Mike D’Andraia takes over ready-made contender at Thousand Oaks

Mike D'Andraia
Mike D'Andraia has help in learning his new T.O. team -- recent grad Connor Reilly (left).

Southland talked with new Thousand Oaks coach Mike D’Andraia last week at Chaminade, where the Lancers’ summer club team was playing the Valley Kings. D’Andraia was named T.O.’s coach in June and had been to only two practices to that point.

“I’m not even sure I know all their names,” he joked. “It’s been a whirlwind; there’s a lot of stuff going on, but it’s exciting; a lot of fun.”

Mike D'Andraia
Mike D’Andraia has help in learning his new T.O. team — recent grad Connor Reilly (left).

D’Andraia is trying to get acquainted with his players while also coaching in the Mavericks club and working full time. He is getting help with Thousand Oaks for the time being from 2012 graduate Connor Reilly, a first-team All-101 Coast League midfielder who will play at Chapman next year.

“He just graduated this spring, and he volunteered to help out,” D’Andraia said. “They had entered the program in the league before I was hired, so they said they’d just run it themselves. Then they found the 18-year-old boy wonder to do it, and he has his first coaching experience, and he’s loving it.”

D’Andraia is taking over for Jon Oswaks, who resigned after leading Thousand Oaks to a 9-8 record last spring, including a first-round playoff win over Crespi. In 2011, the Lancers were 9-9 overall and also won a playoff game, a marked improvement from 2010, their first season as a CIF program, when they went 2-14. The team’s recent success, though, was only part of what attracted D’Andraia.

“I didn’t want to go somewhere where I had to build a program,” he said. “I don’t have the time or energy for that with work, and [here] it’s already built. They have 200 kids in the youth program. There’s going to be 70 kids between the varsity and JV this year. The facilities are there; the booster club is in place; the fundraising is phenomenal — everything is there. I just have to show up and coach.”

And he has a lot to work with, beyond the sheer number of kids in the program.

“The kids are learning; they want to win; and they have talent,” D’Andraia said. “They’ve been playing for so long, because the youth program is developed there, and they’re ready to get over the hump of being a .500 program. They take my coaching, they’re very enthusiastic, and the first thing I told them was, ‘I have 70 of you, so if you do want to listen, I’ll put in the next guy.’ It’s not like I’m begging anybody to do this.”

D’Andraia was an attackman growing up in Yorktown, N.Y., and he played collegiately at Division III Salisbury. Both programs, he said, are known for their up-tempo style, something that made it hard for him to watch college lacrosse recently, with the advent of slowdown offenses that hold possession so closely they draw multiple stall warnings per game for not attacking the net.

“I never played on a team that got a stall warning,” he said. “You’d get benched if you were holding the ball. Move the ball and try to score a goal — that’s the object of the game.”

To that end, he told his players they get one chance to dodge: “If you don’t beat your guy, move it to the next guy. If you do beat your guy and they slide, you have to either pass or shoot. The ball can’t stay in your stick. Once you beat your guy, you have to get the ball out of your stick.”

Before accepting the T.O. job, D’Andraia was assisting Sean Lindsay at Agoura. He credits Lindsay, whom he played against in high school, with reintroducing him to lacrosse after he had been away from the game coaching football, most recently at Malibu. He joined Lindsay’s Mavericks club, then signed on at Agoura, where he would have stayed happily if Thousand Oaks had not been such an ideal opportunity.

“The numbers [in the program], the facilities, the support, the boosters, the youth program — I don’t have to do anything,” he said. “I just have to show up and coach the kids. I don’t have to build the program — it’s built, and that’s what sold me.”