Onto Plan G for UMass after Mark Carlson withdrew from the search for hockey head coach last night. Don’t worry though fans, Athletic Director John McCutcheon still says that no one has been formally offered the job. With each day that passes he begins to resemble Chip Diller from the final scene of Animal House. I’m not exactly sure why he continues to insist that no candidates have been offered when a multitude of media reports say otherwise. He should probably begin to change his tune or maybe not comment at all because UMass hockey fans, who already are calling for him to be replaced due to this poorly run coaching search, now feel that he’s openly lying to them.
Whatever McCutcheon’s motivation for pretending that his “process” is working, he now must turn to someone else and convince them of the positives of the UMass hockey program (and despite all that has gone on there are plenty of them) is worth coming to Amherst. Many think UMass will now focus on New Hampshire Associate Coach Scott Borek. Former UMass Assistant Coach Red Gendron is still a candidate and seems to be preferred among the players and a good amount of fans. There may be a dark horse out there that has yet to pop up on the radar, but assuming the job will ultimately come down to one of these two, I thought I’d take a closer look at both.
Borek has been an assistant coach at UNH for the past 10 years, being promoted to Associate Head Coach after his first year there. According to his UNH bio, he primarily is responsible for the offensive part of the game for the Wildcats. Borek has also been an assistant coach at Brown, Providence, and his alma mater, Dartmouth. He got into coaching due to an injury that ended his playing career after just two seasons for the Big Green.
Borek’s first head coaching job came at DIII Colby College in 1991. Borek spent three seasons at Colby, compiling a 33-35-5 record, being named a finalist for DIII Coach of the Year during one of his years there. From there he went west and spent one year as an assistant at Lake Superior State before taking over as Laker Head Coach when Jeff Jackson left. Borek took over a program that had made the NCAA tournament nine straight years, winning three national championships during that time. Borek would go 76-94-15 in five seasons there without a single NCAA appearance. In fact, the Lakers haven’t been to the tournament since the season before he took over. He would have two winning seasons in those five, going 19-14-5 in his first season and then 18-16-2 in his fourth season when he won CCHA coach of the year. Ironically he tried to take over for Toot Cahoon after that season, being one of the finalists for the Princeton position when Cahoon came to Amherst. Of course the position ultimately went to current UMass assistant Len Quesnelle.
Borek would be fired after five seasons at Lake State in which he never won a CCHA playoff game. He would go on to be the head coach at New England College for a season before heading to Durham. If Borek were to be hired, UMass fans would have to hope his time as head coach at Amherst would have drastically different results than his first foray at the Division I level. He is very well respected at UNH and around Hockey East, being instrumental in the recruiting of so many of the talented Wildcat players over the past decade. Unfortunately, most casual fans know him as the UNH coach who sent out emails to underage recruits, resulting in the program being placed on probation for two years. Personally, I’m not overly concerned about the incident which appeared to just be an honest mistake.
Red Gendron has extensive coaching experience at both the collegiate and pro level and of course spent six years next to Toot Cahoon on the UMass bench. He played hockey at New England College before going on to being a teacher and hockey, football, and baseball coach at a prep school in Vermont. He started his college career as an assistant coach in college at Maine for two seasons in the early 90s and was on the staff when the Black Bears won the National Championship in 1993. From there he moved onto the New Jersey Devils organization where he served as assistant coach, minor league head coach, and scout. He spent two years as an assistant with the Devils in New Jersey before spending four years as an assistant in the AHL with Albany. Gendron was then promoted to head coach of the Albany club, going 39-61-19 in one and a partial seasons. He was replaced midseason during his second year. He has three Stanley Cup rings as a result of his time with the Devils. From there he coached the USHL’s Indiana Ice before moving onto Amherst. Gendron took his current position at Yale prior to the start of last season. He has also been involved in coaching for USA Hockey.
Gendron was thought of very highly during his time in Amherst by players and fans alike. I personally always enjoyed interacting with him and thought he did a great job promoting the program through his work organizing events like the annual golf tournament. Recruiting-wise he’s been credited with bringing some very talented players in recent years to Amherst. The fact that he’s fluent in French and can even speak a little Russian is seen as an asset in recruiting. What Gendron has going against him is if McCutcheon is looking for a total break from the Cahoon era, it’s unlikely he’d turn to Red. Also, if Cahoon’s stepping down was due to differences between him and McCutcheon in terms of support within the department of hockey, Gendron would probably have the same concerns. Gendron has a big personality and it’s doubtful he’d remain quiet if he thought the program wasn’t getting the support it needs in order to compete in Hockey East. If McCutcheon is looking for a “yes man” who won’t complain as he diverts attention to other areas of the department, I don’t think Gendron is it.
That’s my profiles and thoughts of who I see as the leading candidates. But there could be others out there. Who knows, maybe McCutcheon will continue to interview another dozen or so candidates, drag the process ever onward, and the new coach can be announced during halftime of the first football game in September. At this point, I wouldn’t put it past him.
UMass isn’t the only Hockey East team having a bad week (although in UMass’ case it’s also been a bad month and season), Vermont lost one of their top recruits to the NHL.