Montclair, NJ (11/5/10) – Montclair State University head men's lacrosse coach John Greco, who led the Red Hawks to the greatest success in program history, passed away on Thursday, November 4. Greco was 33 and leaves behind a wife, Karen.
Greco completed his eighth season this past Spring as Montclair State fashioned the finest season in the 38-year history of the program. Montclair posted a 15-4 record, tying the school record for victories which also included 14 consecutive wins. The Red Hawks spent a majority of the season in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association national poll reaching a high mark at No. 17. Montclair State would go on to capture its second consecutive Skyline Conference Championship downing Kean University 12-8 to earn its second straight trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament where MSU hosted a opening-round contest for the first time. Greco was named the Skyline Conference Coach of the Year.
"I am shocked and saddened by the news of John Greco's passing," said Holly Gera, Director of Athletics. "John has been a member of the Montclair State athletic family since he arrived as a player in 1997. John will be very much missed by all those who knew him. We enjoyed his up beat attitude, his sense of humor, and his ever present smile. His contributions will never be forgotten."
In eight seasons, Greco posted a 96-43 mark, including a 43-10 ledger in conference play – 23-2 since joining the Skyline in 2007. He led MSU to its only two NCAA Tournament appearances and has played in five conference championship games winning the last two years (2009 and 2010). Greco was twice named the Knickerbocker Conference Coach of the Year prior to MSU's move to the Skyline Conference. In addition to his coaching honors, Greco also coached all four of Montclair State's All-Americans – Thomas Bowers in 2009 and 2010 honorees Taylor Bonner, Patrick Ferry and Robert Sinicola and had three players – Bryan Klimchak, Bowers and Bonner represent Montclair State in the USILA North/South Senior All-Star Game. Bonner was named a USILA Scholar All-American in 2010.
Greco took over the program in 2003, becoming the sixth coach in school history. In his first season he led his team to a 12-4 mark, the most victories MSU had posted since 1994. The Red Hawks went on to win the first of their three straight ECAC Division III Metro championships, topping the United States Merchant Marine Academy in overtime, 10-9. That 2003 season he was voted Coach of the Year in the Knickerbocker Conference.
"More than being an outstanding young coach and a strong advocate for the Skyline Conference, John was a genuinely good person who cared deeply about his student-athletes," said Skyline Conference Commissioner Tracy King. "He was well respected, well liked and will certainly be missed by many in the lacrosse community. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time."
The following year Greco guided Montclair State to perhaps the second-best season in the history of the program. Montclair won 14 games, one shy of the school record, losing only three. The Red Hawks reached the championship game of the inaugural Knickerbocker Tournament. MSU would qualify for the ECAC Metro Tournament for the second straight year, something it had not done in over a decade. Tabbed as the No. 1 seed, Montclair dominated the tournament outscoring its opponents, 26-8, capping off the season with a 13-3 win over conference rival Richard Stockton in the title game.
The 2005 campaign provided some adversity for Greco and his Red Hawks. Playing against a very difficult schedule, MSU stood just 5-6 late in the season. With Greco leading the way, Montclair would reel off five straight victories and advanced to the KLC Championship Game again. Montclair returned to the ECAC Championship successfully defending their crown with a 13-8 victory over Farmingdale State.
"When I think of Montclair State lacrosse, I think of John," said Kean head coach Shelley Sheiner. "He put his heart and soul into the program and he did it with dignity and class. We battled each other on the field and I have the greatest amount of respect for him. He will truly be missed by everyone."
In 2007, the Red Hawks nearly pulled off a four-peat in the ECAC Championship. The No. 3 seed in the tournament, Montclair avenged an earlier loss in the season to Richard Stockton topping the Ospreys 12-11 in the semifinals. Making their fourth consecutive appearance in the championship game, MSU fell to Villa Julie.The 2008 and 2009 campaigns were two more successful seasons for Greco. The 2008 team had a heartbreaking loss in the 2008 Skyline Championship game after a 12-5 season (5-0 in conference play) only to avenge their loss one year later and take home the 2009 Skyline Conference Championship after a 13-5 season (5-0 in conference play). "I have known John since he was a player at Montclair State and can remember when he got his first job as an assistant. He just seemed so happy to be coaching lacrosse," said Dan Mulholland, who coached against Greco at both Manhattanville College and College of Mount St. Vincent. "I can also remember the first time we played against his and he was just so excited and looked as if he had the greatest job in the world. He had some great teams and his kids always played just like he did, good hard players but always gentlemen and the job he did as a part-time coach was amazing. He had one of the great minds in the game and he is going to be really missed. John was a great, great human being."
A tireless recruiter, Greco's players were a constant presence on the Skyline Conference All-Conference teams while also taking home major honors each season. Bowers was named the Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009 with Bonner earning the same honor in 2010. Ferry, Anthony Dzienkiewicz and Tyler Meth were chosen Rookies of the Year from 2007-09, respectively. Meth was named the Most Valuable Player of the Skyline Tournament in 2009.
Greco himself was a Red Hawk from 1997-2000. He was a solid defenseman and was part of an era that began to change the program's fortunes. The three-year starter was accompanied by teammates, now associate head coach and three year starting attackman Adam Torrisi. Greco credited much of the current success to his hard-working staff consisting of Torrisi, Kent Bania and Bryan Armstrong who were all high school standouts at Clifton High School in the mid to late 90's along with Greco.
Greco also reunited a strong alumni group that is spread throughout New Jersey High School Lacrosse. There are close to 10 MSU graduates that are now leading high school lacrosse programs across the state, including longtime Mountain Lakes High School Head Coach Tim Flynn with many more are roaming the sidelines as assistants.
Greco received his bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Montclair State University in 2000 and his master's degree in Educational Supervision from Seton Hall in 2009. A part-time coach, Greco taught technology and computers to sixth and seventh-grade students at nearby Christopher Columbus Middle School in Clifton, NJ.
"This is a tragic loss for the MSU family and for everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics in New Jersey," said NJAC Commissioner Terry Small. "Although men's lacrosse is not a conference sport in the NJAC, I had the opportunity to get to know John during my years at Stevens Institute of Technology. John was a true gentleman and a person who always represented MSU in an extremely positive manner. I know I speak for all of the members of the NJAC when I say that our hearts are saddened and our thoughts and prayers go out to John's family."