Jon Owsley ‘92 speech introducing Erin Quinn ‘86

 Given at the 2004 NE Lacrosse HOF Induction ceremony (1/24/04)


My name is Jon Owsley and I was in the class of 1992 at Middlebury College.  I first met Erin Quinn in the 1990/91 school-year when he returned to his alma mater, Middlebury College, to become an assistant lacrosse and football coach.  At the time, I was a junior defenseman on the lacrosse team and Erin was my D coach.  The following year, upon the retirement of long-time coach Jim Grube, Erin was named head coach of the Middlebury College Lacrosse Program.  Erin was young, hard working, talented, and had a tremendous way with the players.  He was also, interestingly enough, married to the daughter of the athletic director.  And while he had to endure countless, of course baseless, taunts about how and why he received the job, I think anyone associated with Middlebury lacrosse can say that nepotism (perceived or real) has never done so much to continue the legacy and enhance the stature of an institution.


I was a senior on the first Middlebury College team for which Erin was the head coach and a year later had the opportunity to serve as a graduate assistant coach under his tutelage.  The next year, my brother, Nick, came to Middlebury, and I had the opportunity to watch Nick play for Erin for four more years.  Having played for him when he was an assistant coach and a head coach, having coached with him, and having watched as an avid Middlebury lacrosse fan for the past 12 years, I am honored to get the opportunity to say a few words about Erin and let you know why this recognition of his accomplishments is so richly deserved.


As a student at Middlebury, Erin was a football standout and in his senior year was captain of the 1985 squad.  He did not, however, play lacrosse.  Rumors have it that he did play a little in high school, but by college, those days were long gone.  And while he was a little more willing than his predecessor to actually be seen with a lacrosse stick in hand, the result was not very pretty.  Thankfully for me and for all of those classes that have followed me, actual experience on the lacrosse field was not indicative of an ability to be a phenomenal coaching success. 


Erin began his coaching career shortly after his graduation from Middlebury, serving as a graduate assistant coach in football and lacrosse.  After serving as an assistant football and lacrosse coach at Tufts while he received his masters, he went on to Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, IL to become head lacrosse coach for a year before returning to Middlebury.


At Middlebury, he joined the legendary team of Jim Grube and Pete Kohn.  I know that a lot of folks here to see Erin and Missy inducted were also here last year to see the induction of our longtime manager and US Lacrosse legend Peter Kohn.  Now I think that it is only fitting that Pete made it into the New England Lacrosse Hall of Fame before Erin did - as I think that it may have righted what Pete considered a terrible wrong done unto him back in 1991.  You see, Pete was, of course, the obvious choice to take the helm from Coach Grube when he retired after the 1991 season.  After all, he had been with the team longer than anyone and had been around lacrosse his entire life.  So Pete was no doubt shocked when Mr. Lawson appointed Erin, a young upstart of 28, the head coach.  I got to see first hand, as a graduate assistant and later as a close friend, the behind the scenes power struggle as Pete tried to exert his control.  I will never forget Pete’s admonitions over the years to Erin, pleading with him to get the ball to Atherton more often, to pleeeease make Whitman pass the ball, and to let Jed throw whatever checks he wanted to throw.  Come to think of it, with that type of analysis, I guess Pete should have become head coach….

So what has
Erin accomplished at Middlebury?  Since becoming head coach, he has a record of 156-30 (an 84% winning percentage).  He has been to the NCAA tournament every year but one since 1996, the year the NESCAC first allowed teams to enter into NCAA post-season tournaments.  He is 19-4 (18-2 since 1999) in the NCAA tournament.  He has taken the Panthers to the title game 5 times (that’s every year since 1999) and has won 3 times.  Along the way, he has coached 30 All-Americans and 7 Scholar All-Americans.  He has been named New England DIII Coach of the Year 4 times.  Not quite sure what the National folks have been thinking, but hopefully he’ll get one of those soon too…


Pretty impressive, huh?  Absolutely.  But you could take all of those records, all of those titles, and all of the awards and toss them out and he would still be deserving of the recognition we are giving him this evening.  The world of athletics is, by definition, a competitive business.  Competition does not always bring out the best attributes in individuals and just because someone is a winner, that doesn’t make them great.  It seems that we can’t turn on the television today without seeing a story about individuals our culture has anointed winners - athletes, coaches, celebrities, politicians, and corporate leaders - caught in some compromising moral or legal situation. 


Well, Erin Quinn is a winner.  Make no mistake about it.  He has the record to back it up.  He understands the X’s and O’s of this game better than anyone I have ever encountered.  He combines his unique insight with unbelievably in-depth understanding of the capabilities, both physical and psychological of all of his players.   These things make Erin a successful coach, but these are not the qualities that make Erin a great coach. 


What makes him a great coach is that Memorial Day Weekend is his daughter, Hannah’s birthday first, and the weekend of the national championship second.  What makes him a great coach is the fact that former player’s weddings are more important than any scouting trip or any camp responsibility.  What makes him a great coach is the fact that calls from parents of players long-since graduated are more important to him than calls from the media following a big win.  What makes him a great coach is the fact that he has built a legacy of young men who loved to play for him, who learned what it means to be successful at life – to sacrifice for what they believe in, to be a good parent and to be a good husband, and who were simply better people when they left his program then when they joined.


I could stand here tonight and tell you story after story about what a great father he is to his daughter, Hannah, and his son, Connor.  I could tell you about how often he takes Hannah skiing or plays sports with Connor, despite his crushing workload.  I could tell you about how great Hannah and Connor are (not surprising given their parents), and how my wife and I were honored to have them as the flower girl and ring bearer at our wedding.  I could tell you about Erin’s wonderful wife Pam, the one who puts up with her husband’s work-a-holism, who has been the unofficial Middlebury mom to countless Middlebury lacrosse players, and who is such a big part of the lives of everyone in the Middlebury family.


I could stand up here for hours and talk about the Quinn family, but I think a brief story from last summer best illustrates why they are so special.  To preface this, let me say that my mother tragically passed away several years ago at the young age of 52.  It was an event that was incredibly difficult for me and my brother and Erin and Pam were a tremendous help for us throughout the entire ordeal, and provided particularly important support for my brother who was playing for Erin at the time.  With that as a backdrop, fast forward to last summer.  My wife Katie, my 7 week-old daughter, Macy (our first child and the first grandchild on my side of the family), and I went out to Colorado so I could play on the Middlebury Masters team in the Vail tournament.  It was a wonderful weekend of catching up with old friends, getting to strap on the pads and wear the Middlebury blue and white, and once again play for Erin as he coached our Masters team.  And while I have many great memories (including an image of all of the children of Middlebury alums – over 50 – sitting on the lawn for a picture, with our daughter sitting in Hannah Quinn’s lap), there is one that is particularly special.  On one of the last nights of the tournament, while I was icing my groin and popping Advil and wondering how in the world I had ever played this game, Erin, Pam, Hannah, and Connor came over to our room with a gift for our daughter, Macy.  We unwrapped the gift to find a hand made wool hat in the pattern of a strawberry.  Pam explained that my mom had made it for Hannah when she was first born and that after what happened to my mom, they had saved it so that someday, they could pass it on to one of her grandchildren.  My mom did not, unfortunately, live to see her first grandchild, but thanks to the incredible thoughtfulness of Pam and Erin Quinn, my daughter now has a hand-made hat from her grandmother.


What does this have to do with lacrosse?  Nothing.  What does this have to do with who Pam and Erin Quinn are and what they have meant to me, my brother, and many, many Middlebury lacrosse players and their families?  Everything. 


Erin Quinn is a winner.  Erin Quinn is a tremendous lacrosse coach, but more importantly, Erin Quinn is a tremendous individual.  All of us here tonight should be so lucky to have him coach our children.  So I urge those of you here with high-school aged children, or even elementary-aged children – go home, talk to your kids, tell them to study hard, practice hard, and just maybe, if they’re lucky, some day, they can play for Erin Quinn.  They will be better lacrosse players for it, but more importantly, they will be better people.


Thanks Erin – for all that you do to make Middlebury Lacrosse the wonderful family that it is.   Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the head lacrosse coach of Middlebury College, Erin Quinn.