(Photo Courtesy of Boston Cannons)
*This article is part of a month-long series, Black Lacrosse Stories, that highlights Black players and coaches who have made an impact on our game, but maybe lesser known to many younger players today.*
Bill Daye can only be described as one of the most influential Black players and coaches in the game of lacrosse. US Lacrosse and Blaxers Blog named him as such earlier this month. Not only did Daye find success as both a player and coach, but he also broke barriers and paved the road for others that would come behind him.
A native of Huntington, N.Y., and product of Harborfields High School, the goalie went south to play his college lacrosse at North Carolina where he played for Willis Scroggs as a freshman and Dave Klarmann in his final three seasons. The four seasons Daye played for the Tar Heels are known by many as the back half of one of the best two-decade stretches in program history.
During his freshman season in 1990, the Tar Heels went 12-4 and fell in the semifinals to the eventual champion Syracuse. The Tar Heels made it back to the Final Four for a third consecutive season in 1991 and came home undefeated (16-0) national champs, beating Syracuse in the semifinals and Towson in the national title game. Daye backed up Andy Piazza in both of those seasons.
As a junior in 1992, Daye took over the reigns as the starter in between the pipes and helped keep the winning going in Chapel Hill. North Carolina won the ACC Tournament and returned to the NCAA Final Four for the fourth consecutive season. They fell to the eventual champion Princeton, 16-14, in a semifinal game that featured a goalie matchup between Daye and Princeton great Scott Bacigalupo.
Daye was named to the ACC All-Tournament team during that 1992 season and during the NCAA Tournament, recorded 16 saves in their quarterfinal matchup against Brown and nine against Princeton. He made 172 saves with a .591% save percentage throughout the entire 1992 season. Those numbers currently sit amongst the top-25 all-time in single-season records in North Carolina history.
The 1993 season saw the Tar Heels make it back to the Final Four and advance to the national title game where they fell to the Syracuse Orange. However, Daye broke his neck in a collision with a Johns Hopkins player in the ninth game of the season. That injury ended his college career.
Following his college lacrosse days, Daye continued to play at a high level in the United States Club Lacrosse Association (USCLA). He was named the USCLA Player of The Year in 1996. And when Major League Lacrosse (MLL) came along in 2001 he hopped on board. Daye played two seasons in the MLL with the Boston Cannons, earning All-Star and All-Pro honors both years. He retired from playing in 2002 after another neck injury.
While he had retired from playing in 2002, Daye wouldn’t stay away from the game or the Boston Cannons for too long, returning to the team as an assistant coach in 2005 and was hired as Cannons’ head coach in 2006. Daye, along with Brian Silcott who had been hired as the head coach of the San Francisco Dragons that same year, became the first two Black head coaches in the MLL.
Daye led the Cannons to their first MLL title in 2011 before stepping down after that season. He compiled a 43-29 record and is the second-winningest head coach in the club’s history.