Saskatoon, SK - Saskatchewan Rush General Manager Derek Keenan announced today that he will step down from his role as the club’s Head Coach and turn over the bench boss responsibilities to Jeff McComb.
The Rush have also bolstered their coaching staff with the return of former team captain Jimmy Quinlan, who will take McComb’s former role as Assistant Coach – Offence. Jeremy Tallevi remains in his role as Assistant Coach – Defence.
Keenan leaves the Rush bench after eight years at the helm, highlighted by three NLL championships (2015, 2016, 2018), three Coach of the Year awards (2006, 2010, 2014), and seven consecutive first-place finishes in the West Division. At the start of the 2017-18 season, Keenan became the NLL’s all-time leader in coaching wins, and he completes his tenure with 155 combined regular-season and playoff victories.
“I had a pretty good idea going into the 2020 season that it would be my last one behind the bench, but I didn’t talk about it a lot except with my coaches, my wife and my family. Ideally, I would have rode off into the sunset with a championship, but fairy tale endings rarely happen which is a little unfortunate,” said Keenan, who is also a three-time NLL GM of the Year (2006, 2010, 2014) and was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. Since 2004, every weekend I’ve been on a plane going somewhere. On top of that, I coached kids for 10, 12 years and junior ‘A’ so it’s been a lot of games, a lot of pre-game speeches. I feel very comfortable with the succession plan we have in place with the Rush. Jeff and I have worked together for a long time. He’s very smart, he’s innovative and he’s well-respected. I feel really good about the direction we’re going.”
Prior to joining the Rush, Keenan was an assistant coach in Toronto and then a head coach in Anaheim and Portland.
This will be McComb’s first head coaching position in the NLL, but he has been with the Rush for eight seasons and alongside Keenan at various levels for more than 17 years.
“It’s very exciting, but I also recognize it’s very big shoes to fill,” said the 51-year-old from Pickering, Ontario.
“Derek is the best to ever do it in this business and he’s the most-respected as well. This is a great situation for me to come into. Derek’s job as the GM speaks for itself especially with the resources we have going forward.
“It’s going to be a challenge going into next year, but we’re going to have the same philosophy as before because it has worked. I’m lucky to have a great core group of veteran players and a leadership group with Chris Corbeil, Kyle Rubisch and Mark Matthews. We are all focused on one thing and that’s winning a championship.”
Keenan and McComb both emphatically stated that making any change behind the bench would have been a much more difficult process had they not been able to bring Quinlan back into the fold. An original member of the Rush franchise, Quinlan was formerly the team’s all-time leader in games played, missing only one game over eight seasons, and his #81 is the lone retired jersey in Rush history. The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native previously spent three seasons behind the Rush bench as Assistant Coach – Defence.
“It was important to Derek and me that we wanted to bring someone in who would complement myself and Jeremy on the bench, and there was only one name we wanted,” said McComb. “Jimmy is a part of the fabric of this organization.
“He was not made an assistant coach just because he was making the transition from being a player to coaching. He is a student of the game, a great communicator and he is one of the better coaches in the game.
“Derek was always good at letting his coaches coach. He made people feel valued and important and that their input would be taken in. That philosophy is going to continue. Jimmy and Jeremy are going to coach and I’m going to oversee things and be a liaison with the great leadership group we have. We’ve built a winning culture here and that’s going to stay.”