Search widens for a new UAA hockey coach

Doyle Woody

Praises were sung, passions were declared, strong opinions were delivered, grievances were aired and several folks professed they metaphorically bled Seawolves green and gold.

Open mic night at Monday's public meeting of UAA's supplemental search committee for a new hockey head coach produced nine members of the community -- nearly all of them strong supporters for decades -- who said their piece.

Former UAA administrator Lee Piccard, a member of the athletic department's first Seawolf Hall of Fame Class (2001), said the new coach must have at least three of four qualities to succeed -- strong recruiting, the ability to teach hockey and life lessons, motivational attributes of the highest order, and the ability to manage an organization on the ice and off.

If the next coach doesn't have three or all four of those qualities, Piccard said, the 34-year hockey program that has endured 20 straight losing seasons is doomed.

Supporters Don Brugman and Roger Jenkins separately said they believed the initial search committee, which chose four finalists to replace the fired Dave Shyiak, got it right. Both men said they were very impressed with Air Force associate head coach Mike Corbett, who remains in the running to be the fifth bench boss in school history.

Chris Canterbury said he doesn't know Utica College (N.Y.) head coach Gary Heenan, a finalist. But Canterbury attended that school and said his relatives in that area who are not hardcore hockey fans have nonetheless "been singing (Heenan's) praises for years.''

Stan Hill, the father of former UAA captain and head coach John Hill, an applicant who did not make the initial field of finalists, said the first search committee -- that group consisted of three UAA coaches and a faculty athletic representative -- was flawed from the start.

Hill, who noted he was obviously biased, also said he had no confidence in a process that will end with athletic director Steve Cobb receiving a recommendation from the two search committees and getting the final say.

The supplemental search committee is charged with reviewing the 12 candidates who Bill Spindle, UAA's vice chancellor for administrative services, said applied during a recent, second opening of the job. The committee, which includes UAA hockey founder Brush Christiansen and three former players, also will review the initial two dozen or so applicants and select additional finalists. The initial committee and supplemental committee search will then combine forces and forward a recommendation to Cobb.

"We're here to listen to you about what the next coach needs, particularly in interaction in the community,'' said committee chair John Stalvey, dean of UAA's College of Arts and Sciences.

Chuck Homan, a UAA hockey supporter since the puck first dropped for that program and father of two sons who played for the Seawolves, said passion is paramount for the next coach.

"What we really need is a coach who really has a lot of fire in the belly,'' Homan said.

Carlos Gomez said he didn't know Cobb and wasn't there to bash him, but wondered why it took UAA so long to seek a new head coach.

"It shouldn't take eight years to realize this program needed a change,'' Gomez said.

The supplemental committee is likely to announce more finalists before month's end. Finalists will visit town for interviews and public forums.

UAA hopes to have a coach hired by June 15.


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