Boston Cannons draft pick Pat Kavanaugh

‘Can you believe it?!’: Behind the scenes of Cannons’ Pat Kavanagh pick

By Sarah Griffin | May 27, 2024

When Boston Cannons head coach and general manager Brian Holman arrived on the ESPN campus on the morning of draft day, he had three plans in place for the sixth overall pick. 

Plan A: draft Pat Kavanagh.

Plans B and C? Well, that doesn’t matter now.

Holman and attackman Matt Kavanagh exchanged plenty of texts leading up to the draft, hoping Matt’s younger brother would somehow land with the Cannons. 

“I texted Matt the night before, ‘Maybe by the grace of God Pat falls to us at six,’ ” the coach laughed.

In preparation for the draft, Holman said he tried to push the thought of drafting Pat out of his mind. He, offensive coordinator Jim Mitchell and defensive coordinator Kyle Hartzell unanimously agreed it would be a no-brainer to take the Notre Dame standout if he was available, but they couldn’t rely on what seemed like a pipe dream.

“I really didn’t think it was going to happen,” Holman said. “I thought maybe 50/50, maybe less.” 

But once the Cannons coach arrived in Bristol, his optimism started to spike. 

Surrounded by other head coaches and reporters throughout the day, Holman began to pick up on the sense that the “Big Three” of Pat Kavanagh, Brennan O’Neill and Connor Shellenberger might not necessarily be the first three off the board, as was anticipated for the last year. He heard rumblings that the Maryland Whipsnakes might take Ajax Zappitello over Pat with the third overall pick. But it wasn’t until he sat down at the desk at 7 p.m. that Holman truly began to believe.

Minutes later, Holman’s intel proved correct. After O’Neill and Shellenberger went first and second overall to the Denver Outlaws and New York Atlas, respectively, the Whipsnakes passed on Kavanagh to take Zappitello. 

“I was just sitting, watching and waiting,” Holman said. “Once the Whipsnakes took Zappitello, I didn’t think the Chaos would take Pat but you just never know these things. You don’t know what other coaches are thinking. I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what coaches would or wouldn’t do because I know I can’t control that.”  

With the fourth overall pick, Andy Towers and the Carolina Chaos opted for midfielder Shane Knobloch. Now, it all came down to the Atlas’ second selection.

The Cannons and Atlas have an extensive draft-day history with each other, headlined by some blockbuster trades. Boston wasn’t involved in any major draft trades this year, but its game plan for the evening hinged on what New York planned to do with the fifth overall pick, which it acquired from the California Redwoods back in March. 

After picking Shellenberger at attack with the second pick to replace Chris Gray, it didn’t make sense for Atlas to use another first-round selection on another attackman when they had a glaring need between the pipes.

“The fifth pick, that was the big one,” Holman recalled. “The question was was coach [Mike Pressler] going to take [Liam] Entenmann, which seemed to be the consensus of what people were saying all along.” 

Pressler and the Atlas did indeed take Notre Dame’s Entenmann – the best goaltender in college lacrosse right now – with the fifth overall pick. And at that moment, Holman sent off one more text to his staff. 

“I said, ‘We’ve got Kavanagh there right? He’s our pick,’ “ he said. “We had talked about it tons of times. I got the thumbs up from Coach Mitchell and Coach Hartzell, and that was that.” 

Fans in Boston and South Bend alike cheered in unison as Pat Kavanagh officially became a Cannon.

“I texted Matt right after just saying how crazy this is, like, ‘Can you believe it?!’ ” Holman said.

As thrilled as he is for Pat and Matt and the whole Kavanagh family, Holman is even more excited for the organization as a whole. The younger Kavanagh is a three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist; Notre Dame’s record holder in points for a season, assists in a career, and assists in a season; and, most importantly, the star attackman on the Fighting Irish’s first NCAA championship team last spring. 

“We got one of the best players in college lacrosse history,” Holman said. “We’re really, really excited to bring a player of that caliber into the mix.” 

As the Cannons approach training camp, they have a good problem on their hands with a plethora of riches in all facets of their roster. But at the end of the day, no matter where Pat Kavanagh plays, Holman and his team can feel confident in knowing they just got that much better.