SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Syracuse University head lacrosse coach John Desko and assistant coach Kevin Donahue have been friends, teammates and co-workers for more than 40 years. From their playing days at West Genesee High School to their time together on the SU sideline, the two have been inseparable. That’s why it’s fitting that Desko and Donahue will be inducted together into the West Genesee/Town of Camillus Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Desko and Donahue join Anne Schmutzler, Jim Ouderkirk, George Mezey, Steve Beville and the 2001 West Genesee girls varsity lacrosse team as members of this year’s class, which will be honored at McNamara’s in Camillus at 7 p.m. Saturday night. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
It was a strange twist of fate that landed Desko in the 2011 class. He was originally scheduled for enshrinement in the spring of 2010, but due to an SU road lacrosse game, he was unable to attend the ceremony. His induction was postponed until this fall, allowing him to go in with his longtime friend.
Desko and Donahue were lacrosse teammates at West Genesee High School and led the Wildcats to three consecutive Section III championships (1973-75). Desko was also a member of the football team and the basketball team’s leading scorer as a senior in 1975.
Following their scholastic careers, the two played lacrosse together for four seasons at Syracuse (1976-79). They were co-captains for the Orange in 1978 and 1979 and helped the team reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time as seniors. Donahue was a three-time All-American midfielder and in 1979 became legendary head coach Roy Simmons Jr.’s first first-time All-American. Desko also earned national recognition in 1979, earning honorable mention All-America honors for his work on defense.
The next season, Desko joined Simmons’ staff as an assistant coach, a position he held from 1980-98. He was promoted to head coach in 1999 and has amassed a 162-46 (.779) record in 13 years at the Orange helm. Desko leads all active Division I lacrosse coaches in winning percentage and has won five NCAA titles.
Donahue joined Desko on the SU coaching staff in 1988. The winner of the 2001 Jay Gallagher Award as the top assistant coach in Division I lacrosse, Donahue’s overseen virtually every position group during the course of his career. Currently, Donahue mentors the Orange goalies, faceoff specialists and runs the team’s man-down unit, a group that led the nation in 2011 in man-down defense efficiency (81.7 pct.).
Together, Desko and Donahue have served together for 23 years on the Orange coaching staff and have been together for 10 of the program’s 11 NCAA championships.
Established in 2008, the Camillus/West Genesee Sports Hall of Fame was formed to recognize people who have made a significant impact in the areas of sports and recreation. Plaques for the inductees are displayed in the Camillus Municipal Building.