The new Amerks head coach was formally introduced during a press conference on Monday

Jun 11, 2024

1.pngBy Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48


For the first time since his announced hiring last week, newly appointed Rochester Americans head coach Michael Leone addressed the local media during an introductory press conference Monday morning via zoom. He was joined by Amerks general manager Jason Karmanos, who provided an overview of what he referred to as an “overwhelming process”, but one that was necessary in identifying the replacement for the recently promoted Seth Appert.


“I'm very thankful and grateful to be in the Buffalo Sabres’ organization,” said Leone during his opening remarks. “The feeling when Jason called; I don't think I'll ever forget that when he told me I'd be the next head coach (of the Americans).”


The process for hiring the 34th coach in franchise history was a massive undertaking for Karmanos, who stated that well over 100 candidates reached out. From there, the pool was narrowed down to interviews with 25, with five earning follow-ups, before finally landing on the 36-year-old Leone as his top choice.



“We're looking for somebody that had the ability to build relationships the same way we've been to continue building on the culture that's in place in Rochester,” said Karmanos. “We found who we think is the right guy.”


“I think the type of person he is, the communication skills that he possesses, how he builds relationships, talking to the people that he's crossed paths with over the years. In his playing career, he played for so many people that have risen to the National Hockey League. In talking to him, you hear a person that that listens very well and learns from the people that he's around.”


Leone played over 100 ECHL games across three seasons, along with a year overseas in his pro career. Before then, the Dearborn Heights, Michigan, native played three years at Western Michigan University and captured two Robertson Cups prior to his collegiate tenure when Leone played for the St. Louis Bandits in the NAHL. Throughout the course of his career, Leone played under the likes of Jon Cooper, Jeff Blashill, Andy Murray, and Derek Lalonde. That’s a quartet of coaches that at some point in their careers have been bench bosses of NHL teams.



Monday’s media availability offered a bevy of information when it comes to the hiring process for Leone and his philosophy on coaching, but one item served as a focal point throughout: the emphasis for trust, care, and communication. The desire for a good coach was a given, but wanting a good person was at the top of the list for Karmanos’ boxes to check off for hiring the next coach of the Amerks.


“I think it's really important now, especially with all the young players, to really care about the person first and the player second,” said Leone. “I think that's how I've started my coaching career. It's what I believe in and in getting the trust level to work with the player. I think it’s really important knowing the ‘why’ when you're developing an athlete.”


Rochester’s new bench boss is no stranger to development. Along with playing at the junior, collegiate, and professional levels, Leone has also coached in some capacity at each of those platforms. He got his start in the ECHL as an assistant, then spent a year as a volunteer assistant coach at Bowling Green University, before coaching the last five seasons in the USHL, including time with the U.S. National program.



Leone shares several similarities with now former head coach Seth Appert. A background in developing players, coaching the U.S. national program, and even excellent hair. That could be why both he and Karmanos talked about building upon what the Amerks have done the last few years, rather than view this as a start from scratch. Communication and relationships were a core part of the Amerks culture during the Appert era, and it doesn’t appear that’s changing anytime soon.


“It's about developing the relationship with the player first,” said Leone. “Really getting to know them and caring about them, whether it's asking them about their family or personal life. It’s good to just talk and get away from hockey to get the trust. I think it's really important for the modern-day athlete to have that. That’s always been my approach, whether I was at the national program or even before that. And we kind of instilled that with our staff in Green Bay that it was going to be a relationship-based approach to our development model. We had success doing that and I look forward to continuing that in Rochester.”


The NHL coaches Leone played for are the same people he uses as models for his approach.



“I've probably been the luckiest guy in hockey to play for the people that I've played for. They’re my mentors. They're people I lean on. Jon Cooper, for example, his relationships with his players, how he approaches hard conversations by coming into the room and just caring about you as a person. It went a long way. My core values are very aligned with the coaches that I got to play for.”


Leone is officially an Amerk. One of the youngest coaches in the AHL will spearhead the second-oldest franchise in league history. As Rochester enters its 69th season, Leone will look to continue building on the foundation instilled over the last several seasons, while subsequently aiming to reach new heights.


The Amerks will continue developing future stars of the Buffalo Sabres. The team will continue to instill a culture that breeds success, and if the stars align for Leone, Rochester can continue, and hopefully, finish its pursuit of a Calder Cup for the first time in nearly three decades.

Back to All