Men’s hockey looking for a new coach

Sports Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Men’s hockey head coach Roger Grillo resigned from his position on July 1 to become the Regional Manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

The athletic department immediately began searching for Grillo’s replacement after he resigned. According to the Providence Journal, 44 individuals have applied for the position, including the women’s hockey head coach, Digit Murphy.

Murphy, however, is not a finalist for the position. According to the U.S. Hockey Report, the finalists are Dartmouth Assistant Coach Brendan Whittet ’94, Boston College Associate Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh, UMass-Amherst Assistant Red Gendron and Union College Associate Head Coach Rick Bennett.

In an e-mail to The Herald, Athletic Director Michael Goldberger said he hopes the new head coach will be chosen by July 25.

Whittet, a former Brown defenseman, won an Ivy League championship in 1992 and made it to the ECAC Final Four Championships in 1993 and 1994. He has been an assistant with the Big Green for 11 seasons.

Cavanaugh, who also spent two years as an assistant at Dartmouth, has been with the high-profile Eagles program for 14 seasons, during the last five of which he has been the associate head coach. During his time at BC, the team has won six Hockey East Championships and two national championships.

Gendron made a return to college hockey in 2005 when he took an assistant coaching job at UMass, after spending 11 of the previous 12 seasons as an assistant, scout and AHL head coach in the New Jersey Devils organization. The Devils hoisted the Stanley Cup three times while Gendron was on their staff.

Bennett, who was a Hobey Baker finalist at Providence College in 1990, went on to have a 10-year professional career before becoming an assistant at PC for five years. He left Providence to join the ECAC for the 2005-2006 season with Union College, where he has coached since.

Goldberger formed an 11-person committee comprised of faculty, administrators, coaches and players to find the next coach. Assistant captain Aaron Volpatti ’10 and Scott van der Linden ’10 — neither of whom could be reached for comment — joined Goldberger as members of the committee.

Grillo won’t be behind the Brown bench for the first time since 1997. In his 12 seasons at Brown, Grillo went 120-205-52.

“Initially, it was a shock,” said Jordan Pietrus ’10, whom Grillo named assistant captain for the upcoming season. “I don’t think anyone really expected it.”

“It’s disappointing,” said Mike Clemente ’12. “He’s a good coach and an awesome guy.”

He led the Bears to three straight winning seasons from 2003-2005. But his teams struggled in recent years, going 11-44-9 over the last two seasons.

Grillo’s assistant coaches, Mark Workman and Scott Stirling ’00, agreed that Grillo will be missed most for something far less tangible than wins and losses.

“He’s got a real strong passion for the game and for the team,” Workman said. “He deeply, deeply cares for all of the guys in that locker room.”

Grillo joins the ADM, which was created by USA Hockey, with support from the National Hockey League, in order to provide a structure in which teams throughout the country can develop young talent, using age-appropriate training techniques.

The coaching vacancy has left recruits wondering who will lead Brown’s locker room next year, but Workman and Stirling both said the coaching transition should not harm Brown’s recruiting.

“Coach Workman and I are still up there and we’re doing our thing,” Stirling said. “We’re talking to kids and showing the kids around the school and showing all of the great things that Brown has to offer.”

The incoming class of freshmen, recruited by Grillo’s staff, are all honoring their commitments to come to Brown. The recruiting class below them still has plenty of time to decide, as many of them will not commit until next spring. That doesn’t mean the athletic department is taking it slow, however.

“Things are going to start to heat up with hockey and recruiting and stuff like that come August,” Stirling said.

By then, Goldberger expects to already have the new coach.

Workman and Stirling don’t know what the future holds for them.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I mean I’ve talked to some other people about some other jobs and stuff like that, but nothing has really happened on that front,” Workman said.

Both he and Stirling said they would consider staying if asked.

“Certainly if given the opportunity to stay, I would like the chance to, you know, reapply or re-interview or stay on board, but that’s not up to me,” Stirling said.

The players will have to learn new drills and prove themselves to a new coach. But right now, they don’t know what lies ahead.

“There’s definitely some stress and anxiety involved because you don’t know what to expect,” Pietrus said.

“Everyone is going to be like freshmen again,” Workman said.