Jim Milligan = Commitment - Passion - Perseverance

Growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, Jim Milligan was the first generation of the Milligan family to play lacrosse. He was one of two brothers who played lacrosse (brother Craig was an accomplished goalie).

Jim Milligan began playing lacrosse at the old peanut age which is now paper weight. Jim played peanut and tyke and then stepped away from lacrosse to play baseball.  He came back to lacrosse in Pee Wee after having watched a Canadian National Championship at the Peterborough Memorial Center when he fell in love with lacrosse.  With encouragement from some neighborhood close friends who helped him pick it up again Jim continued to play lacrosse until he was 36 years old. It was then, Jim Milligan turned to coaching as his playing career was completed.

Career as a Player

Jim Milligan was a skilled and reliable lacrosse player.  He played five full seasons of Junior “A” lacrosse with Peterborough and was essentially a point a game player.  He scored 38 goals while adding 91 assists for 129 points in 128 games over his junior lacrosse career.  He did not hesitate to engage in the physical aspect of the game collecting a total of 239 penalty minutes.  Jim experienced the joy of winning as he played on three Minto Cup Championship teams as a member of the Peterborough Maulers in 1986, 1987 and 1989.

Moving on to play Senior level lacrosse with the Peterborough Lakers from 1990 to 2002, Jim Milligan had similar statistics to his junior career with 45 goals and 73 assists along with 216 penalty minutes in 149 games.  Jim ended his career playing splitting his time with the Ennismore Shamrocks Senior  “B” team and the Peterborough Lakers in 2003

Career as a Coach

Jim Milligan began coaching minor lacrosse in the early 1990s in the Peterborough Minor Lacrosse Association - even before his own son Cam (now a Major Series Lacrosse player) was even born. Milligan’s greatest success in regards to winning was with the Peterborough Major Series Lakers.  He was on the Coaching staff in 1999 and for the period 2004-2014. His role was Associate Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator.  He also served as an Assistant General Manager from 2008 ongoing. During the period of 2004 to 2012, the Lakers won five Mann Cup championships.

In addition, Jim Milligan coached the Burnaby Lakers of the Western Lacrosse Association in 2017.  He also served as the team’s General Manager. His stay in Burnaby was only one season, likely because he expected greater commitment than some of the veteran players were willing to give.  It is fair to assess the situation as the age-old adage states - you cannot fire all the players, so you let the coach go.

At the professional level (NLL), Jim Milligan has had a lengthy career.  He has been an Assistant Coach with the Rochester Knights (2003-2005), Edmonton Rush (2007-2009); Toronto Rock (2010);  Philadelphia Wings (2012-2014); New England Black Wolves (2015) and most recently, the Vancouver Stealth/Warriors (2016- 2018).

Jim Milligan has an array of other coaching experiences including the Ontario Provincial Program where he has been both a Head Coach (Bantam 2006 and Midget in 2008) and Assistant Coach of Team Ontario Peewee (2004).

He has also served Canada in lacrosse being part of Team Canada in 2011where he was an Assistant Coach.  Jim headed up the pre and post scouting. The tournament was held in Prague of the Czech Republic where Canada won the Gold medal.

In addition, Jim Milligan has coached on the International lacrosse stage with the Australia National team U 20 Juniors who competed at World Juniors in 2019 in Mississauga Ontario.  He had a dual role being the Offensive Co-coordinator and part of player recruitment for the club.

Other lacrosse coaching has seen Jim involved with Field Lacrosse Development programs- Evolve, 3D Lacrosse, and Adrenaline.

Accomplishments – Jim Milligan

3 Junior “A” Minto Cups (Player)  Canadian National Champions – Peterborough Maulers in 1986, 1987, 1989

Major Series Lacrosse – Member of the Coaching Staff of the Year 1999 – Peterborough Lakers

5 Mann Cups (Assistant Coach)  National Senior “A” Champions – Peterborough Lakers in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012

1 World Lacrosse Championship -2011 – Team Canada

3 Minor Lacrosse Canadian Champions - Team Ontario 2006, 2008, 2010

 Senior “B” Quebec League – Kahnawake Mohawks, Provincial Champions, and Silver Medal at President Cup


 This interview with Jim Milligan was conducted in August 2020

1. Why and when did you take up coaching?

I took up coaching in 1993 and ramped it up as my playing career ended in 2003. I wanted to help out young kids learn the game of lacrosse and love it and be as passionate about it as I am.  I felt coaching allowed me to be a part of the game even after I was not playing anymore.

2. Did you ever expect to be coaching at the high level you have?

I never expected to be coaching at the highest level of the game but did strive to achieve it.  As I never had the opportunity to play in a Mann Cup, I had a hunger to be a part of a team that did and win one.  I had a strong taste in Junior with Minto Cups (1986 1987 and 1989 won and played. but lost in 1988).

3. Do you have a philosophy or style of coaching?

I believe my style of coaching is analytical, strategic and hopefully well communicated.  Obviously, coaching changes at different levels. I have been lucky enough to have been coached by some very good coaches and have also coached with some strong coaches over the years. I tried to extract what I liked and have seen work and disregard what I did not like and did not get the best results.  I believe teams and individual players are best when they are self-motivated to achieve and compete. I have tried to build strong relationships and friendships with players so there was mutual respect amongst everyone.  I also believe I tried to be very clear and transparent as a coach and the more communication that was given, the better results achieved.

4. Who or what influenced your style of coaching?

This goes back to the previous question but I think my past coaches and the strong coaching relationships developed allowed me to understand the game and acquire the ability to explain it clearly so that other people can understand it.  I believe what I have learned is the value of hard work and preparation.  The harder you work and more prepared you are, then the tougher it is to be beaten. Past coaches embedded a work ethic and passion for the game. Coaching relationships helped me with the preparation and understanding of the game at a higher level and how to mix these parts together.

5. Who is the coach you most admire? Why?

Tough question as I have had the opportunity to work with some very good and respected coaches over the years. But I will speak about a few.

John Martin and Dan Dunn- my junior coaches for 4 years that led us to 4 Minto Cups of which we won three.  Both had the ability to teach the game and ability to make the proper adjustments for the best results.

Paul Day - for his game preparation and his ability to build relationships with his players to get the best out of them.

Ed Comeau - his ability to communicate and break down the game to make it look and sound simple and achievable so players understand it.

Mark Vitarelli - for having the ability to get the most out of his teams that he has coached. Being able to push players to the limit to achieve established objectives.

Derek Keenan- for having the ability to push his teams and challenge them and hold them to the utmost accountability but also have a strong respect for the players and them for him.

6. What do you feel are the reasons why you have been as successful as you are?

I believe I have been successful because I have been a good communicator with players and had the ability to understand individual players and what makes them tick and compete.  I understand that one common goal for a team is best and striving to achieve that goal is important in achieving team goals. I learned this as a player and had some success with it and it was very important that I tried as a coach to achieve this with the teams I have coached.

Coaching experience was very important in my coaching development and because I started young this allowed me to grow as a coach. Coaching minor through to Senior helped build a good understanding of all aspects of the game and then having the ability to work along some of the best coaches allowed me to develop and grow.   Every coach has their own way of doing things and again I was lucky to see the variety which helped me with my style .The ability to pull what I liked from these coaches and use it helped in developing my style.

7. Can you share some thoughts about your experiences coaching Major Series Lacrosse versus NLL

My experience coaching MSL versus NLL is in both leagues you must be very prepared and ready in all aspects of the game. In MSL, you have to be able to get your team prepared in a short time and use the first part of the season to implement systems and structure and plays.  The first 6 to 8 games are more like a training camp and you progress from there to grow and get better for the rest of the season.  The season is very busy and quick and short.

In the NLL, the season is spread out with a training camp and getting ready for the start of the season.  You have more time to implement the systems, plays and team structure.

I have to say in both leagues the skill level and execution of plays, defense, goaltending and athleticism is at a very high level.

8. Best team you ever coached? Why? 

This is tough.  Peterborough Lakers 2004 as this was the first team, I was with that won the Mann Cup and made a strong run until 2012 winning four more Mann Cups. The players on this team were special and the understanding of what it is needed to win was incredible. The relationships built with this team and sacrifices made by this team to allow itself to win will be something I will cherish forever.

9. Best (most skilled) player(s) you coached? Why?

I was lucky to have coached several skilled players.

John Grant Jr- for his ability to with what he can do with his stick and in clutch moments.

Scott Evans  for his ability to score goals and do whatever it took to help the team win.

John Tavares for his understanding of the game and his ability to work off other players to score.

Shawn Evans for his ability to score plus his strong drive to win. Like his brothers he will do whatever it takes and in many different ways to help your team win.

10. Toughest player(s) you coached? Why?

Toughest can be tricky. What I consider tough is the player that takes a pounding night in and night out but still does his job and does not get intimidated. Tough to me is the offensive player that no matter how bad they get beaten every night they still can be successful and successful in clutch movements.  The top three for me are John Grant Jr.,  Scott Evans and John Tavares

Toughness in the sense of fighting would have to be Andrew Suitor, Geoff Snider and pick any one of the Evans brothers.

On the defense side of toughest, being a defensive player that gets picked, banged and physically exhausted but keeps doing the job and shutting down other team’s best offensive players - I think of Chris White, Ryan Cousins and Scott Self

11. What do you think (in general), your players think/feel about you as a coach?

I would like to think the players feel/think I was fair to them, honest, respectful and prepared. Also, I was dedicated to my position and that I worked hard to do the best to prepare them and our team for the best chance of success.

12. What do you foresee in your Coaching future?

Well I am now the Head Coach of Cobourg Kodiaks of the MSL and I look forward to the opportunity to work with that organization and players. I also would love to work with Team Canada again in future and if possible, the NLL.  Who knows? What I most look forward to is working with more people in the lacrosse community and building more friends and relationships through coaching. Some of my best friendships and relationships come from the game of lacrosse and I strive to make more.

13. Any final thoughts you would like to share?

I would like to say the game of lacrosse has been very good to me and has allowed me to experience many things I may not have had otherwise.  Coaching has allowed me to travel all over the world and develop relationships I still have to this day. Coaching has allowed me to grow individually and professionally and has required me to challenge myself personally.  I have coached some of the best teams and also some of the best players in the world and I cherish these opportunities.very much.

I would like to thank everyone that I have come cross playing and coaching in lacrosse. I have learned a lot more from coaching over the years than I have taught.  I have made far more friends than I have lost.  I have also experienced a lot more in life than I ever thought I would and I hope a more people get the chance I have had and experience what I have from coaching the great game of lacrosse.

Concluding Observations

If you ever meet Jim Milligan, you will find he is a very friendly, gracious and engaging person.  As uncovered in this interview, his love of lacrosse is immense. 

He has connected with numerous organizations (both amateur and professional) in pursuing his passion to be involved with the game. In doing so, Jim Milligan has connected with some of the very best coaches and players in the game.  Without question, his love for lacrosse has granted him opportunities to positively impact those he has encountered.  Lacrosse has benefited from the involvement of Jim Milligan.  And his career is not over.


JIM MILLIGANOntario Lacrosse Association-Player Statistics

                                                                   REGULAR SEASON                           PLAYOFFS

                         --------------                        --------

  YEAR              TEAM           LEAGUE      GP   GO   ASS   PTS   PIM  -    GP GO ASS PTS PIM

    ---- ------------ ------     --  --  ---  ---  ---  -  -- -- --- --- ---

  1985   PETERBOROUGH  JUNIOR A      4     1        0        1       4  -     DID NOT PLAY

  1985   PETERBOROUGH  JUNIOR B &   8     7        9     16     25  -      4  5   0   5   8

  1986   PETERBOROUGH  JUNIOR A    20     0      12     12     44  -     9  0   2   2   5

  1987   PETERBOROUGH  JUNIOR A    25    11     19     30     48  -   10  2   2   4   2

  1988   PETERBOROUGH  JUNIOR A    23   14      30     44     42       8  5   9  14  14

  1989   PETERBOROUGH  JUNIOR A    23     5      15     20     74       6  0   2   2   6

  1990   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR       20      3      15     18     44  -    6  2   5   7   8

  1991   GUELPH        NLL PRO                 1      0        0       0       2  -    DID NOT PLAY

  1991   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR       16      3        2       5     13  -    3  0   0   0   2

  1992   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR       12      2        2       4     14  -    6  0   0   0  16

  1993   BROOKLIN      MAJOR              13    11     12      23     16  -    8  2   2   4  14

  1994   BROOKLIN      MAJOR                3      2        1       3        6       DID NOT PLAY

  1994   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR      11      7        6     13     30       4  0   1   1  11

  1995   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR      12      2        7       9      11  -    DID NOT PLAY

  1997   SIX NATIONS   MAJOR              9      0        3       3      17  -    DID NOT PLAY

  1998   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR      15     7      14      21     12  -    4  3   0   3   0

  2001   BROOKLIN      MAJOR                1     0        0       0        0  -    DID NOT PLAY

  2002   ENNISMORE     SENIOR B       10     3        9     12        2  -    DID NOT PLAY

  2002   PETERBOROUGH  MAJOR       3     0         3      3         0  -    2  1   0   1   0

  2003   ENNISMORE     SENIOR B      16     9       15    24       16  -    2  0   2   2   0

    ---- ------------ ---------- -- ---  ---  ---  ---  -  -- -- --- --- ---

    PRO/MAJOR/SENIOR TOTALS    116    37     65  102     165    33   8    8  16  51

                         JUNIOR A TOTALS      95    31     76  107     212    33   7  15  22  27