Sunday, July 20, 2008
The search is on
John Tortorella. Joel Quenneville.
It may be late July, but it’s not like there aren’t plenty of excellent head coaching candidates available.
Bob Hartley. Paul Maurice. Gerard Gallant.
Some have a connection to Garth Snow, most don’t.
Marc Crawford. Greg Gilbert.
There are candidates with Cups as coaches, one with Cups as an Islanders player.
Scott Gordon. Mike Sullivan.
And then there are the candidates who haven’t been rumored yet. Of course, as usual Greg Logan is all over it.
All of the above have or will be invited to Long Island for interviews to become the next head coach of the Islanders. While some details still need to be worked out, it looks like most, if not all of them are coming in – and there could still be one or two more.
These would be my requirements:
A teacher. (They will all say they teach. Some of them will be full of it).
A man who is eminently trustworthy and a team player.
A coach who just wants to coach.
Someone who won’t be thinking about where his next NHL job is going to be. Someone who won’t view the Islanders as if they’re a mid-major like Vanderbilt on the way to Tennessee.
A strong communicator with the fans via the press – accommodating, accessible and articulate without being a phoney media kiss-ass.
A man who will commit to Long Island – not just mouth BS about how much he loves it here.
(RANT ALERT: I mean, really, what’s not to love and why wouldn’t they love it? These guys usually have cash, the security of a contract, a beautiful home and a long summer vacation to hang at the beach, fish or golf at Bethpage and Shinnecock. I get ill when fans go ga-ga when an Islanders player or coach says they love Long Island. We all love Long Island. Imagine how much more you and I would love it if we made the average NHL salary and had the summer off).
You have to dial up John Tortorella. He may be the best head coach available. My hunch, however, is that Tortorella knows his next move is a big one. He has the luxury of taking his time. Like Pat Riley and Bill Parcells, Tortorella will likely wait for the right job for him, and I would be surprised if it’s the Islanders of 2008-09. If I’m wrong, would it be a blast and make the Islanders that much more entertaining and intriguing? Oh yeah.
Although the Islanders have changed coaches a few times this decade, this will be their first thorough coaching search since the summer of 2001. One morning seven years ago I was surfing the net and reading about the Bruins leaving their assistant coach Peter Laviolette at the altar, instead hiring Robbie Ftorek. I look up from my laptop and there’s Mike Milbury in my office with a well-dressed young man. “Chris, have you met Peter Laviolette”? I knew then that Pete would beat out the finalists at that time, Bryan Murray and Ted Nolan.
This search will be fascinating, shaking up what’s usually a quiet time around the league. Not only is the list of candidates impressive and filled with plenty of big names, but it could be revealing for another reason.
You could have up to a dozen men interviewing for the Islanders head coach position. With the exception of Gerard Gallant, all of them are outsiders. This means a lot of people may learn about Garth’s management style and the inner workings of the Islanders front office. This means – in this rumor and innuendo-filled business, more catty than the cattiest of workplaces, where stories end up in newspapers and on the web – you’ll probably hear a lot in the aftermath from the guys who didn’t get the job. Off-the-record and spineless, of course.
There will be plenty of notes in Sunday columns like this: “One of the candidates who didn’t get the Islanders job says…”
Naturally, a lot of it will be horse-hockey. But it is something Garth and the Islanders should keep in mind. Until you get to 2 or 3 finalists, I would keep it close to the vest. Everything said in that room in the next two weeks has the potential to get out.
In my view, the leader by a nose before the process begins is Bob Hartley. He has a solid relationship with Garth Snow. More importantly, I’ve heard from several fairly-impeccable sources that he really wants the job, likes what the Islanders are doing and is 100% committed to signing up for the program.
In my view, the man best suited for the opportunity is Paul Maurice. I’m aware Maurice may not be the most exhilarating choice, but the Islanders do not need exhilarating. They've done that. They do not need a big name or a showman. They just need the best coach for them.
Maurice may not have the best track record of the candidates, but I believe he brings the best of everything this challenge requires (see above). Coaches tend to not last long, but you have to go into the process looking for your Ruff or Trotz. And of all the candidates, Maurice is the one I can see thriving on Long Island for ten years, working well with Garth - and Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and the rest - for ten years.
This endorsement was NOT paid for by the People for Paul Maurice. I don’t even know any of Paul's people.
Who is doing the hiring? Garth Snow.
Will Charles Wang meet the 2 or 3 finalists? You bet your ass.
And if I were the sole owner of a hockey team – whether it was a cash cow or bleeding between 20 and 30 mill a year while politicians act like politicians – know this.
I would want to meet the top candidates, too.
Keeping my pledge to those so kind to ask that I pop in from time to time, I will unload my thoughts once or week or so until (hopefully) I know what I’m doing in September. When I initially decided to end this on July 7, I thought it would be a quiet time. Silly me.