Family Matters

Being the son of the coach is never easy.

For some, it is an experience involving constant jabs from teammates and increased expectations as the only player with a parent on the sideline.

For the first 21 years of his life, Matt Danowski never dealt with any of that. His father was the head men's lacrosse coach at Hofstra, but Matt Danowski had never been coached by his father in an organized setting.

That all changed this summer, when Duke hired the elder Danowski to replace the coaching vacancy left by Mike Pressler, who resigned under pressure in the aftermath of last spring's scandal.

Unlike the experiences some have while playing for a parent, Matt Danowski's first six months under the tutelage of his father have been remarkably normal. The younger Danowski has changed little concerning his on-field demeanor, as father and son have tried to maintain a professional relationship when they are between the lines.

"It's actually surprising because I expected it to be more personal with them," senior Casey Carroll said. "From the start they have really focused on keeping it a player-coach relationship on the field."

As a senior co-captain, Danowski said that the only difference between playing for Pressler and playing for his father lies within his new role on the team.

"I don't feel like I have to play differently in front of him," Matt Danowski said. "The only reason I would be playing differently now is because I'm a senior captain. I feel more responsibility to be a positive role model in all aspects during practice."

John Danowski said although the tendency for some parents might be to tilt toward being harder on their children in order to appear as if they are not picking favorites, any added pressure on his son does not come from the coach but from Matt himself.

"Matt is really hard on himself, I don't think he needs someone else to be hard on him," John Danowski said. "He tries to be too perfect at times.... I think Matt is still continuing to put pressure on himself to have this unbelievable year, and that may not be fair. He's just got to come out and be himself."

Whatever the source of Matt Danowski's increased sense of responsibility, his teammates certainly have not missed the opportunity to present him with the occasional barb about being the coach's son.

From labels of "daddy's boy" to accusations that he gets everything he wants because of his father, the rest of the Blue Devils have had fun with the unique position in which Matt Danowski finds himself.

"He gets away with everything," Carroll said jokingly. "We always tell him the only reason he's playing is because his dad is the coach."

But as one of Duke's three preseason First-Team All American selections and the team's points leader through the eight games of the Blue Devil's shortened 2006 season, those elements have become a little easier to handle.

"[Ryan] McFadyen and Casey [Carroll] are probably the worst at it," Matt Danowski said. "They give me the worst time, but you know they're 'D' guys, so they're just jealous of my glory."

The experience is just as new for the elder Danowski, who has never coached a team on which his son was a player prior to this season.

Even so, John Danowski's first season with the Blue Devils is not completely unfamiliar territory.

Despite his commitments as the head coach as Hofstra, Danowski often ventured down to Durham to see his son play. As a result, he shares a close bond with many of the players, especially the seniors whom he has gotten to know as the father of a friend before he was their coach.

"It's funny, I asked [senior] John Walsh one day, 'John, am I Matt's dad or am I the coach?" Danowski said.

Walsh reassured Danowski that he was indeed the coach, but even now, he still is not so sure.

"You just don't know," he said. "You don't know how the guys are responding to you and what they're thinking."

When Danowski was first introduced as Duke's new head coach in August, some of the attention immediately focused on the potential storylines regarding the father-son relationship.

At this point, talking about the pair is almost stating the obvious.

"They have so much history because they're father and son," Carroll said. "I think if they want to get on each other's nerves they know how to turn the screws on each other, but they also know when to back out."


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