TOWSON, Md. --- For an old-school coach, there's a teachable moment in nearly every play.
For a guy who is quick to needle when the opportunity presents itself, there's a quip for nearly every situation.
And so Towson coach Tony Seaman saw both when freshman attackman Matt Hughes had a miscue Wednesday night.
"After I dropped a ball down there in the last few seconds, he said 'Let me give you a tip for the next few years,' kind of hinting that 'This could be it for me,'" Hughes said.
Seaman is not one for subtlety, and his situation remains baldly evident to all who follow college lacrosse.
He was told to reach the NCAA tournament this season at the risk of being handed a pink slip. His contract expires after this season, removing the element of owed money that has saved coaches in several sports over the last few seasons.
He's won 260 games in his career, the latest a 13-6 rout of Massachusetts in the CAA semifinals that pulled the Tigers (7-7) within a game of their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
There would be few victories as sweet as No. 261 should it come tomorrow afternoon when Delaware (9-6) visits Johnny Unitas Stadium at 2:30.
Win, and the wise-cracking coach and his fast-improving team stick around a while. Lose, and Towson comes up a game short of the postseason for the second straight year and a coaching career that includes 19 NCAA appearances --- including five at Towson --- hangs in the balance.
"The bad part is it's never the way I envisioned it," Seaman said in his office today. "I envisioned that someday I'd be able to walk away when I wanted to walk away and not worry about about somebody telling me it was time to walk away. I think that, more than anything else, affects me. But we'll see what happens. Saturday certainly lets us as coaches and as our team have our say in the matter, so that's good."
It's a far different tenor for the Tigers than when April began.
Towson trudged through a brutal early schedule, losing five of its first six to create a massive hole for itself. In retrospect, only a home loss to Bucknell is even somewhat questionable, but the very public nature of Seaman's status added scrutiny for the Tigers.
But then things changed. Towson upended Delaware thanks to a burst of patience in a methodical second half. It beat crosstown rival UMBC, then went up to then-No. 7 Massachusetts and pulled a 10-9 upset.
Victories against Drexel and Penn State followed, handing Towson the CAA regular-season title.
Even recent losses were encouraging in their own way. The Tigers trailed 8-0 at Hopkins (decidedly not encouraging), then outscored the Blue Jays in the second half of a 13-6 loss. Towson erased a four-goal deficit at Hofstra, only to stumble 12-10.
"We've had all close games with a great schedule," said Seaman, who was named the CAA's coach of the year. "Our guys hang in there. I think there's a real spirit with this team I really like a lot."
Help has come from an assortment of places. Defenseman Marc Ingerman consistently covers opponents' top attackman. Tim Stratton has just 15 goals, but his ability to draw away a top defender and turn games into five-on-five affairs is crucial for the Tigers.
Peter Mezzanotte is one of the best defensive midfielders in the country. Carl Iacona has scored in six straight games.
Seaman's situation, though, hovers over it all.
Players know it. They talk about it. And they understand there's just one thing they can do to silence it, even as they admire the way Seaman has handled it.
"I think he's got nothing to lose," Hughes said. "If he gets fired or retires sometime, he's coming to the end soon. So, he's got nothing to lose, and we can't do much about it unless we start winning."
This much was known a year ago, when the Tigers lost to Villanova in the CAA title game. Seaman's job security was rumored to be tenuous at the time, and the next day there was an staff meeting for Towson's athletic department.
"Forty kids were standing outside in the hallway waiting for the AD and took him down to the locker room and said 'We want this staff here. We don't want this staff to go. We want to play for these guys,'" Seaman said. "That was amazing for me. That's never happened anywhere I'd ever been. That was quite a statement.
"The message tomorrow night is if you guys really feel that way, then win. But Delaware feels that way, too."
Just another quip, but this one with a whole lot of truth. That's never a surprise with Seaman, who usually calls it as he sees it.
Moments later, it was back to work, preparing for what could be the final practice of his career. That thought coursed through Seaman's mind, but so did the possibility of spending another day with a team and staff he clearly enjoys.
Besides, one more session in such trying times creates more teachable moments and more opportunity for snarky remarks.
Both are Seaman staples, regardless of the circumstance. And both are things Towson should consider itself fortunate to have, whether or not the Tigers win tomorrow.