Providence, Leaman Reach Deal on Coaching Opening
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Providence has come to terms with Nate Leaman on its head coaching vacancy.
Leaman, the head coach at Union the past eight years, was recently named the Penrose Award winner as national coach of the year after leading the Dutchmen to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in its 20-year Division I history.
Union has a 2:30 p.m. (ET) news conference, where it is expected to address the news. Providence will not have a formal news conference introducing Leaman until after the American Hockey Coaches Association convention next week in Naples, Fla.
Leaman and David Quinn, current head coach of Lake Erie of the American Hockey League, were considered to be the leading candidates. Quinn, a former standout at Boston University, has also been a college assistant coach at BU, Nebraska-Omaha and Northeastern.
"Certainly David too was a spectacular candidate," Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll said. "He's been in the pro environment, and Nate has been in a more similar environment."
Union was 26-10-4 this past season, and won the ECAC regular-season championship. After losing in the league quarterfinals, Union dropped a 2-0 decision to Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA East Regional. Leaman was 138-127-35 in eight seasons at Union. He became just the second coach in ECAC history to win the award in consecutive seasons.
"If you could get it done in that environment, we felt with our resources, it was something he could definitely replicate here," Driscoll said.
Leaman replaces Tim Army, who was relieved of his duties following the conclusion of the season, after Providence failed to make the Hockey East playoffs for the third consecutive season.
A native of Kettering, Ohio, Leaman has been mentioned for other open positions the last couple years, including at Ohio State and Penn State. He was a captain at Division III Cortland State, before eventually getting a job on the Maine coaching staff. From there, he became an assistant at Harvard under Mark Mazzoleni before landing the Union job in 2003 when Kevin Sneddon left for Vermont.
"I believe Nate Leaman has all the qualities necessary to put Providence College hockey in a position to be one of the top teams in Hockey East," Driscoll said. "Having started my career at Union College, I have complete respect for what Nate was able to accomplish and build with the Dutchmen. Most importantly, Nate deserves full credit for everything he got done at Union, as he did it with a lot of hard work and perseverance."
Leaman had two more years left on his current Union contract, through 2012-13. Also, last September, he agreed to a five-year contract extension that was supposed to last through 2018.
Driscoll, interestingly, has Union ties. He was a 22-year old, working in Union's athletic department, when he replaced the legendary Ned Harkness as the team's head coach. Harkness, who won national championships at RPI and Cornell (2) before leaving for the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, returned to restart the Union program in the late 1970s. But after a couple of successful seasons, he ran into issues with the eligibility of his players, and resigned six games into the 1977-78 season. Driscoll was the only one in the athletic department with hockey experience, having played at Ithaca College, and rounded up a rag-tag team so the program could continue on. Union went 0-13 the rest of the season, and Driscoll then handed things off to Charlie Morrison, who eventually took Union to the Division III NCAA championship game in 1986.
Leaman originally denied he had any interest or contact with Providence, but later did acknowledge he was listening to what they had to say. Negotiations became more intense with Leaman this week.
Driscoll denied rumors that Providence passed up Quinn for monetary reasons or because Lake Erie is still in the AHL playoffs, which could've caused a delay.
"I don't think any of those things were an issue," Driscoll said. "David was right there. He's a superstar guy. It just comes down to the right fit."
This makes two head coaching openings in the ECAC, with Clarkson's recent firing of George Roll.