Billy O’Haire stood in the middle of a circle comprised of 35 college lacrosse players. For five minutes he rotated counterclockwise, looking at each one while delivering a speech reminiscent of Herb Brooks speaking to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team the night it faced the Soviet Union.
“We’re here,” O’Haire said. “This is your storybook ending; All you have to do is pick up the pen and start writing.”
With O’Haire at the helm, the Georgia men’s club lacrosse team attempted to reclaim its prominence when it played in the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference Tournament on April 22 through April 24.
After a disappointing prior two years, O’Haire’s Bulldogs were a game short of finishing off their superb season with a championship. Although it didn’t win, Georgia’s three-year renovation project has put the team in a position where it can be proud of where it’s accomplishments.
In 2013, Georgia swept through conference-play, the SELC Tournament and was crowned king of the south. But the feeling of ecstasy wouldn’t last when only a month later 12 players graduated and former Georgia coach Bill Lewandowski was fired for undisclosed reasons.
“Michael Trainer, who is an alumni (sic) just came to me and seemed really desperate,” O’Haire said. “Once I got here and saw the talent and dedication these kids had, I was hooked.”
Getting here — to the Georgia intramural fields — isn’t the easiest task for O’Haire though. He is a full-time police officer for the drugs and narcotics unit in Forsyth County. Four times a week he makes the hour-and-a-half trek to Athens to continue his passion of coaching.
“He’s willing to drive from Atlanta and be on time while the rest of us are sometimes late driving just from across campus,” defensive coach Brandon Scott said.
Scott played goalie at Georgia for the last two years until he decided he wanted to be a coach. He said O’Haire had no problem making Scott his sidekick, especially with the distance he has to travel just to be present for a two-hour practice.
But spending more time in a car than on a field is worth the journey to the IM fields for O’Haire.
Sophomore goalie Connor Redmond transferred from Salisbury University, a D-III school, this past season. He said O’Haire’s dedication to his team is unmatched by any of his former coaches.
“He is 100 percent in, 100 percent of the time,” Redmond said. “He has a full-time job, and every free second he gets he puts into this team.”
“He makes everyone’s job easier with all the scouting he does on his own,” senior midfield captain Cayman Sotudeh said. “I don’t know where he gets the time.”
Being 100 percent all-in stems from O’Haire’s love of lacrosse. He was a three-sport athlete from the time he was 8, but after high school he knew lacrosse was his one and only sport’s passion.
He became an attackman at New York Tech, where he won two national championships in 2003 and 2005. Since then, he has been bouncing around many different coaching jobs but said he finally feels like he has found a home 90 minutes away from home at Georgia.
“This past year I got a couple of job offers and I couldn’t leave," O'Haire said. "We started something special and I can’t abandon them over money."
O’Haire and the rest of the Georgia squad have had a special season thanks to the coach. Sotudeh attributes Georgia’s 15-2 season to the devotion from O’Haire, whether it’s the long trips he makes to practice, the time commitment off the field or the vivacious attitude he has on it.
“This is a brotherhood, a family, and I will do everything in my power to make sure these guys are successful wherever they go in life,” O’Haire said.