'Fixture' Kohn back for 6th U.S. Men's Team

He'll be with the United States Men's Team when it competes in next summer's World Lacrosse '98 in Baltimore. Naturally.

This man is a fixture with the U.S. team. This will be his sixth time as a member of the group. He no doubt also holds the record for participation in the North-South Men's College All-Star Game. He has done that 26 times in all consecutively since 1975.

His name is Peter Kohn, and he is, by now a legend in the game of lacrosse.

To be sure there are a lot of fans who never heard of Peter Kohn, but most of the players - at least the top of the line players - know him. So do many hundreds of ordinary players at various colleges and summer camps.

Peter is an equipment manager. In lacrosse he's the equipment manager. You can't play this game without sticks, helmets, gloves and jerseys, and when it comes to those items Peter is the man.

You don't think so?

True story: Jim Grube, the former Middlebury College lacrosse coach, is married to the president of St. Mary's College in Maryland, Dr. Margaret O'Brien. One of the board members at the college is Terry Rubenstein, who happens to be a graduate of Park School, a small (upper school enrollment: 277), co-ed private school in the Baltimore suburbs. When Grube learned that the woman had attended Park School, he sang her a rousing version of the school's fight song. "Where did you ever learn that?" asked the incredulous board member. "Everybody in lacrosse knows the Park School song." Grube told her.

That's because they learned it from Peter Kohn, Park School class of '49. It has become a tradition with the sport for every team Peter works with - U.S. teams, North-South teams, at Vail, whatever - to learn the Park School song and sing it with gusto.

Peter Kohn is connected with more than one tradition. It has become a custom for the U.S. team, whether at the tryouts or in the World Games themselves, to have Peter go from room to room, awakening the players to start the day.

"It's part of the routine," says '97 Hall of Famer Nolan Rogers, who is the general manager of the U.S. team, "for Peter to knock on every door in the morning. You hear him, up and down the hall saying, 'Time to get up. Time to beat Australia.'"

Rogers, for one, doesn't want to go into the World Games '98 without Peter. Explains the GM: "I've never lost with him. I sure don't want to play without him."

When he was a schoolboy Kohn started this equipment thing as ballboy for the old Baltimore Buttets pro basketball team. He obviously like it. He first got into lacrosse in 1961 with the University Club team in Baltimore.

"Jerry Schmidt was playing for the University Club at that time," Kohn says, "and he got me to be the manager. I was also the manager then for the Collegians in the box lacrosee league."

Later, when Schmidt became the head coach at Hobart College and built the program that was to dominate Division III for more than a decade, Peter Kohn was the school's equipment manager. Kohn who summers in Cape May, N.J. has remained close to Schmidt, now retired in Ocean Pines, Md.. Peter has been known to travel on his bike and across on the Cape May to Lewes, Del. ferry to visit Schmidt at the Maryland resort.

Kohn spent ten years as Jim Grube's equipment manager at Middlebury and those two remain close.

"I think I'm Peter's best friend." says Grube, who now operates a corporate training business in Annapolis, Md.. "At Vail this summer Peter reminded me that we first met 20 years ago at the U.S. team tryouts at Rutgers.

"I'll never forget the day we met. After practice, I dropped Peter off at the bar where some ofthe players had gone. I waited in my car for a minute to be sure that was the right place, and all of a sudden Peter came running out the front door screaming, 'I did not try to steal your wallet!' What happened was, as Peter went through that crowded bar looking for the players, he brushed by a guy whose wallet had fallen out of his pocket and onto the floor. The guy thought Peter had tried to pick his pocket and he came running after him. Peter came out and jumped in my car and we took off. That was the start for a great friendhsip."

Over the years Peter has worked for some of the biggest name coaches in lacrosse: Richie Moran at Cornell; Dave Urick, formerly the coach at Hobart, now at Georgetown. Says Peter, "I like people like Jerry Schmidt, Jim Grube, Bob Scott ('66 North-South coach), Richie Moran and Dave Urick. They give you their hearts."

Kohn has worked for 16 years at Middlebury, where this spring he had probably the biggest thrill of his career. The Middlebury women's lacrosse team won the NCAA Division III champioship championship and Peter was made an honorary member of the team. He was given one of the championship watches.

"Someone had to give up her own watch for me to get one," Peter says. "That was quite a sacrifice to make. I think I know which person did it. At least I'm 95 percent sure."

- Bill Tanton

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