Ex-PC Coach Reflects on Past and Present
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Just blame Mark Dennehy and Nate Leaman for doing such a good job.
Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll pointed to those two, and the jobs they've done at Merrimack and Union, respectively, as part of the reason for the firing of the Friars' own coach, Tim Army.
"I thought we needed a change in leadership," Driscoll said. "Just look at Merrimack. They have a lot less in tradition, resources and facilities. And Union. There's no reason we can't do that. We have to have the right leadership."
With Providence on the verge of hiring a new coach, and with Leaman being in the mix, both Driscoll and Army spoke about the change and the six years of Army's tenure.
"It's really hard. He's one of the greatest (Providence) players of all time and sometimes it just dosen't work out," Driscoll said of Army. "I'm very saddened by it, but it's the business we work in."
Army was disappointed with the move, but understanding of it, and not bitter.
"I think they're going to be a good team," Army said. "I felt we played really well this year. Our record doesn't indicate it necessarily. I felt we did a lot of good things. I felt it was going to translate to wins. I still believe it will next year. The state of the program is good."
Army, at times, still spoke of the team in terms of "we."
"We've got a really good nucleus returning," he said. "A good incoming class. There's a couple guys that need to find their game again. (Goalie) Alex (Beaudry) was good but not as consistent as the year before. If (Matt) Berglund can rediscover the way he played as a sophomore and Alex can duplicate what he did, with that and the incoming class, I think they'll be a real good team.
"Obviously I want them to win — No. 1 because my handprints are all over it. And my son is playing there, and I am an alum. I'd like to be coaching them, but this is part of the coaching world and sports in general."
Providence went 8-18-8 this past season, failing to make the Hockey East playoffs. The Friars were 66-116-28 in six years under Army.
"I really expected us to break through in 08-09," Army said, referring to a season that went from 14 wins the year before to 7. "I never expected what happened to us to happen. We had a really good class, good players returning, and we ran into goaltending problems that year."
Ryan Simpson got hurt just before the season, leaving the Friars thin.
"Alex came in at Christmas time and we had a bit of a spurt, got ourselves back into the race," Army said. "The team got tired. The last class we inherited (were seniors). We had Matt Taormina, but the other seniors, I don't think created the locker room atmosphere that was necessary.
"So going into 09-10 — the game plan the first three years was aggressive forecheck, pinching our 'D' — but after '09 I felt we really needed to get our defensive house in order. ... We were second in the league in penalty killing and we rediscovered some sort of defensive identity. That was the goal that season, we just didn't score enough. This season was a better team, we had a good start, and through Christmas played really well. We played 10 overtime games. We lost three one-goal games to BU."
Army admitted to needing time to adjust to the differences in the college game when he first got there, not so much in terms of tactics, but in recruiting.
"From 1993 to 2002, there was a huge change just in the approach, the systems," Army said. "The Xs and Os were more refined or defined. But that's an evolution of the game. ... To me, it was (moreso) the recruiting piece of it. We'd lost some battles for some players. We targeted some guys and didn't get them. I said we have to find a different niche. We brought in younger players; we thought we could get them under the radar a bit and give them a chance to develop.
"I went right out of public high school to Providence. I didn't shave yet. (But) maybe we had too many of them at the same time, and the physical part of it, it was difficult. A lot of freshmen now are 20 and 21. We had a little bit of a void there. We were too young for a couple years."
Army said his team never learned to win.
"You gotta know what it feels like, what it tastes like," he said. "In close games, you have to feel like you're going to win. It did affect our psyche. We were up 3-2 at UMass, and they tied it with 32 seconds left. We should've won the game and close those 32 seconds out. If we do, we make the playoffs. That breeds winning and a confidence factor."
Army knew, however, that the pressure was on — from all corners — to make a change.
"People want to win, but it's not their livelihood. No one wants to win more than I do. No one feels it more than I do. I respect what people have to say, but a lot of thsoe people never stood behind the bench or organized a practice. I don't know if they can even skate. But I didn't let that affect me. I wanted to win.
"Am I bitter? No. I understand the business. It's not the first time for me. It happened when I was working for Ron (Wilson) in Anaheim, and it happened in Washington. It's part of the sports landscape.
"I think the world of Bob (Driscoll). I will do anything to help the program. I want them to win."
Army said he would take some time to evaluate things, but expects to coach again somewhere.
"I think I improved over the six years," he said. "I think I'm a better coach than I was.
"In college sports, there's a lot more people that are involved. There's an AD, but he's got a senior staff, the president, faculty, season-ticket holders, alumni. When I watch a game, I never at any sport, criticize a coach because there's so much you don't know. When I watch the Steelers, I don't say, 'Why didn't they run this play?' I wouldn't go there. So much goes into a play that I don't even know about.
"Maybe a new coach will give them a different perspective, re-energize them. I told Bob I'll help in any way I can."
Army said he believes Providence can be a winning program again; the resources are there.
"I wouldn't have gone back there if I didn't think so," Army said. "I wouldn't have stayed with it. I know they can do it.
"I believe in Bob, I believe in the school. I believe in the commitment to the hockey program. It's definitely there. There's a lot of very good alums who want the program to succeed, and good people that are part of the program. They have to start to believing in themselves a little bit.
"I would love to be able to coach the team another year or two. I think we're moving in a good direction."