Hey Coach! – A few minutes with Brandon Fortier
He is the architect of one of the state’s perennial powerhouses and the unmistakable leader on the sidelines for the Issaquah Eagles boys’ lacrosse team. Brandon is a Seattle boy who was part of the first graduating class at Eastlake High School and cut his lacrosse teeth with the now defunct Eastside Ravens LC before playing collegiately at Whittier College. He is also a huge part of HS lacrosse in WA as a long time board member of the WHSBLA. He has made a big difference in the local lacrosse community and Walax.com tracked him down to see what he has been up to and to get his thoughts on lacrosse and more.
Eastside Lacrosse Club: 2000-2001 – ‘A’ Division Semi-finals both years.
Issaquah Lacrosse: 2002-present – Issaquah has made the playoffs every year; 2004 DII Champions, 2008 DI State champs & 2009 DI State Champs.
Since you are a local boy, let’s start with the basics, what grade did you start playing lacrosse?
I first tossed around in 6th grade through a program at the Bellevue Boys and girls club. My mom bought me equipment at a little store in Kirkland that I believe was being run by Harry Ostrander.
Do you remember your first stick? What color was it?
It was a Black Brine Shotgun. The first stick that I saved up for and bought myself though was a red STX Turbo.
So you started playing in Middle School and played all the way through college. What made you want to get involved in coaching lacrosse?
I had great High School PE teacher/coaches (Bruce Brown/Bill Brosseau) and a great club soccer coach (Jon Matushita) whom all coached athletics and taught HS. I just knew that coaching was what I wanted to do. As soon as I came back from college, there was an opening for Head Coach with my old HS team (Eastside Lacrosse Club) so I applied and I got the job.
Your teams have been a part of some great games, what are some of your favorite memories?
I have a few right off the top.
2002: in our inaugural year at Issaquah, we lost to Curtis 17-2 early in the year. Improved every day, reached the DIII finals and lost to Curtis again in a rematch 5-3 but I have never been more proud of a group of players.
2005: DI State semis – We were down two goals with under 2 minutes to play and we scored with 58 second left and 23 seconds left to force an overtime session and then we won it in OT to reach our first DI State Championship game.
2006: We were down one with under 10 seconds to play we score just before the buzzer to tie and eventually beat Mercer in OT to open the season… first win ever over Mercer.
2008: We beat Bainbridge to win our first DI state championship on a hot day at memorial stadium.
Of course being a coach there is always a game or two on the other side of the coin that haunts you. Is there a game that you wish you could change?
I have two big ones. The first would be the State championship game in 2006. We were beating Mercer 9-6 in the 4th quarter of the final and we lost 10-9 literally at the buzzer as Kevin Mahony fired through a screen. The goalie never saw it.
And just recently we completed the 2012 season 19-0 for the regular season and we lost 9-8 to Kings Way in the Quarterfinals… crusher.
You have listed some great highpoints and some heartbreaking low points in coaching which brings us to the question about the new guys who are just getting into coaching – What advice do you have for the guys just getting started coaching lacrosse?
Those guys need to focus on making the entire team better and focus on the fundamentals. Don’t try and just ride one or two kids to the playoffs. And don’t let the superstar get away with stuff… they need to lead by example.
Do you have any advice for a parent who is coaching a youth team?
Focus on fundamentals…. Don’t just praise the kid that happens to be bigger than everyone and scores all the goals. Teach kids concepts and praise them for hard work and fundamentals… those are the kids that will succeed come HS.
Do you have any advice to give a player that would help them make varsity (or help make their youth team better)?
Find a niche… Always be willing to do whatever to help the team and get on the field. Not everyone can be a goal scorer.
Let’s shift gears slightly and talk about lacrosse in the state of Washington. In your opinion what is the biggest challenge for Washington lacrosse moving forward?
Getting noticed and breaking through the east coast bias. We have kids that can play, but they haven’t been playing as long and they are not ready to be recruited as freshman… the way college recruiting is going it is nuts!
Where would you rate WA lax on the West Coast? Top, middle or needs work?
Not the top, but near the top… overall California is ahead but they are drawing from a much bigger population. Our top teams are consistently ahead of Oregon and Arizona and a bit ahead of Nevada and Utah and far ahead of Idaho… just look at the Northwest Invitational Results every year.
So what are we doing right as a high school league?
By organizing our league we are making our sport legitimate in this state and nationally and even though folks don’t always agree with our (WHSBLA) decisions, we are promoting growth in the area and helping to spawn new teams (more kids playing) every year.
How about some predictions for the upcoming season? Who is in the DI finals?
Oooh… I would love to say Issaquah vs. Kings Way… haha. It should be a fun year with more teams in the mix than normal. I think Bellevue, Bainbridge, Mercer, Issaquah, Eastside Catholic and potentially King’s Way could all be in the mix this year.
How about a prediction for the NCAA Men’s College Final Four (I’m looking to win the pool this year)?
I would love to see Maryland and Landon Carr back in the finals as well as Colgate and Peter Baum. They have to keep rep’ing the west coast.
That would be cool. Let’s finish off with a few rapid fire questions. Ready?
If you could be an assistant coach for a game, which College program/head coach would you want to work for?
Wow… interesting question… can I say Coach K with Duke Basketball?
Your favorite non-lacrosse activity is?
Probably just chilling and watching a really good college football game (Go Dawgs!). I also love to be active and do other sports. I love playing games and competing in general.
Your favorite band growing up was?
U2 – the first CD I ever got was The Joshua Tree.
What is currently on the IPod?
Everything but country… love Jay Z and Jack Johnson.
My favorite part of the Pacific Northwest is?
All of it… love the scenery… a great August day…80 degrees… some lake time…some lacrosse.
On your most recent vacation or trip you went where?
I just got married in Roche Harbor and flew on a seaplane for the first time ever from Roche to Seattle to Victoria… pretty cool.
That does sound cool. Congratulations Brandon. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule and spending a few minutes with us. Good luck next season!