York On the Cusp of History
CHN Staff Report
After 923 wins, Jerry York shows no sign of slowing down.
And he won't slow down even after passing 924, which will make him the all-time winningest coach in college hockey history.
The 67-year old Boston College head coach is on the cusp of breaking the record. And in a delicious twist, he has a chance to do it this weekend against a heated rival — THE heated rival — with home-and-home nationally televised games against Boston University.
Certainly, he doesn't do it alone. He gets great players, who play. He has great assistants, who get the players and help him coach. But coaches are leaders who have to put it all together, and no one does it better than York.
"I was one of 10 children, so I learned very quickly what being a teammate was going to be," York once said to CHN. "I've learned an awful lot through my career. (Like) when you're recruiting a player, you better make sure he's going to be a good team guy."
York added, in an ESPN.com article: "It's not enough to have good players. You need good players that want to get better, and they want to get better with the team. Their ego has to stay at the door. ... Good players that aren't on the same page, and aren't seeking improvements, stay good players. We're looking for greatness out of our players. Daily improvement. ... The practice at 2:30 today is what drives me. Let's get better today."
The genius of York is his ability to preach that, and get players to buy in, by rarely raising his voice.
“He understands wins and losses; losses are going to come," BC forward Pat Mullane told the Boston Globe. “With his wins, he still has over 500 losses, so he understands that teams are going to lose. But when he gets upset is when you disrespect this program and this university."
There was a time when York and BU coach Jack Parker were neck-and-neck chasing history, particularly after Parker won his third national title in 2009. But that's when York picked up the pace, winning national titles in 2010 and 2012, and with a great chance to do it again this year.
The two, though with very different, distinct personalities, have managed to form a good friendship over the years.
“He’s a terrific coach, he’s had a great career, and somebody had to break that record," Parker told the Globe. "I hope he doesn’t do it against BU. But he’ll do it very soon."
The man he's trying to catch is Ron Mason, who first coached at Lake Superior State, then at Bowling Green before handing the reins there to ... Jerry York. Mason set the foundation at both schools, which went on to win national championships after he left, one of them by York in 1984. Mason then went to Michigan State, winning a title in 1986, then ultimately retiring in 2002.
Mason joked that he may have to place an encouraging call to Parker this weekend, just to keep the record a little longer.
"I left him too good of a team at Bowling Green," Mason said, chuckling. "But I'm happy for him, I really am. To hang in there and do what he's done, it will probably never happen again. That's what they said about me, but let's face it, Jerry's at the top of his game right now, and he can do it a lot longer."
York, a Boston College alum, started his coaching career at Clarkson, taking over for Len Ceglarski when Ceglarski went to Boston College. Ceglarski was taking over for Snooks Kelley, the man for whom Boston College's rink is named after. All three of the aforementioned BC coaches have over 500 wins.
It's interesting how all of these pieces weave together.
It was then off to Bowling Green to replace Mason, before returning to his alma mater in 1994, taking over a program that had hit rock bottom. He started to turn it around piece by piece, and within a couple years, the Eagles were on the path to perennial Frozen Four contender.
There are no platitudes for York that haven't already been written. He's a guy that manages to get great players, run a clean program, get the players to buy into the program, and do it all with an "gee gosh" personality that will never generate juicy quotes, but earns him the respect of everyone.
"Jerry's a heckuva coach, and honestly, he's a better person," Mason said. "He's a great guy for the sport. He's had such a run it's been amazing.
Through it all, York was only named national coach of the year once, in 1977.
"He deserves an awful lot of credit, yet it's amazing how little credit he gets," Parker told ESPN.com recently. "His team wins a championship, and somebody else gets coach of the year. I have no idea why. But I really, truly believe that people don't understand what a good job he's done, and I don't think he ever gets the credit he deserves."
Though usually not one to dwell on past accomplishments, York, nearing the record, said he's given more time to reflect — not so much on his wins, but the people.
“It’s something I never imagined when I started coaching, and it’s kind of caught me a little off-guard,” York told the Boston Herald. “Where have the years gone by? But it’s gotten me in a more reflective mode — all the great players I’ve had a chance to work with, and with all the assistant coaches, and what an honor it is to have coached with these kinds of people. That’s kind of my thought as I look back.”
York will certainly keep right on trucking after this record is broken. He has a contract that runs through 2015-16, and there's no telling how much he'll go beyond that. Something keeps him motivated to continue, and it isn't records.
York told CHN a couple of years ago that working with young players, and teaching, is what keeps him going, along with the energy that comes from surrounding yourself in a collegiate atmosphere.
"I think if you're going to play young players, you're going to have some mistakes made," York said. "But we want to be creative. You learn from your mistakes. Sometimes people say I wish I didn't do that. I think you're better off having mistakes then correcting [them] and moving forward."
That and his attitude, which has never wavered.
"But I think you get out of bed every morning and make a decision, are you going to be — which way are you going to look at the day — I always thought positive and attack the day and make the most of it. Some guys get out of bed and say, 'I'll be grumpy today,' but that's not a way to live, I don't think."
Said Mullane, “What he brings to the rink every day and to the community is far more important than his wins and losses. Whenever he retires, I think he’ll be remembered for his wins and accomplishments but more for who he was as a person and as a coach."