The End of an Era: DC Breeze Bid Farewell to Head Coach Darryl Stanley at Season's End

AUGUST 8, 2023
By Aidan Delehanty

With the 2023 American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) season in the midst of the postseason play, it also means that an era is coming to a close for the DC Breeze. Head coach Darryl Stanley is stepping down from his position at the end of this season, ending a seven-year partnership between him and the team. 

For the better part of a decade, Stanley has been such a powerful force in the AUDL. He helped grow the Breeze franchise into a championship contender and assembled a culture that showcases the best of DC ultimate. Through his guidance, fans now recognize the organization as one of the pillars in the league. His mentorship and tutelage have been crucial in the team's success, leading them to six straight playoff appearances and making him someone that the players truly look up to.

Players like Alexandre Fall, who have been with Stanley for most of his head coaching stint, believe that he is truly the heart and soul of this organization. 

“Words can’t express how important he has been to this team. Words can’t express how much he’s meant to me," Fall said. "He’s a guy who is able to build personal relationships with each and every player on this field. And he’s an amazing tactician and has all the accolades, but one of his most amazing strengths is just being there for everyone and being a mentor for everyone.” 

Stanley's time with the Breeze is not short of any accolades, from never missing a postseason during his time and posting a .717 regular season win percentage (54-21-1) – the best mark of any coach in the team’s history – to winning the franchise's lone regular season division title in 2021. He has also had a lot of experience coaching in the Team USA system, earning two gold medals with the Under-24 team, as well as coaching the Philadelphia Spinners to an MLU championship in 2016, guiding the University of Maryland men's program since 2016, and coaching Washington, DC Truck Stop for several seasons. 

With these accolades, he is seen as one of the best tacticians in the sport. What makes him such a good strategist is his ability to focus both on the game at hand, as well as the overall vision for the season. 

“I think a huge part of what makes Darryl so special is the way he thinks about how things scale up as we and our opponents get better," assistant coach Alex Crew said. "He doesn't just look for tools and skills that will work for us now, but he thinks about which ones can continue to build and be successful in the final iteration of the team as it peaks. That ability to both focus on the short-term tasks of getting the team to improve and win, while also having a vision of what the final peaking version is, is truly special.”

This speaks volumes about Stanley's ability to see the big picture in the sport, while at the same time focusing on each opponent that the week brings. Stanley makes sure that he knows the intricacies of every Breeze opponent. Then he figures out what’s the best way to make those easy goals at the beginning of the game to widen the gap in the score, allowing for some cushion for when the team gets tired late in the game. 

However, he also realizes what each game means to the overall performance for the Breeze during the season. This is what has allowed Stanley and the team to make the East Division playoffs each season as head coach. There is no time off for Stanley, not even the hours following the conclusion of a season.

“On a long plane ride back from San Jose when we went to (watch) the (2019) championship game, Darryl had his chalkboard out, which is a metal board now, with the little pieces showing me his defense for the next season," Breeze owner Ty Simpson said. "So when I say his passion and his commitment to ultimate, I can’t even talk about it, it’s priceless.” 

However, he certainly will be remembered for much more than just his accolades during his time in the nation's capital. He was more more than just a coach to the team. Many players and coaches describe him as a mentor, a father figure, and a friend that you can always call when in need.

When Stanley started with the team, they were almost at the bottom of the East Division, and many didn’t believe they had any chance of making the playoffs. However, in his new role, he tried something a little different from most other teams in the league. 

“When we had a slight situation where a lot of players decided not to play pro, he took in 15 young players from Maryland,” Simpson said. “We were supposed to be ranked at the bottom of our division, and we end up pretty much going to the playoffs. To see him motivate, train and develop these young ultimate players ... has shown his character and his ability to love ultimate and love them as humans, as well.”

When asked what his favorite memory of Stanley is, Fall threw a little twist that truly demonstrates his love and commitment for his players.  

“One of my favorite memories is just him being generally so focused on getting us to hydrate during games," Fall said. "I’m doing everything I can to have a good game, and then I have this guy chirping in [my] ear to ‘Drink water! Drink Water! Drink Water. Get some shade! Get some shade!’ … When I don’t listen to him, I feel the consequences at the end of the game, and when I do listen to him, I see the [results].”  

It seems that Darryl won’t just be missed due to his amazing coaching ability and being able to rally together teams of unique personalities, but he’ll be truly missed because he knew how to take care of his players. Whether it's the little things like making sure they drink water in the middle of a game or much bigger things like helping them as a mentor to navigate the crazy world we live in, his leadership and compassion for his players is unrivaled by any other coach in the AUDL.

“I don’t know how we fill that gap. He is a mega presence, and he’ll be sorely missed. We’re happy he’s moving on, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ll really really miss him,” Fall said.