first_img Related Stories Getting to know BryantSyracuse preps for Bryant’s Massa at X, attack-minded Poli Published on May 10, 2013 at 7:01 am Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse Decide what’s relevant, and what’s irrelevant — that’s the task Mike Pressler has asked his team to do throughout its improbable path to the NCAA tournament.That’s the mantra Pressler used to push Bryant from an 0-7 start to becoming the first team in school history to compete in a Division-I NCAA tournament game.But at one time, Pressler was limping a path of his own, starting seven years ago, 570 miles southwest where he was fired as the head coach at Duke.On Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Bryant (8-10, 4-1 Northeast Conference) meets Syracuse (13-3, 5-1 Big East) in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Carrier Dome. The odds are heavily stacked against the Bulldogs, but Pressler is no stranger to such adversity. After being fired as Duke’s head coach after three of his players were wrongfully charged with rape in 2006, Bryant gave him an offer, Pressler took the job and he hasn’t looked back since.“I was looking for a job and at that time couldn’t even find a high school one,” Pressler said. “For my family and me we had to get out of North Carolina, and this opportunity came pretty quickly.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThree false accusations were all it took to turn Pressler’s world upside down. The events of March 16, 2006, may never be clear, but Crystal Gail Mangum’s account will never be forgotten.Then a 27-year old stripper and escort of Allure Escort Service, Mangum was taken to the hospital after working at a Duke lacrosse party. Alcohol and narcotics were found in her system and she accused three members of the team of raping her thereafter.Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were arrested and indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, first-degree sexual offense and kidnapping on April 18, 2006. Twenty-seven days later, Duke graduate David Evans was arrested and indicted on the same charges.The University responded quickly by canceling the remainder of the 2006 season and forcing Pressler to resign. He and his family received hate calls and e-mails, and had their property vandalized repeatedly.Pressler had no choice but to vacate Durham, N.C., and the program he had built in 16 illustrious seasons.“As we all went through that horrible time what stuck out to me was that Pressler is probably one of the most loyal people you could ever be associated with,” said Chris Loftus, father of Chris and Dan, who both played for Duke in 2006. “He stuck by everyone, no matter what, even when few people were sticking by him.”Loftus said that the entire Duke lacrosse community was sure that Pressler would pick up the pieces and succeed at his next job.“We had no doubt that he would persevere,” Loftus said. “When he left things were messy but Bryant gave him a shot and that was smart of them.”On April 11, 2007, the charges against Finnerty, Seligmann, and Evans were dropped and the accusations against them deemed false. But Pressler had already started anew.He moved his family to Smithfield, R.I., and took the helm at Bryant, then a Division-II program. There had been talks of a move to Division I, but he accepted the job knowing that he’d likely coach lower-level lacrosse for the foreseeable future.On October 18, 2007, however, Bryant officially accepted an invitation to become a Division-I program in the Northeast Conference. The 2007-08 season would be its exploratory year and the program would officially reclassify as a D-I competitor for the 2008-09 season.“When I was first came to Bryant I was content coaching a D-II program,” Pressler said. “Once we became D-I I was very excited to build the program from there.”Bryant is nearly 600 miles from Duke, and for Pressler, it certainly felt like it at first. The smaller, private institution’s enrollment of fewer than 4,000 was just more than a quarter of that at Duke. Bryant didn’t have the academic support or the facilities of an established Division-I program, providing obstacles for him in recruiting.Pressler looked past these challenges and focused on the field. In his first two seasons he molded the Bulldogs into a Division-II powerhouse, then challenged his team in 2009 by scheduling games against the likes of Maryland, Virginia, Army, Brown, and Penn. The team’s 10-5 finish put Bryant in the national spotlight at season’s end.“Coach Pressler was a huge reason why I chose Bryant while I was being recruited,” current senior captain Ben Sternberg said. “He’s an amazing individual, and it’s great to be led by him every day in practice, and in games.”This season, Pressler helped Bryant reach new heights just in time, Sternberg said. After going winless in their first seven games, the Bulldogs heated up in conference play to earn a spot in the NEC tournament. A 14-7 thrashing of Robert Morris in the championship game on Saturday vaulted the program to its first NCAA tournament and a first-round matchup with Syracuse.“It’s not going to be easy,” Pressler said. “We’ve been playing Division-I lacrosse for five years, Syracuse has been playing it for 80. To have this daunting opportunity is exciting.”For Bryant, what’s relevant is that the Bulldogs have made it this far. What’s irrelevant is that beating the top-seeded Orange is a seemingly insurmountable task.But if anyone knows about letting things play out, it’s Pressler.“When we first became a D-I program the goal was to play in an NCAA tournament, and achieving that has been humbling,” Pressler said. “Now we’re here, so let’s see what we can do.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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