Lacrosse guided coach Jack Sandler’s life — and helped him live his beliefs.
Sandler, a Hicksville native and head coach for men’s lacrosse at Colby College in Maine, died last month of a heart attack at age 35.
But Sandler already had achieved one of his dreams: coaching the game that had been in his blood since he was 9, his family said. He was a sport in both life and lacrosse, from recruiting minorities who might not have had access to private colleges to using lacrosse as a way to get children on the right path, his friends and family said.
“Lacrosse was his vehicle to achieve what he wanted to do,” said his mother, Barbara Sandler of upstate Malta.
As the head coach for men’s lacrosse at Colby College in Maine, Jack Sandler was on his way to recruit players in California when he collapsed on a treadmill Nov. 19 at a hotel near Kennedy Airport, his family said.
Sandler had been a rising star in lacrosse circles but rarely boasted about it, those who knew him said.
When Sandler graduated from Bates College in Maine in 2002, he was its second all-time leading scorer in lacrosse, said Bates head coach Peter Lasagna, who taught Sandler and later hired him as assistant coach.
He had coordination and was a master at analyzing opponents and opportunities, the coach said.
“He had a really sophisticated understanding of subtleties,” Lasagna said.
Sandler began coaching right after graduation, when he was hired at Bates, then was quickly tapped at age 25 to be head coach for men’s lacrosse at Skidmore College in upstate New York.
Just before he died, he was in his third season at Colby, where he had led his team to two straight playoffs in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
He also was active on the national level, serving on the executive board of the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association.
Some of the hundreds of mourners attending his funeral recalled how Sandler never berated players after a losing game, instead telling their families that “they’ll learn from it. There’ll be another game next week,” his mother said.
Makenzie Sandler, also of Malta, said her brother emulated people around him, honoring their values.
“He always purposely surrounded himself with people he looked up to,” his sister said.
An avid reader who remembered every word, Sandler could be relied on not just for advice but also for answers on almost every issue, said his sister, who made full use of his skill.
“It was easier to call Jack than to look it up,” she said.
Lasagna said Sandler made people feel what they were doing and saying was important.
“He’s one of the most loved humans,” the coach and friend said. “It would certainly make me feel less pain if we could somehow tell ourselves . . . there’s going to be another Jack Sandler.”
In addition to his mother and sister, Sandler is survived by his father, Lance Sandler of Malta.
He was buried Nov. 23 at Locust Valley Cemetery. Donations may be made to Morgan’s Fund, a charity named after his friend and run by the Maine Community Foundation.