With Jack Parker’s announcement Monday that the 2012-13 season will be his 40th and final as the Boston University men’s hockey head coach, the search for his replacement has already begun.
BU Athletic Director Mike Lynch said he started contacting candidates last week, shortly after Parker made it official, but picking the coach’s successor is far from an easy task.
“You’re replacing a legend, so I think we have to do our due diligence,” Lynch said in his office Friday morning. “We have to at least review and try and get to our best possible candidate, no matter where that person is across the country. And that’s what we’re in the process of doing now.”
The process is no simple one, either. According to Lynch, a committee including himself, BU President Robert Brown, BU Provost Jean Morrison and a number of senior athletic department staffers will interview and ultimately select the next coach.
Parker will not be on the committee, but will be consulted during the process.
“We wanted to develop a process that is as fair as possible to the incoming coach, and to have the former coach involved in actually picking his successor is probably not something that would be a great idea,” Lynch said.
“We would be crazy not to utilize his knowledge of hockey and his understanding of Boston University during the process. But to have him directly involved in the decision-making process sets a bad precedent.”
Lynch was also adamant about leaving no stone unturned in finding the person best suited for the job. There are the guys on “the list probably in everybody’s head,” he said, but also some not-so-obvious contenders — including non-BU alumni — he did not name.
He also did not rule out current Hockey East coaches.
“We’re looking at everybody,” Lynch said.
The names most often tossed around as potential replacements include Colorado Avalanche assistant coach David Quinn, New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) head coach John Hynes.
Only one name is confirmed, however: BU associate head coach Mike Bavis.
Bavis said March 11 after Parker’s press conference he is very qualified for the job.
“Over the years I’ve had to handle the team on Coach’s behalf [while Parker was out for medical reasons],” Bavis said. “I feel pretty confident the players have responded to me. In some ways I think I’m a little more uniquely positioned to deal with this. As the last couple of years have shown, this is more than just a hockey job.”
Lynch said with Bavis, as will likely be with every person up for the job, there are pros and cons.
Bavis has been with the program for the last decade and a half, first as an assistant coach and for the last four seasons as Parker’s associate head coach. He knows the program “inside and out,” as Lynch put it, including both current athletes and those committed to arrive in the coming years.
But Bavis’ familiarity with BU men’s hockey could also be his pitfall: By being involved with the team for so long, some link him to the “culture of sexual entitlement” within the program Brown’s task force found last year.
Lynch was noncommittal in terms of how heavily last season’s off-ice troubles will be weighed.
“Clearly there were some things that occurred over the last couple years that have shown negatively on the team,” Lynch said. “We do have to take those things into consideration.
“I also think that there’s broad enough perspective here around the table [on the committee] with the people that are going to be involved in the decision making that that’s going to be taken into account.”
Besides the obvious — that Parker’s replacement has to be a good hockey coach that can win, and win a lot — Lynch pegged a number of other qualifications he’d like to see.
He said he wants someone “who understands our community and someone who understands how important it is for our hockey team to be visible and to be active in our community,” as well as someone who understands the “challenges” of the last few years.
Lynch also said he prefers someone with head coaching experience — something Bavis does not possess but the three previously mentioned potential candidates do — and someone who has worked with young men, be it in college or elsewhere.
Bavis fits the bill for that. Quinn is a former BU associate head coach and spent some time as a head coach in the AHL. Sullivan has never joined the college ranks, but is a former bench boss of the Providence and Boston Bruins. Hynes was the head coach of the U.S. National Development Program and spent a combined three seasons with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and the University of Wisconsin.
No matter who it is, Lynch wants to find his guy relatively quickly. He would not divulge a target date to end the coaching search, but he called mid-April “a marker on the road.”
The Frozen Four is April 11 and 13 in Pittsburgh.
“That’s certainly out there in my mind,” Lynch said, laughing.
Lynch is not looking to rush the process, however. Picking the program’s first new head coach in four decades, replacing the all-time single-school wins leader and finding the right person to usher BU hockey into a new era is a pivotal moment not just for BU athletics, but also for the university as a whole.
“It’s a much bigger job than just being a hockey coach,” Lynch said. “Especially here at a place like BU, where the program is so visible, where we’re coming out of a tough year off the ice, where we’re at a place that really values the academic experience of the student-athlete. Those are all things that will challenge the next head coach in different ways.
“The person we choose is somebody that can drive the program forward in the best possible way for BU … We’re also really working hard now to find the next great guy.”