It's rare to have someone recognized for his lacrosse exploits in Southern California, a place known for boogie boarding, beach volleyball and the Los Angeles Dodgers. But there was Doug Locker on Thursday night, Oct. 16, getting inducted into the Whittier College Sports Hall of Fame for his pioneering efforts on behalf of lacrosse.
The San Jose Stealth's assistant general manager was way ahead of the lacrosse wave that's now washing over the entire state. A 1979 graduate of Whittier, which is situated in a community of the same name located 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Locker returned to his alma mater to start a lacrosse program. That distinctly East Coast sport started in France nurtured in Canada and developed by Native Americans in the Eastern U.S.; Lacrosse as a college sport became synonymous with Syracuse, Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Duke.
Nevertheless, the fearless Locker started his program at Whittier and lured Western Canadians to come South with the promise of a small school education and constant sunshine. Slowly, Locker started a lacrosse beach head just miles from the West Coast. Locker even got the Whittier Poets an NCAA division III sanction.
Locker and Whittier made history shortly there after.
The Poets hosted the first NCAA lacrosse playoff game ever in the West Coast, beating Eastern Connecticut before heading East and reaching the quarterfinals in the 2002 Tournament. Whittier succumbed to eventual champion Middlebury.
For his exploits, Locker won the Division III National Coach of the Year accolade, and established Whittier as a division III force. In building his program, Locker would take his team East annually where the Poets would barnstorm through Eastern schools, playing five teams in six days.
"We'd go through and dominate," said former Poet player Joe CHANGE: Romano, a San Jose Stealth assistant coach and the man who introduced Locker on Thursday night, "sometimes on five hours rest."
Now with lacrosse growing, Mike Rizzo, Whittier's assistant athletic director said that 40 percent of the team now comes from Southern California. But that might not have been possible if Locker hadn't spent 23 years at Whittier.
"When he first started, it was definitely Lewis and Clark," Rizzo said of Locker's pioneering efforts.
Not only did Locker grow the Poet program, he became successful, compiling a winning percentage of over 80 percent (293- 72). He also took pleasure in dusting the club lacrosse teams of division I schools like USC and UCLA.
"We would beat those teams like 25-3," said Nate Watkins, who's the current Poets lacrosse coach.
Locker didn't stop with his Johnny Appleseed lacrosse routine. While coaching the lacrosse team at Whittier, Locker also became the school's Director of Athletic Recruitment and Retention. But when Northern California's Notre Dame de Namur University called to make him their Athletic Director, Locker jumped. Within a few years, he established NDNU lacrosse as a division II NCAA team.
While Locker maintains relationships with both schools, he's concentrating on the pro game with his work in San Jose and with his position as general manager and executive vice president of the MLL's San Francisco Dragons.
It's not difficult to maintain a connection with Whittier because several of Locker's former Poet players are now in the NLL including Calgary's Kelly Hall and Minnesota's Ryder Bateman.
Locker will now be next to some slightly bigger names in the Whittier Sports Hall of Fame. George Allen coached the Poet football team in the early 1950's before gaining NFL fame with the Rams and Redskins. Don Coryell, another inductee, was the Poets football coach in the late 1950's before coaching the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Jim Colburn, who once fired a no-hitter in the late 1960's, is a fellow inductee as is Richard Nixon, who played football at Whittier in the early 1930's.
"I am honored and humbled to have my name included among those currently in the Whittier College Hall of Fame," Locker said. "It?s a special feeling, and I'm grateful to the selection committee for including me in this group."