Monday, April 25, 2011

Coaching Carousel: Good Luck, Gads

The coaching carousel in NCAA Division I hockey has been a veritable merry-go-round the last few weeks, especially where the ECAC is concerned. Clarkson recently released George Roll, while Nate Leaman shifted from Union to Providence, and was replaced on the Dutchmen bench by assistant and former Friar skater Rick Bennett. Speaking of Hockey East, UMass Lowell alum Norm Bazin is now in charge of his alma mater.

The nascent program at Penn State, though, which will (finally) start intercollegiate play in late 2012, made perhaps the biggest splash of all by hiring Princeton's Guy Gadowsky over the weekend to be its first-ever varsity head coach. Gadowsky led the Tigers to both ECAC and Ivy League titles and their first-ever back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths in his tenure, along with consistent Top-20 recognition, after inheriting a team that had won just five games the season prior to his arrival from Alaska Fairbanks. He also oversaw a similar reclamation effort during his time at UAF, and led the Nanooks to the brink of the big dance.

Having regularly covered Princeton from Gadowsky's second season on up until this past winter, I'll admit I have some mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I'm genuinely happy for him. He's paid his dues and brought the Tigers some success, and deserves to have an opportunity like this at a big-name, Big Ten school. I'm sure he's gotten a bump in pay and will have more resources to work with, including a new 6,000-seat arena. Plus, how many coaches could resist the lure of being able to start a Division I program from scratch? (Although according to Monday's press conference that officially introduced him at Penn State, he doesn't consider it to be starting from scratch.)

Selfishly, more than a small part of me wishes that he was staying at Princeton. I'm sure a lot of Tiger fans do, after what he was able to accomplish there the last seven seasons. He's always been a class act, and always been gracious with his time for post-game interviews. Heck, sometimes he'd even apologize to me if I was waiting to get a quote or two because he was busy talking to a recruit or something along those lines. Not that a D-I coach had to apologize to me, but that's the kind of person he is.

He really is a genuinely nice Guy, and having a common link to UAF was neat, even if our respective tenures in Fairbanks were about a decade apart. Most people probably wondered what we were talking about when we discussed the Governor's Cup, which took place more than 4,000 miles away from central New Jersey, but it was nice to have that kind of rapport with him. It will be weird next year to walk into Baker Rink and not see him standing on the Princeton bench anymore; but rationally, I realize he's doing what he has to do, and as I said before, he deserves this opportunity. I hope his successor at Old Nassau can do half as well.

Onward and upward, then. I wish him and the Nittany Lions much success, and hope that sometime over its first couple of seasons, Penn State can make the trek from Happy Valley to Baker Rink for a two-game set. Thanks, Gads, and good luck out there.

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