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Shamrox's Panos giving back at Lake Forest High
By Matt Beardmore | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 3/5/2008 2:00 PM | Updated: 3/5/2008 6:15 PM

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A white skull cap with a green embroidered shamrock, and a long-sleeve gray and royal blue shirt with a Lake Forest lacrosse logo.

Appropriate attire for yet another Chicago-area snowstorm. More appropriately, a proud display of his two lacrosse allegiances.

Twenty-four hours after scoring his 200th career professional goal as his team fell 13-8 to the Buffalo Bandits on Feb. 24, Chicago Shamrox forward Chris Panos stood inside the Lake Forest High School field house, stick in hand, raring for the Scouts' first practice, and his second season as assistant coach, to begin.

"I try to teach them what I know from all my experience," said Panos, an 11-year National Lacrosse League veteran. "I've played lacrosse for 27 years. I'm not saying I know everything, but I know a fair amount of lacrosse."

An understatement from someone who is rarely, if ever, understated.

To the 65 players gathered on Feb. 25, and to the 90-100 who will comprise the Scouts' program, Panos is not the former Hofstra all-conference performer, member of the U.S. Indoor Lacrosse national team, or the Shamrox' third-leading scorer last season. He is Coach Panos.

But don't be mistaken: the players are well aware of his lacrosse accomplishments.

"He's a pro and he played Division I at Hofstra, which is one of the best programs," said Lake Forest junior Stew Kerr, a second-team all-conference attackman last season. "I've learned a lot. Even for the defense, since he's been playing so long, he knows what works for 'D' and what doesn't."

After last season's 18-5 record and fourth-place finish at state -- the first time in a decade the Scouts have advanced to the state semis -- expectations are running high in Lake Forest as coach Bob Degen's squad boasts senior all-conference defenseman Devin McDermott and a talent-laden junior class that included Kerr, goalie Pete Moore and midfielders Joe Hrusovosky and Zack Telander.

"We've reached the point where at very minimum, we're looking to compete for a state championship," said Degen, whose team has won 78 percent of its games in his three seasons.

Unlike Panos, and assistant coach Todd Morgan, who played at Division II New York Tech and still competes for the North Side Tribe club team, Degen didn't get involved with lacrosse until after his football playing days at Division I-AA Albany State.

But once he did, he became a true student of the game, "a real X's and O's guy."

"There are a lot of guys who played who don't grasp it," Degen said.

Panos isn't one of those. As he stepped toward a group of five during a Scouts' fastbreak drill, the players quickly circled up, giving Panos their undivided attention.

"The kids respect me and listen to me," Panos said. "Sometimes the kids want to goof around, but usually when I start telling them to do stuff -- I don't bully the kids or anything like that -- I can grab their attention."

Panos caught Degen's attention when they were introduced by Morgan's wife, Kasey, who worked in the Shamrox' sales department last year.

"(Chris and I) knew a lot of people in common," said Degen, a native of Garden City, N.Y.. "The lacrosse family is very small."

And since Degen was looking to fill out his staff, it was a natural fit, except that Panos was still commuting from New York.

Problem solved as Panos stayed in Degen's guest room for a few months before settling into a Lake Forest apartment last summer.

"Now that I'm in the community, it's a lot easier travel-wise," Panos said.

Along with his Shamrox's schedule and coaching duties, the Long Island transplant is developing a personal training company and is looking to start a clothing line.

"He's starting to put down some roots here," Degen said.

Panos' outfit said it best.