The mad scientist has done it again.
Prep lacrosse head coach Chris Smalkais has accomplished a lot in his lengthy tenure at Prep. He's won state and conference championships, he's sent plenty of former players to Division 1 college teams.
And yet, he still is enthusiastic about winning every day, and he loves to compete.
It impresses me how competitive coaches can be, especially ones like Smalkais who have accomplished so much. Yet, I'm sure that's the reason he's been as successful as he has. He has the innate drive to compete and challenge himself -- and his teams -- against the tri-state area's best lacrosse teams.
I have a lot of respect for people like that. They're not concerned with results, necessarily, they're concerned with competing against-- and becoming-- the best.
Smalkais told stories, after his team's 7-4 win over Cheshire in the SCC semifinals, of his early coaching career at Prep. He spoke of trips to lacrosse-hotbeds in Baltimore, Pennsylvania and New York to take on the nation's best teams.
Though the trips to play southern Mid-Atlantic powers have curbed, Prep still annually takes on Long Island's best, Chaminade and St. Anthony's, and also will trek to my original neck of the woods to play New Jersey lax royalty like Delbarton School.
And yet, to Smalkais, it's not only about displaying greatness. It certainly is about excelling athletically, but fair competition is what he craves. And he certainly competes honorably and fairly.
Smalkais is one of the few Jesuit coaches who is not a Prep alumnus, yet athletic director Steve Donahue's told me on numerous occasions "he's one of the best at carrying forward the Jesuit mission."
You don't ever hear him utter obscenities to his players -- which does not sound special until you stand on a lacrosse sidelines -- and rarely raises his voice, except to call out plays. Smalkais doesn't complain about calls, he often jokes with officials rather than criticize them.
And then there's the side you'll only see if you observe Prep and its coach. The quirky, hockey-loving Canadian carries a rubber snake and hockey pucks in his bag to every game, almost as if he's a magician with props.
But even as he's pulling pranks on student managers and media members,, he's always scheming, observing and adjusting. Within seconds of Prep's first offensive possession on Wednesday, Smalkais saw Cheshire was in a zone defense and was barking ways the Jesuits could exploit it.
The Rams did not play zone against the Jesuits at all in two regular season meetings, yet limited Prep's offense to just four goals in the first 41:51.
Adjustments were made, and Prep won the final six minutes, undoubtedly because of its skill, but also because of its coach.
"They're an extremely well-coached team," Cheshire coach Rich Pulisciano said.
But even with the three-goal win, Smalkais still wasn't satisfied.
"We had a critical defensive mistake in the last three seconds of the game and gave up a scoring opportunity," he said. "Championship teams -- with three Division I college defense men -- can not do that."
I guess that's how you become the best.