Quinn's Dream Job
New BU Coach Takes Over at Alma Mater
by Scott McLaughlin/Senior Writer
BOSTON On Feb. 17, the Nashville Predators arrived in Denver for a game against the Colorado Avalanche the next afternoon. Nashville forward Colin Wilson called up Colorado assistant coach David Quinn to see if he wanted to get together for dinner. The two had won a national championship together at Boston University in 2009, during Quinn's last season as an assistant there. But Quinn had to respectfully decline, because getting dinner with an opponent is frowned upon in the NHL.
Two nights later the St. Louis Blues arrived in Denver, and with them came another member of that 2009 team — defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. He reached out to Quinn as well. Although the two texted back and forth, Quinn once again had to turn down dinner. A few days after that, the Avalanche traveled to Anaheim, where Quinn encountered yet another former Terrier — Ducks forward Nick Bonino.
That week confirmed something Quinn had already been thinking. He missed the college game.
"I was talking with (Avalanche head coach) Joe Sacco after that, and we talked about how unique the college experience is, when you build those relationships," Quinn said. "It struck me that it's something you don't get at the pro level. ... It really reminded me of what college hockey is all about, and I missed it."
Fortunately for Quinn, his dream job opened up two weeks later, on March 11, when Jack Parker announced his retirement after 40 years as BU's head coach. Athletic director Mike Lynch called Quinn the next day to gauge his interest, and from there everything progressed quickly.
Lynch and university president Robert Brown talked to other candidates, including current assistant coach Mike Bavis, but they ultimately decided that Quinn was their guy. On Tuesday, just three days after the Terriers' season came to an end, they introduced Quinn as the program's 11th head coach.
"David Quinn is the ideal candidate for this job," Lynch said. "His resume is filled with great experiences at every level, and he is a proven head coach and a consummate professional. He is also a BU man, an important consideration as we deliberated. Jack Parker is in many ways irreplaceable, but I'm absolutely convinced that the future of BU hockey is in great hands."
Quinn left BU for the pro ranks in 2009 because he said he felt like it was the right move for his career at the time, but he acknowledged that a return to college hockey, and specifically a return to BU, was always in the back of his mind. He said he always knew he'd be excited about the possibility of replacing Parker should the opportunity present itself, but that he actually underestimated just how excited he'd be.
"I was not going to come back to college hockey for just any job. We all know that this isn't just any job, and it certainly isn't any job to me," Quinn said. "I can't explain to you how excited I am, how happy I am, how proud I am to continue the legacy that Jack has built over the last 40 years."
Quinn said he has learned a lot from Parker over the years, both as a player for him and as an assistant coach. Quinn said that when he was diagnosed with Christmas Disease — a form of hemophilia that would eventually end his playing career — in 1986, the way Parker helped him taught him that there was more to what Parker did than just winning games.
Quinn entered the coaching ranks at Northeastern in 1993 and went on to jobs at Nebraska-Omaha and the U.S. National Team Development Program before returning to BU in 2004. When he got there, he was surprised to see how much he had taken from Parker without even meaning to.
"I was shocked when the practices started by how many of my coaching values and coaching core came from him," Quinn said. "We had never coached together or been on a staff together. But when I came back in 2004, it struck me. I knew that I had learned a lot from him, but from a coaching standpoint, I was shocked at how many similarities we had in our approach to coaching. I have learned an awful lot from him, not just from a coaching standpoint, but from a life standpoint."
That said, Quinn doesn't expect to be a carbon copy of Parker. He knows there will be a lot of similarities between how Parker ran the team and how he'll run the team, but he's sure there will be some differences as well, even if he isn't entirely certain what those differences will be yet.
"Change always brings a different approach," Quinn said. "I'm just going to be myself. I'm not going to come in and say, 'Jack did it this way. I'm going to do it that way.' That would be crazy. The program's not broken. But obviously I'm going to do things the way I'm comfortable doing them. That's not to say that if Jack did them differently, it was the wrong way. It's just going to be my way of doing them, and it's going to be something I know has been successful over the course of my coaching career."
One potential change that has yet to be decided on is who Quinn's assistants will be. Mike Bavis and Buddy Powers are both still working with the team for now — Bavis is currently on a recruiting trip — but it's unclear if they'll stay. Quinn worked with Bavis as an assistant at BU, and he worked with Powers while coaching in the USNTDP. He said he loved working with both of them and would welcome the opportunity to do so again, but he didn't outright say whether either or both would stay.
"I think that's an integral part of the process," Lynch said. "(Quinn) is going to have the ultimate decision, because now it's his program. A lot of his success will be dependent on who he has behind him as assistants. I think he's going to have a real difficult decision to make. I'll be there for him if he wants to bounce ideas off me, but, at the end of the day, he has to be comfortable with the people he's working with day in, day out."