To the University of Maryland men’s lacrosse team, Dick Edell was simply “Big Man,” a moniker that spoke as much of the respect with which players held their coach as it did his height (6-foot-5). When he retired in 2001, having led the Terps to 171 victories, 13 NCAA tournaments and three title game appearances, Mr. Edell summed things up.
“I’m grateful that I got to do this for 34 years,” he said. “I had kids that played every minute like it was the last minute of their lives, and I will thank them forever.”
Mr. Edell died May 2 of pneumonia at a hospital in Columbia, Md. He was 74.
At Maryland’s Dundalk High School, he captained and played midfield on the lacrosse team that defeated Towson for the Baltimore County championship in 1960 at Homewood Field.
Upon graduation in 1962, he earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy but transferred after one year to Towson State College (now Towson University). There, Mr. Edell earned an All-America honorable mention and scored five goals in a victory over the University of North Carolina.
After college, he coached freshman lacrosse at Towson State for two years while teaching at Bear Creek Elementary School in Dundalk. Carl Runk, then Towson’s head coach, said Mr. Edell “wasn’t just about X’s and O’s. He taught some of life’s lessons.”
In 1970, he became a physical education instructor and head coach at Calvert Hall, a Catholic preparatory school in Baltimore. In three years, he turned the woebegone lacrosse program around, winning two Maryland Scholastic Association championships.
“I’ve always stressed that the best compliment you can give our team is to say, ‘My God, do they play hard,’ ” Mr. Edell liked to say. “Any athlete has good and bad days. But every day you can play hard.”
When his job was eliminated by budget cutbacks, Mr. Edell moved to the University of Baltimore, where in four seasons he coached the Bees to a 45-23 mark. He doubled as soccer coach and led Baltimore to the 1975 NCAA Division II championship, despite never having played soccer himself.
Mr. Edell downplayed his role in that title drive.
“I could probably jump off the Empire State Building and land on a cushion,” he said.
Next stop: the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where he inherited a 6-6 lacrosse team and coached the Cadets to seven consecutive winning seasons and four NCAA tournament appearances. Maryland took note and hired him in 1984. It would be his final and most rewarding stop. At College Park, he took the Terps to the NCAA finals in 1995, 1997 and 1998 and won three ACC titles.
“We recruited people who bought into the team concept,” Mr. Edell once said. “We were never based on a superstar. We were a bunch of parts pulling together to create something special. I always got a tremendous satisfaction out of that.”
Above all, his Terps were students. For a while, Mr. Edell’s office was near the team’s study hall so he could monitor the comings and goings of players.
In 1978 and 1995, he was named coach of the year by the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association; three times, he earned coaching accolades in the ACC.
Mr. Edell seemed to remember everyone who contributed to his teams’ success, said Washington College lacrosse coach Jeff Shirk, who played for him at Maryland.
“We were at Duke — I think it was my sophomore year — and an elderly gentleman came up and said, ‘Hey, Coach Edell, you’re not going to remember me . . . ’ and ‘Big Man’ said, ‘No, no, no, wait a second, give me a second,’ ” Shirk said. “And then he sat there for three to five seconds and all of a sudden fired this guy’s name out and said, ‘You drove our bus when we were up at Army.’ ”
Stricken with inclusion body myositis, a debilitating muscular disease, Mr. Edell retired in 2001 after a 13-3 season. His record at Maryland: 171-76. His college career mark: 282-123.
In 2016, Mr. Edell was among the inaugural class enshrined in the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of the National Lacrosse, Maryland, Towson and Army Sports halls of fame. But his awards always paled in comparison to personal relationships.
“I wasn’t, I hope, just a coach. I was a friend,” Mr. Edell told the Baltimore Sun in 2003. “That’s a relationship I don’t ever want to end.”
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Dolores Billingslea of Glenelg, Md.; four children, Lisa Edell of Towson, Md., Krissy Kelley of Mount Airy, Md., Gregg Edell of Short Hills, N.J., and Erin Russell of Baltimore; a sister; and six grandchildren.
— Baltimore Sun