May 6, 2005
Opening statement …
“First of all I’d like to thank the University of Notre Dame and Father Malloy and (Father) Jenkins for creating this great opportunity for myself and obviously Kevin White and Missy Conboy and Tom Nevala for this opportunity to interview and also in my opinion to come to an opportunity that could be a potential college hockey power. That is my main motivation for wanting to come back to college hockey and I’ve always had it in my mind that it’s something that I’ve wanted to do but I was trying to be patient and wait for what I considered to be the right opportunity. It’s a great honor to be asked by the University of Notre Dame and it’ll be a tremendous challenge to try and put college hockey on the map at Notre Dame in a way it’s never been before.
“I also need to thank the New York Islanders for allowing me to get out of my contract and the graciousness and the respect that I have for Mike Milbury and his words in allowing me to move into this position as well as Steve Stirling, the head coach there.”
His expectations …
“I need to evaluate where we are and what we need to do. I sincerely believe that there’s a tradition here stemming back from the days of Coach (Lefty) Smith and Coach (Ric) Schafer and I think when the CCHA entered Notre Dame back into their league and Dave Poulin came here I think it took another step. I have tremendous respect for Dave and what he tried to accomplish here. I’m looking forward to trying to work with him to try and fulfill the potential for an upgrade to the Joyce Center and that’s something we’ll try to work together to make this program real special. It’s special now but I think it has the potential to be much more.”
On what makes this opportunity so special …
“This is the University of Notre Dame and that in itself makes it special. I think that the potential is going to be based on the quality of individuals that come to this school character wise and the type of players that we bring in here. But my immediate objective is to take the players that are here and accelerate the transition and convince the players that are here that they fit into the mission. That’s really what it’s all about. I need to create that vision to them first because they are the ones that are going to be the ambassadors to the future. They are going to be the alums. As players here they are going to be meeting with recruits and making sure their attitudes are proper to bring in the next generation. This generation really matters to me and I want to make sure the transition is easier so we can be where we want to be sooner than later. I don’t want it to take five to ten years.
“College hockey is changing, there’s no question. To me one of the attractions to the University of Notre Dame is that there appears to be a separation between the elites and the non-elites in college hockey and I feel Notre Dame has the opportunity to be an elite program.”
On his coaching style …
“My style has probably been adopted from several different people. I have a passion for the game. I got involved with my alma mater and Ron Mason years ago, working hockey schools. Being an alumnus he would recruit a number of my former players from junior hockey. Then I was up at Huron hockey school and Michigan State’s hockey school and that was surrounding myself by a lot of people back in those days. At Huron hockey school, we’d have Mike Keenan we’d have Barry Smith, Jacques Martin and these were all at the time coaches that were in junior hockey or university hockey. You were always surrounded by great hockey minds when you worked around the Ron Mason era.
“I really believe it’s all about work ethic and discipline. You have to get the players here who can play but then it’s all about work ethic and discipline. The old saying is `search for eagles and then teach them to fly in formation.’
“I’m a big believer that you have to have the right people in place before you can become a good coach. A coach can make the difference but it’s the players who make the difference between wins and losses. The coaches have to draw the guidelines and make sure everybody is towing the same line.
“Everybody talks about style. When I took over for Frank (Anzalone) all those years back people used to call us a clutch-and-grab defense. I kind of inherited that but I think there was a misconception that might have been something that was carried over from the early era of Laker hockey. We were always a top-five scoring team when I was there. We were always the top defensive team and we were always a top-five scoring team as well. I think that before I can tell you what style we’ll play, I need to really evaluate what kind of players we have here. I need to see what their strengths are before I can tell you we are going to ultra-aggressive or we are going to play a conservative style. I like the game to be up-tempo. I like the game to be played. That’s the one great thing about college hockey, you can be a great defensive team but you can still have tempo to your game. But I don’t know if we’ll be more transitional team or more of a fore-checking team. I have a lot of film to take back home and evaluate where we are.
“As far as rules go, I told the players today that their slates are clean. My big things are real simple, Lou Holtz style, be on time, be ready when you get there and do what’s right.”