KNIGHTHAWKS RE-SIGN MIKE ACCURSISep 5, 2018
(September 5, 2018)… After reaching the National Lacrosse League Finals for the first time in four seasons, assistant coach Mike Accursi has been rewarded with a new two-year deal.
“I am excited to be back for the next couple of years and continue to work with this young group,” he said. “We are going to try to improve, get better and get back to the championship once again.”
In an offseason where Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres made several moves on the player and coaching side, promoting Accursi to assistant coach last July was his most significant.
“There is something to be said about how to teach and how to coach the younger players coming in,” said Styres. “With Mike coming from a teaching background, he knows how to get the guys to learn what he is teaching them. His mindset will continue to push us toward success.”
During the 2017-18 season, Accursi relied on a 17-year playing career and his extensive teaching experience to make a smooth transition to the Rochester bench. In just his first season on an NLL bench, the teacher from Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School was able to get the most out of his offense, which included three players with six or more years of experience, one fourth-year pro, and six players in their third year or less.
“Everybody learns a little bit different, and everybody has different ideas,” said Accursi. “I took into consideration what the veterans have done and what they had under (previous assistant coach) Paul Day, and put my own twist on things.”
“You have veteran guys who have a lot of experience and knowledge to give,” he added. “I definitely used them to my advantage. I would bounce things off them and make adjustments on what I thought and what they thought. The young guys were open to suggestions and (constructive) criticism and improving themselves as players. I was happy to provide them with all the experience and resources that I have to make them better players.”
The St. Catharines, Ontario product joined the professional coaching ranks after winning four Cups with Rochester. Known as “No Mercy,” he played seven seasons with the Knighthawks, where he was a three-time team alternate captain. As a player, he was a major reason the franchise won championships in 2007, 2012 and 2013. In 2014, as a lacrosse operations assistant, he worked behind the scenes to help the Knighthawks complete the first three-peat in league history.
“When he played the game, he thought the game really well and competed extremely hard,” said Knighthawks VP of Player Personnel Jody Gage. “He’s brought all those assets into the coaching mix. He has been in our organization, so he knew our systems. But I thought he brought a lot of new systems to the table, and he was able to get the younger and older players to believe in that system.”
“It’s great having Mike back,” added Gage. “Using his education background, he did an excellent job of teaching our players. There is an art to it, and Mike did a terrific job for us.”
The Knighthawks surprised the league this past season by advancing to the NLL Finals with 15 players who were appearing in their first league championship. Accursi was instrumental in getting first-round picks Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell to finish among the top point producers on the team. Shanks finished second in points among rookies (52) and fourth on the Knighthawks in that category. Fannell was third in points among rookies with 37, which was sixth on the team. Both players were named to the NLL All-Rookie Team, along with defenseman Jake Withers.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better offensive mentor as a coach than Mike Accursi,” said Shanks. “From the first day I stepped on the floor, he showed me that he had trust in me and allowed me to have a super smooth transition as a first-year player. He was constantly reminding us to believe in ourselves as a group, and you could feel that he really did believe in us. I’m pumped that he will be back on our bench because he played a crucial role in our success last season.”
On offense, it was Accursi and fellow assistant coach Marshall Abrams who mentored the young forwards. The results were impressive as Rochester improved by 61 goals to finish third in the league with 236. The Knighthawks’ power play went from ninth to second, as this year’s team scored 40 times and converted over 59 percent of their chances.
“We worked well together and had a good rapport,” said Accursi about his relationship with the offensive players. “We had a real special group. It’s something we are going to continue to build on this year. We came up short in the end but we met a lot of the goals we set for ourselves as an offensive group, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Accursi and the Knighthawks enter the 2018-19 season a more seasoned and battle-tested group, which could make the difference come playoff time.
“It’s a really important experience to have, battling through playoffs and a tough three-game stretch with Saskatchewan,” said Accursi. “Those are lessons learned that are hard to come by; some guys never get to experience those lessons. The fact that those young guys had that experience this year is huge. It is only going to make them better players and better prepare them to deal with situations in big games."