The Rochester Knighthawks have announced the team has re-signed assistant coach Pat O’Toole for three more years. His new contract will take him through the 2018 National Lacrosse League season.
“It’s huge for me. We have had a pretty good run here,” he said. “It has been a lot of fun the last five years, winning three championships in a row and even last year making it to the division finals. To be asked back and be part of the group for another three years is really exciting and something I am looking forward to.”
O’Toole will enter his sixth season on the Rochester bench after helping the team reach the postseason for the fifth straight year. In 2015, the Knighthawks finished in second place in the East Division with a 12-6 record and advanced to the East Division Finals. More importantly, Rochester led the NLL with a league-low 173 goals against.
“It’s great having him work with the ‘D’ and the goalies,” said fellow assistant coach Paul Day, who coached O’Toole in Rochester from 1999-2005. “He is not far removed and can relate to the goalies. He has an old school approach to the game that is refreshing to work with.”
O’Toole is part of a talented group of coaches which includes assistants Jason Johnson, Andy Secore and Day. O’Toole is at the heart of that staff, which supports Head Coach Mike Hasen, and Owner and General Manager Curt Styres.
“The group of us are all like-minded and ‘Paddy’ brings passion (to the position), and keeps the guys on their toes and focused,” said Hasen. “He keeps the plan as simple as possible for everybody.”
O’Toole understands the importance of defense and goaltending to a team’s success, having backstopped two NLL teams to Champion’s Cups during his playing days. Known as one of the greatest goalies in team and league history, O’Toole spent 12 of his 16 seasons with the Knighthawks. He still ranks second all-time in NLL history in saves and was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame on December 7, 2013. He was also the first goalie enshrined into the Knighthawks Hall of Fame in 2013.
“He’s a Hall of Fame player and knows what needs to be done to win,” said Knighthawks defenseman Mike Kirk. “He’s won at every level and brings that experience and knowledge to our back door.”
After hanging up his goalie stick and pads following the 2010 season, O’Toole moved into the coaching ranks. His coaching experience has included stints in the Senior “A” circuit and at various youth levels, including the Junior Knighthawks. Recently, he was named an assistant coach for England Lacrosse as it prepares for the 2015 FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Moving from player to coach was a natural progression for O’Toole, and he has embraced his role off the turf.
“Being out of the game as a player for this long now, you adapt to the coaching role. I coach my son’s team in the summer in Canada so it’s box lacrosse year around,” he said. “I enjoyed my playing days very much, and I am proud of what I have done, but coaching is the next chapter of my career.”
Similar to his playing days, it’s with the Knighthawks where he has enjoyed the most success. O’Toole made the move into the team’s front office in time for the 2011 season. That year, Rochester finished 10-6 and returned to the Champion’s Cup Playoffs. The following season, the Knighthawks began the greatest three-year run in league history, capturing three straight Cups behind its tough, hard-nosed defense, and All-World goalie Matt Vinc.
Vinc remembers the first time he had a chance to work with one of his lacrosse idols after being acquired by the Knighthawks in a trade with Colorado in the fall of 2010.
“When I first came to Rochester I was a little nervous, especially when I grew up watching him play and respected his game. I actually modeled my stance and style after him,” said Vinc. “To be able to work with him over the past five years has been an unbelievable experience because you start to realize how similar you are to his thinking in the game of lacrosse. He knows what I prefer on defense and where I want shots coming from. It has been a huge positive for my game.”
It’s O’Toole’s approach to the game that players appreciate the most out of their assistant coach.
“I always laugh when Paddy says he isn’t a coach, but a ‘professional reminder.’ Being a former goalie he watched a lot of lacrosse from the best seat in the house in his amazing playing career, which has provided him with a ton of knowledge of the game,” said Knighthawks defenseman Scott Campbell. “He understands better than anyone what it takes to be a stingy defense and is constantly reminding us what that recipe for success is. He is a huge reason why we have been so successful the last few years.”
O’Toole deferred the credit when asked about the team’s recent string of success. Instead, he praised the organization for assembling a first-class coaching staff and a roster of top-notch players. That’s what keeps him coming back to the rink, and why he is looking forward to his 19th season with the Knighthawks.
“I am excited. It’s that time of year when the draft is coming and you start thinking about the Knighthawks in the summertime. It’s going to start being the focus,” said O’Toole. “We have some work to do. We have to figure out a way to get better and get back to the top.”