The time has sadly come. After a 153-103 record, six NEC tournament titles, and 6 NCAA tournament appearances, Bryant University's Men's Lacrosse Head Coach, Mike Pressler, has announced his retirement. Pressler stated the following in a Bryant University news release.
"The last 16 years at Bryant University have been just incredible for myself and my family on multiple levels," Pressler said. "All the players, coaches and alum's in our lives over that period of time have made me a better man, but at 62 years old and for personal and family reasons the time has come to officially announce my retirement from Bryant University and college coaching. My wife and I are looking forward to the next chapter in our lives, wherever that journey takes us. My loyalty to the Bulldogs over these 16 glorious years has been beyond reproach. This decision is best for the team and program moving forward. I will forever be indebted to Athletic Director Bill Smith, our former President Ron Machtley and our current Chairman of the Board Dave Beirne back in the summer of '06, in our darkest hour, they gave myself and our family our lives back. I will forever bleed Black and Gold. Go Dawgs!"
Athletic Director, Bill Smith, mentioned that the news came from Pressler and was due to "personal family reasons". The story of Pressler is one that I believe will be made into a movie one day. It involves a loyalty in sports and chances.
It was the spring of 2006 at Duke. The lacrosse team hosted an off-campus party and hired two dancers. The night went on, but the aftermath was earth shattering. One of the women (falsely) accused three players of sexually assaulting her.
It led into a full on investigation, which forced Duke to cancel their season only eight games in. Pressler was painted as a scape goat. Pressler believed the players were innocent and had argued that the lacrosse season should not be canceled until the DNA test results were returned. The media and school disagreed. He was sadly let go after 16 seasons and a 153–82 record.
His firing was portrayed as a resignation, but that wasn't the case. A 3x ACC Champ, and 10x NCAA Tournament competitor, Pressler was named the ACC Coach of the Year three times. As news broke out about his firing, his home became a destination for news vans, vandals, and crowds of people. It became an unhealthy environment for his family.
Aiming for the next gig, he had no offers coming in. He even tried his alma matters, who all politely declined. It wasn't until August of that year, where Bryant Athletic Director Bill Smith called a friend from high school, Joe Alberici, the Army coach and a former Pressler assistant. He asked if he was worthy of the opportunity.
Airing with caution, and some university pushback, Bill Smith and then President, Ronald Machtley, interviewed Pressler. After conversations, it was a no-brainer in brining him on board. However at the time, Bryant was only a division II team. With options limited and the only school instilling trust into him, he had to make the move.
The rest is history.
On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges, declaring the three lacrosse players "innocent" and victims of a "tragic rush to accuse". Pressler settled with Duke for wrongful termination, and never looked back.
By the fall of 2008, Bryant was DI in the NEC, and the program received massive donations which helped build up the program from the ground up. New facilities came and so did the winning. From new locker rooms, the Bulldog Strength and Conditioning Center, Conaty Indoor Athletic Center and the David '85 and Terry Beirne Stadium Complex, the mutliple NEC titles followed suit. Many of times, Pressler was offered lucrative deals at big time programs. However, his loyalty to the Dawg Pound was unparalleled.
“Smithfield is home,” Pressler told the New York Times back in 2014. And he kept true to his word.
After 37 seasons as a collegiate lacrosse head coach, Pressler won 382 games, retiring eighth on the all-time wins list. In 2010, he even coached Team USA's National Lacrosse Team to a Gold Medal. The definition of success. Wishing Coach Pressler a fabulous and well deserved retirement and thank you for what you did in Smithfield! Enjoy retirement alongside your buddy, Coach K.