When Ben Rubeor steps on a field this summer, it will be his first time as a head coach at the professional level. Yet, that hasn’t stopped him from having high expectations for himself and goals that include “becoming the Bill Belichick of pro lacrosse.”
“I wasn’t trying necessarily to publicize that. I’m no where close to anything [Belichick] has done, but I guess my feeling is I want to be great at whatever I do,” Rubeor explained. “I want to work relentlessly to put our team in a position to win.”
Rubeor used the legendary football coach’s illustrious career to discuss his vision for his own lacrosse coaching career and shared it with Paul Rabil during his interview for the Atlas LC coaching job. Rabil, an unabashed Bill Belichick fan, loved the comparison and referred to the statement in a tweet that accompanied the announcement of Rubeor’s hiring.
“In terms of a guy to chase, he’s a good one. When I drive by [Gillette] Stadium, I’m reminded by not only what that guy has accomplished, but the work that it takes to actually be great.”
The Premier Lacrosse League bought into Rubeor’s vision and hired the 34-year-old coach to lead a star-studded Atlas club that struggled in its first year.
“What excites me is the conversations I’ve had with these guys… I don’t get the sense that they really care about personal stats, awards, whatever it might be. I really think these guys are hungry to win,” Rubeor said.
Finding His Passion On and Off the Field
Ben Rubeor is no stranger to success on the lacrosse field. The University of Virginia grad had an illustrious collegiate career that included first-team All-American honors, an appearance as a Tewaaraton finalist and a national championship.
The on-field success followed Rubeor to his professional career and Major League Lacrosse. After a solid rookie campaign with the Long Island Lizards, Rubeor spent the remainder of his career with the Bayhawks’ franchise. In his seven seasons with Chesapeake, Rubeor averaged over 20 points per season and won three Steinfeld trophies, including 2012 postseason MVP honors.
With so much success as a player, it seemed only a matter of time before Rubeor would find his way to the sideline to help develop the next generation.
“I took a fifth year down at Virginia and did a masters program. I was helping out the team as a volunteer and teaching lessons and to be honest it was in teaching the lessons that one, I felt a real reward in what Iwas doing and I saw guys getting better,” Rubeor said. “Just watching kids who were already growing, get bigger, faster, stronger, but also seeing their skills improve and their success on the field… I thought ‘this is something that gets me excited, that energizes me.’”
It was in coaching that Rubeor found his calling. He decided to leave his job in finance and took an offensive coordinator position down in Tallahassee, Florida in 2012. From there, he moved on to become the head coach of St. Mary’s School in Annapolis where he spent three seasons and coached players such as Jake Carroway, Kevin Fox, Alex Woodall and Redwoods LC goaltender Tim Troutner. Following St. Mary’s, Rubeor took the head coaching job at his alma mater Loyola-Blakefield, before finally deciding to move to New England to be closer with his wife’s family in 2018.
After moving to the greater Boston area, Rubeor was reunited with his former college coach Dom Starsia as a member of the Boston Cannons’ coaching staff. Starsia, the then associate head coach for the Cannons, gave Rubeor his first coaching gig in the professional ranks as the team’s offensive coordinator.
While as a professional player, Rubeor had almost immediate success, his return to an MLL sideline as an assistant coach was an adjustment.
“It was a little bit of a rocky start. We had a 5-9 season that first year. I don’t think I did my best coaching job,” Rubeor reflected. “I had to adjust my approach with the guys and realize that pro players do want to be coached. They want to be held accountable. They want to be told what the expectations are. I had to find my voice with those guys.”
Rubeor did just that, guiding the Cannons’ offense to the second highest goal total in the league, while three of his players tallied over 40 points. Despite a loss in the MLL semi-finals, Rubeor showed the coaching prowess to lead an offense at the highest level.
Ready for the Next Challenge
After the departure of John Paul, the PLL’s Atlas LC was in the market for a new leader to help piece together a team with all-world talent, but one that ultimately disappointed in its inaugural season. When Rubeor saw that there was a head coach opening, he jumped on the opportunity.
“I think the Premier Lacrosse League has done a fantastic job. They market their guys, they give access to fans that has never been seen in pro sports and I think they have the best players in the world. I took that into consideration and also the fact that I wanted to be a head coach,” Rubeor remarked.
Rubeor knows he has his work cut out for him, but is confident in himself and his staff that includes Syracuse standouts Ric Beardsley and Steven Brooks, the latter who was a member of the 2019 Atlas team as a player and played with Rubeor on the Bayhawks.
“I’ve known a lot of the guys on the Atlas for a while. They’re disappointed in how the season turned out last year and if you look at some of the guys we’ve acquired, they’ve had chips on their shoulder their entire career and still have a lot to prove… I felt like they had the pieces, but couldn’t put it all together and I wanted that challenge.”
Two additions that Rubeor and the Bulls will be counting on to be major parts of that adjustment in the transition game are midfielders Romar Dennis and Bryan Costabile.
Dennis was one of Rubeor’s first additions on the job when he acquired the Loyola grad and the 20th pick in the 2021 Collegiate Draft from Chrome LC in exchange for the 2021 17th overall selection. Dennis, who is entering his fourth professional season, will look to make a larger impact on the field for his new club. Rubeor discussed his hopes for the new Bull.
“As I look at Romar, I see a guy that is a physical presence. He’s big, he shoots the ball hard. He’s a guy that I think can put pressure on a defense. I also was pretty impressed with how he got back on defense last year. He made some plays, had some caused turnovers, got the loose ball… I’m hoping a fresh start will be exciting for him, will reinvigorate him, and I hope can give him the confidence because we believe in him.”
With the second overall selection in this year’s collegiate draft, Rubeor selected Notre Dame’s Bryan Costabile. The 2019 ACC Offensive Player of the Year will be a welcome addition as the Bulls hope to control the middle of the field.
“Being a first year coach, I’ve watched a lot of film. I feel a very important aspect is how you play in between the two arcs and controlling that area of the field. Having really athletic guys is a huge help. Bryan was one of the best athletes in the draft and had a great college career. I think he added an element of being able to hit two-point shots and he’s a guy that I think will probably get a short stick to start [the season]. He’s dangerous. He’s a guy that can do a lot for us all over the field. He’s extremely athletic and a guy that I hope will put a lot of pressure on other teams.”
Dennis and Costabile weren’t the only versatile, offensive talents added to the Atlas roster in the past few months. In arguably his biggest move of the offseason, Rubeor acquired former MLL MVP and world champion Rob Pannell during the PLL Entry Draft. Touted as one of the best players in the world, Pannell will look to make a seamless transition in his first year in the league.
“This is a guy that leads by example. He’s not the loudest guy in the room, but he’s a guy that puts in the work every day to be one of the best players in the world. I think he’s going to give us an element of really being able to put pressure on the defense from behind the cage.”
The addition of Pannell will add to an already potent attack unit that accounted for the Atlas’ top three scorers last season.
“He’s been a world class player for a very long time. I looked at the offense specifically, and felt like we have a duo of him and Law, two guys that can both play X, but have complementary skill sets. I think Law is one of the best off ball movers in the game and Rob is one of the best with the ball in his stick… I think they’re really going to complement one another and be a huge help to our Bulls team.”
With the PLL’s announcement of a shortened season, Rubeor discussed how he tweaked his roster preparation to account for the PLL Championship Series.
“In a two week tournament with more games in a condensed period, the philosophy has definitely changed a little bit. You can’t play three middies the whole time, you probably need a backup faceoff guy. You need depth at all positions…”
Yet, Rubeor is ready for the challenge that the PLL Championship Series presents and he’s confident that he has the team that can challenge for the title.
“We’re going into a season where there’s going to be more eyeballs on lacrosse than there may have been ever before and I just want these guys to play as a team. I think if they do that, their own talents are going to shine and will manifest themselves.”