Heenan, Brown still interested in UAA hockey job

Doyle Woody

With UAA tapping the brakes on its search for a new hockey head coach, two of the four initial finalists say they remain interested in becoming the fifth man to direct the school's flagship program.

Former Seawolves assistant coach Chris Brown, currently head coach at Division III Augsburg College (Minn.), and Gary Heenan, head coach at Division III Utica College (N.Y.), both confirmed they still want to lead Division I UAA.

Meanwhile, a third finalist, former UAA assistant coach Damon Whitten, who holds the same position at Division I Michigan Tech, said he is concentrating his energies on his current gig.

The fourth finalist, Mike Corbett, associate head coach at Division I Air Force, did not immediately respond Saturday to email and a text seeking comment.

UAA on Thursday suspended its search to replace Dave Shyiak, who was fired March 29 after eight losing seasons. The school said it would restructure its search committee and review criteria for applicants.

The move came after both Seawolves hockey alumni and the wider hockey community weighed in with criticism of both the search process -- the initial committee was made up of four UAA employees, three of them coaches in sports other than hockey -- and athletic director Steve Cobb.

The move also came after the school had flown all four finalists to Anchorage -- separately -- for on-campus interviews and meetings with current players, alumni and the public.

Brown said he "absolutely'' remains a candidate for UAA's opening, one of just three such jobs still open among 59 Division I programs -- Maine and Connecticut are also searching for new head coaches.

"Obviously, the change in the process has changed the dynamic of the search,'' Brown said by cell phone. "But, like I said up there in my interviews, it's still the right fit and I feel good about the opportunity.''

Heenan texted that his hat remains in the ring: "I am still interested in the job.''

Whitten in an email said he is focused on Michigan Tech's continued rebuilding.

"MTU has made a big commitment to rebuilding the hockey program,'' Whitten wrote. "I am excited for our future and value the progress we have made. At this point I am focusing my efforts on the goals we have set for MTU hockey.''

Cobb on Saturday said it is his understanding that the four finalists remain finalists -- unless they remove themselves from consideration -- but that more finalists could be added.

UAA has not yet announced details of its revamped search committee, but Cobb said that information could be revealed as soon as Monday.

He also said the rewritten job criteria for the head coaching job has been completed and the position will be re-posted soon, likely for three weeks.

UAA initially posted the job opening for two weeks -- from March 29 to April 12 -- and announced its finalists on April 17. The finalists visited Anchorage between April 22 and May 1.

After Shyiak in 2011 guided the Seawolves to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five for just the second time in 20 seasons as a full league member, UAA slid backwards in two subsequent seasons.

The Seawolves finished last on the 12-team circuit the last two seasons and continued to suffer declining attendance. UAA's average attendance of 2,729 at Sullivan Arena this past season marked an 11.8-percent decline from the previous season and was the lowest since 1983-84, the first season the Seawolves played their home games at Sullivan.


Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.