June 11, 2009

Reaction: Q&A with U.S. Head Coach Mike Pressler

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- Following a rigorous three-day tryout at Bryant University, 40 players have qualified for the 2010 U.S. men's training team. Among them, just 23 can join Team USA in its quest to regain the gold medal next year in the 2010 FIL World Championship.

The training team will compete in three exhibitions this fall before getting pared down to the final roster.

With the field down to 40, Team USA head coach Mike Pressler briefs us on the road to Manchester.

What do you think of the makeup of this U.S. training team?

I want to commend our selection committee on the professionalism and the insight. It was a very difficult task to get from 84 to 40, and I thought the professionalism led by Larry Quinn, I couldn't be more pleased speaking on behalf of the coaching staff with the 40 selected.

We've got a heck of a group in the 40 now, and that's our team going into the fall of '09.

You have all these stars, these pros. You say you've talked to Coach K (Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, a friend) about making them mesh. How would you like to approach that challenge?

Any good coach is a great listener. And I've listened to a lot of coaches who have been successful at the international level, including Coach Emmer (former Army and 2002 U.S. coach Jack Emmer) in 2002, and I was on that staff. We're going to make mistakes, but we don't want to make ones we've made in the past. We're thrilled to move forward into the fall of '09. We've got three exciting events for lacrosse fans.

Look at this. You had 84 battling for 40 spots. Now you've got 40 battling for 23 and making the team. If the intensity level and competitive spirit could be any higher, I think we'll see that in the fall of '09.

You talked with a lot of players on the side this week. Some made the team; some didn't. What's the gauge you're getting from them?

Quality. The quality of gentlemen -- the handshakes and the thank yous and the goodbyes, thanking our support staff -- that was our mission from day one. We were going to handle this in a professional way and a selfless way. Our 84 guys did that to a T, I thought.

This is my third USA tryout, and the level of play exceeded the other two. I think that had a lot to do with that we lost in '06. A lot of guys that played on the '06 team are highly motivated. They'd like to get back and avenge that disappointment from '06. A lot of good karma going on with the USA team right now.

What kinds of intangible elements about players came into consideration with selecting this training team?

I think it's tough to see that just in two and a half days, either way. But I think over three weekends in the fall of '09, those factors will come into play more than ever when we select 23 from 40. We'll be in planes, trains, automobiles, busses -- living with these guys over those three weekends. So we'll get a really good feel personally for what makes them tick, the character issues, work ethic, the leadership issues. Who are our leaders out here? We're going to find out all those qualities that make great players and great teams.

There are several former and current Duke players who advanced. Given all the history good and bad there, they talked about being extra motivated for the chance to play for you again. What would it be like to coach them again?

Let me first say about the Blue Devils that made it: they made it on their own merit. This was a selection process by 14 professionals here. Congratulations to them for being selected to the 40. But we're human. To have those six former and current Blue Devils on there, that's just an added carrot.

But if six made it, or one made it, or none made it, that was not my motivation going into it. We were going to select the best 40, and that's just an added sidebar.

Did you pick Zack Greer's brain a little bit about the Canadians during Bryant's season this year?

Zack and I over the last year have talked about a lot of things on those bus trips, all those away games this year. I think we got a good feel for the Canadians. Certainly you've got to count that Zack Greer is going to be in the mix there. He's a hellacious player.

It's funny. People say to me all the time, "Is Zack going to make your team?" I say, "Well, first of all, you've got to understand the citizenship. He's playing for the enemy." I get that question all the time. "Coach, is he playing for you again?" Not unless he gets a green card.

We're going to see Zack over in Manchester. We'll take care of business, as I know he will as well.

What do you think about the emphasis of roles here? Faceoffs were pinned for much of the blame in 2006. How much more specified were role players in making this 40?

I don't know who they're going to be -- we'll find out in the fall -- but we're going to have some role guys out there. [Team USA faceoff consultant] Paul Cantabene is regarded as one of the top faceoff guys ever, as a player and one of the top coaches. By bringing Paul on board to handle just that area is making a statement to the team and to the lacrosse community how serious we feel that one position is in particular.

There's no secret. In '06, we lost for a lot of reasons. But you've got to have the ball to win. By selecting Alex Smith and Chris Eck to that position, along with other complementary faceoff guys, under Paul's tutelage we will have taken care of that.

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