life, I still have that itch to scratch with the gold medal with Team USA, so I want to put a ton of eggs in that basket and focus on that. I want to continue to build the FOA and I want to be a great father and a good husband to a wife who has been behind me 24/7 for years and it’s her time now to get some attention and get some love. I personally feel that I have done what any person in any sport or anything in life would be hoping to achieve and that is, reach your potential in something. That’s what I’ve competed against my whole life is trying to be the best possible faceoff guy in the MLL that I can be and I feel like I’ve hit my ceiling. I feel like I have done the best I can possibly do and I don’t have anything else to prove. So, I want to play one more season. I want to enjoy it. I want to take in every second. I want to enjoy every moment of it and I will walk away in August satisfied and able to turn the page and focus strictly on Team USA, the Faceoff Academy and my family.
Q: Was any factor in your decision physical?
Gurenlian: Partially. I’ve basically been on pace to have a surgery every other year the last few years. Something I teach my FOA guys is I’m just telling them, ‘Listen to your body and don’t play through injuries,’ because that’s all I’ve done over the years and I’m paying the price for it. But you know, the foot last year, my foot was broken all season and that’s what kind of set me thinking. I had a good conversation with Paul Carcaterra at one point during the season and he was asking me, ‘Why do you keep doing this to yourself? You don’t have anything else to prove. Just focus on Team USA, that’s where we need you.’ That’s where the seeds were planted. That conversation where I realized I keep doing this to myself, but I want to be able to play with my kid one day. I’m gonna be 33 in a few weeks and I don’t want to keep doing this anymore where I’m playing through injuries when I should be taking care of my kid. So physically, yeah that is part of it, accumulation of pain over years. I want to be a healthy, functioning feeling-good person as I get older and I think this is a good time to stop.
Q: How long have you been considering retiring?
Gurenlian: You know, it’s interesting, in 2009 when Chicago took my rights and then refused to trade me or move me they DNR’ed (Did Not Report) me and that put a really bad taste in my mouth where I was going to walk away then. But then, I sat out the entire season and it kind of started to drive me nuts. So when I started to play, I figured – I got picked up by the Lizards in 2010 and they already had a faceoff guy, Pete Vlahakis. So my thought was, ‘I just want to go back and I just want to play. I’ll play one more summer and it’ll be fun.’ So, I went back and I played and then I was like, ‘Yeah I kind of love it again.’ So, then I wanted to play in 2011 again. I ended up blowing my knee out. And then I was on a revenge path where I was just always like, ‘I don’t want to stop. I want to keep going.’ So then, I ended up coming back from my knee injury. So, after that, I got back from my knee injury in 2012 just hell bent on, ‘That’s it. I just want to play this. I want to be the best faceoff guy ever. That’s my goal.’ And, it hadn’t even crept in my mind until this past season when I realized I’m at a point now where I’ve set the records, I’ve done the things, I’ve won a championship. By 2018, you’re probably going to have – if not every team, almost every team – is going to have a Faceoff Academy coach or player that I’ve coached playing for them. So, it’s time to pass the torch. It’s time to give it up. It’s time to pass it to somebody else so they can hold the banner of being the guy and I can move on.
Q: Have you reflected on the magnitude of your legacy in the sport of lacrosse yet?
Gurenlian: Not really. I mean, I still get surprised when I see kids wearing my jersey. I still get surprised that I have such a following on Instagram and stuff and that kids kind of hang on every word. It’s hard for me to look at myself that way. I just think the magnitude of me retiring is going to hit me maybe at training camp of next year. But, I think the fact that I’ll be focusing on Team USA, and I really hope that I can make that tryout, be on that team, because that’ll give me something to focus on all the way through 2018. I think after those World Games are over, it’s gonna hit me like a ton of bricks. But, right now, I’m so focused on still playing a season. I don’t look at this as Greg Gurenlian’s goodbye tour. The reason I’m doing this so early is because I want to get it out of the way and just have the burden off my shoulders and just take a deep breath so that we’re not talking about it in training camp and we can focus on winning as a team. I think after that last game it’ll hit me. But, I’ve spent so much time as a coach now that I really focus and I’m trying to identify myself as a faceoff coach. This transition has been happening for a couple years. I’m so enamored with my players and I’m so deep into helping them. The only thing I love more than playing lacrosse, honestly, is coaching it. I actually enjoy coaching the faceoff position more than anything. That’s going to keep me busy for a long time.