Allain Introduced at Yale
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
NEW HAVEN, Conn. Keith Allain, a 1980 graduate of Yale, was named the school's first new head coach in almost 30 years today. He replaces Tim Taylor, who was forced out by the administration on March 28.
The move raised the ire of those in college hockey, and alums, and even prompted the American Hockey Coaches Association to take the rare step of releasing a public statement of support for Taylor.
It is under that atmosphere that Allain was hired, though, as one of Taylor's first goaltenders, he had the blessing of his old coach, which helped.
"It's great that the coaches association made a statement in support of Tim Taylor," Allain said. "It was a great move on their part. I met with the players and I told them that I'm thrilled I'm here, but none of us is pleased with the way the job became available. But I spoke with Tim and he was happy I was here."
Allain also was an assistant under Taylor in the '80s, and, like Taylor, wound up getting heavily involved in the U.S. national program. He was an assistant on two Olympic teams, and on the 1996 U.S. World Cup championship team. He was the head coach for the U.S. Junior National team at two World Junior championships, in 2001 and 2002. With that background, he is hoping to recruit more the national development program, Allain said at the news conference.
Allain has since been a goaltending coach for the Washington Capitals, and most recently for the St. Louis Blues. He was recently named an assistant for the U.S. team at the World Championships, which start May 1.
We talked to him Saturday afternoon.
Q: How uncomfortable was this situation considering how things came down with Tim?
Allain: It was uncomfortable for all of us, especially those who played and loved Timmy and know the commitment he had to the program. ... I was close with Timmy throughout the whole process and he encouraged me strongly to go after the job. His statement to me was, "Someone had to coach the team." And he really cares a lot for these players, and if it was anyone, he hoped it was me.
Q: It seems like you were comfortable expressing your disappointment to Yale, but that didn't, obviously, stop them from hiring you. Were you honest with them about your feelings on this?
Allain: I wouldn't do anything under false pretenses. ... I can't speak for the school, but I think they knew it was a situation they wanted get beyond.
Q: Was this something you always thought would happen one day, becoming the next head coach at Yale?
Allain: It was obviously something my wife and I had talked about over the last few years. You never really think it might happen, or whether the timing would be right. I could be caught in a situation like (former Yale defenseman Dave Baseggio) was (still coaching the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers). So the timing was absolutely perfect.
Q: I guess it works out that St. Louis isn't making the playoffs this year.
Allain: And there's the ownership issues, there's lots of things involved. We don't know, but there's a good chance there will be changes. There's lots of uncertainty.
Q: So are you done with the Blues? You're not going back for their last couple games?
Allain: I've got some work I have to finish up with the Blues. I might spend some time in Peoria (with the AHL affiliate), then I'm going to the World Championships on May 1. Then I'll be done with the Blues. ... I let (Yale) know early on in the process that I could accept the job, but I had some commitments I had to fulfill.
Q: I understand that you have asked (long-time assistant) C.J. Marottolo to return and he said yes. That's pretty good considering I'm sure he's disappointed not to have been considered for this opening.
Allain: I've known C.J. through Timmy the last couple of years. He has a great reputation and does a great job. Fo me coming back to college hockey after being away for so long, it helps.
Q: To what extent have you been able to keep up?
Allain: Obviously I follow the scores and see a handful of college games every year. I talked to Timmy and talked to recruits for Timmy over the last few years, so I have an idea. I'll rely heavily on C.J. and we'll hire another guy too. I'll do what I need to do to get up to speed. I was an assistant at Yale a few years back, so I know the process.
Q: How much does it help to be a grad, or at least an Ivy Leaguer, in this position?
Allain: I certainly think it helps. And it will help me sell the school, too, because I understand how great a place Yale is. Sometimes when you look from the outside you don't understand. And I know what guys are going through academically and I understand the admissions process. It seems like a cleaner procedure now actually.
Q: From your position in the NHL looking into college hockey, have you noticed more of a regard for college players in the NHL?
Allain: Certainly, there are more and more college hockey players in NHL. That's because college programs do such a good job developing players.
Q: The '80s were a high point for the ECAC, but it has made a comeback. Still, the big schools seem to get bigger and bigger. How far can Yale go?
Allain: If you win the ECACs, you're in the nationals and you're four wins from a national championship. Isn't that how it works? Obviously it's easier in April to be talking about that, but on any night you can win. Obviously it's harder for some schools than others. ... I'm hoping we can learn something from (Cornell and Harvard). We have a lot of similarities to them.
Q: You decided to still go to the World Championships?
Allain: I had a commitment. And also, (Wisconsin coach) Mike Eaves is going to be the head coach. It's a chance for me to spend three weeks with the guy who has been successful in college hockey. It will be time well spent for Yale.
Q: In talking to Dave Baseggio a couple of weeks ago, he seems on a path for an NHL job, but we also talked about the stability. Obviously there is more in college.
Allain: That's one of the things that makes it attractive for my family. You've seen Tim (Army) and Cro (Greg Cronin), they both left good jobs (in the AHL) to take good jobs (at Providence and Northeastern, respectively).
Q: St. Louis a great sports town. And of course the Frozen Four is there next year. Good timing.
Allain: I don't know if I dare to dream. That would be something. ... It's a great city and they really support the Blues.
Q: You'll ask Mike Richter to come back? [Richter, the former NHL goalie for the New York Rangers, helped last year as a volunteer assistant goalie coach while attending classes at Yale.] Do you need someone if you're already a goalie yourself?
Allain: I called him a couple hours ago and left a message. I've known Mike through the years. ... I'm comfortable with him. I would love to have him involved. He has experiences that I don't have. He'd add a lot to our staff.