The Saskatchewan Rush made an interesting move over the weekend. During their bye week, a coaching change was announced that saw Head Coach Jeff McComb would be relieved of his duties.
For the remainder of the season, General Manager Derek Keenan and Offensive Coach Jimmy Quinlan will serve as associate head coaches. Jeremy Tallevi remains on as the Rush’s defensive coach.
It was also announced that after this season, Quinlan will take over the head coaching role full-time and Keenan will once again step back into only the GM role.
McComb has been with the club as an offensive coach since 2014 and led the Rush to three NLL titles. In August of 2020, Keenan announced he was stepping down as the head coach and handed the reigns over to McComb.
Due to the pandemic, this was McComb inaugural season as the head coach of the Rush and led them to a 4-10 record and on the verge of missing the playoffs.
Timing is everything
It’s curious to look at the timing of this move. Keenan decided to not make any trades to the deadline, nor did he make any moves behind the bench.
Generally, you’ll see moves like this during trade deadlines or you would let the current head coach, in this case McComb, play out the season and then make the decision in the offseason.
There has been no indication as of yet as to why Keenan decided to make this move now. You can only speculate. Considering Keenan didn’t make moves at the deadline because he didn’t want to give up on this group, I’m guessing he feels they still have a chance, albeit a small one, to still make it into the playoffs or at least salvage the season.
Coaching change comes as no surprise
Regardless of the timing, this coaching change doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Rush Nation. With a 4-10 record, changes were bound to happen.
Statistically, the Rush lost eight games by two goals or less and they are -8 in goals for/goals against. In many of those close games, Saskatchewan had opportunities to win but couldn’t pull the trigger.
Even if the Rush could have won half of those eight games, that would have put them at 8-6 and right in the thick of the playoff race. At some point, when you are losing so many close games, coaching comes under the radar.
It also wasn’t a secret that Keenan was on the bench for a few of the last games. We, the media, were told that he was there of another set of eyes. I think we now know it was a coaching evaluation.
Bringing in the right guy?
What also comes as a surprise is the promotion of Jimmy Quinlan. Quinlan has been with the Rush since its expansion days in 2006 in Edmonton as a player, then coach. Quinlan was the team captain from 2011-2013 and joined the coaching staff in 2014 as the defensive coach. He is the only Rush player to have his number 81 retired.
So, needless to say, he’ll be a player’s coach. In his time as an assistant, he hasn’t been afraid to show emotion on the bench.
What makes the coaching change interesting is the fact that Quinlan stepped away from coaching the Rush in 2018 but returned as the offensive coach in 2021. Is Quinlan ready to take on the role full-time after taking a step back a couple of years ago? I guess time will tell.
Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.