With second chance, Pressler has Bryant taking big first steps

LACROSSE INSIDER

March 15, 2009|By Mike Preston

University of Virginia coach Dom Starsia recruited Bryant coach Mike Pressler as a high school player, and the two have remained close. If Pressler stays at Bryant, the Bulldogs will become a factor in Division I lacrosse, Starsia said.

"I think Mike is having a blast right now, building from scratch and taking it to Division I," Starsia said. "If they can keep him, which means one of the traditional big boys doesn't lure him away, he will take that Bryant program very close to its potential. I think Mike is very motivated."

Sorry to let the rest of Division I in on a little secret, but Pressler isn't going anywhere soon. At the end of last season, he signed a four-year extension with Bryant, and Pressler says he will honor the commitment because of the commitment the university made to him nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

Before Bryant hired him, no colleges or high schools would touch Pressler. Despite being a highly successful coach at Duke for 16 seasons, Pressler couldn't escape the fallout from the rape investigation of three of his Blue Devils players.

The players were cleared of the false rape charges, and the university reached out-of-court settlements with Pressler. It has become clear that university officials panicked in canceling the season and forcing Pressler out in April 2006.

But that's behind Pressler now, even though he talks about it openly.

"If a recruit asks us about it, we'll talk about it. We don't run from it," said Pressler, in his third season at Bryant.

"Some of our competitors were telling some of our recruits that I might not be here when they get here, or before they leave. I have faults, but loyalty is not one of them. Our president and athletic director made a commitment to me at the darkest hour of my career. I have made that commitment back to them, and that's important for our parents and recruits to know."

So, after two years in Division II, Pressler has the Bulldogs in Division I and playing an ambitious schedule that included games at Mount St. Mary's last Sunday and Loyola on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will play Maryland tomorrow before heading back home to Smithfield, R.I.

Some of Pressler's friends gave the program a boost this season by putting Bryant on the schedule.

"Coach Pressler is a good guy and well respected," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "If the guy is in the area on spring break and you have an open date, why not play him? It's good for him, good for another Division I program and good for our sport."

When Pressler was hired at Duke in 1991, the Blue Devils were thinking about dropping the program. They had limited scholarships, had no full-time assistants and were the laughingstock of the Atlantic Coast Conference. By the time Pressler left, he had compiled a 153-82 record, won three ACC championships, played in 10 NCAA tournaments and appeared in the 2005 Division I championship game.

The Bulldogs have three good senior attackmen in Zack Greer (17 goals, 11 assists), Kevin Hoagland (12, 4) and Bryan Kaufmann (12, 4). Greer, a former Duke star, is the best finisher in the college game.

Pressler has a 29-10 record at Bryant and has won two Northeast-10 Conference titles. He has a new locker room, stadium and turf fields and uses them in trying to make recruiting inroads in Baltimore and nationally in places such as San Francisco and Dallas.

"I just told our guys that being at the top is terrific, but it's the journey in getting there that is great," Pressler said. "I'm still doing things the same way, not much different than I did at Duke."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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