Gwozdecky: 'I Was Stunned'
Fired From Denver, Says He is 'Not Done Coaching'
CHN Staff Report
George Gwozdecky said today he was "shocked and stunned" to have been fired by Denver on Monday, after 19 years as head coach of the Pioneers. Gwozdecky also said, repeated for emphasis, that "I am not done coaching."
He made his remarks at an afternoon news conference on the Denver campus. School officials did not meet the media, leaving Gwozdecky to have the time for himself to rattle off his accomplishments and thank yous.
"I was stunned, but I respect and understand her position," Gwozdecky said of Denver athletic director Peg Bradley-Doppes, not specifying what her position was. "It's the university's prerogative to decide what's in the best interest of the athletic program and hockey program."
Gwozdecky said that his intention was always to finish his coaching career at Denver, and hoped that contract extension talks would resume after the season ended.
According to the Denver Post, Gwozdecky was making $211,000 annually, and had a 12-year contract that was set to expire after next season.
"There have been discussions over the course of the contract, particularly four years ago," Gwozdecky said. "Those were put on hold. I expected they would resume, and they didn't.
"All my coaching career ... I never coached based upon my salary, my time on the contract. I coached because of the passion for it, I love to come to the rink every day, working with these young men."
Gwozdecky, 59, refused to bash the administration, but did express his disappointment at the turn of events.
"Many of my associates — have gone through being released from a contract, even fired, and many have called me and welcomed me to the club," Gwozdecky said. "But I've always, in reaching out to them when it happened, I felt really bad for them, and I kinda wondered in the back of my mind, if it ever occurred (to me) how I would feel.
"And I'll be honest ... first of all, I'm extremely proud of what we've accomplished here in 19 years. As Dan Ritchie wanted, we've done it the right way. It's been painstakingly difficult at times becuse we didn't take shortcuts.
"I don't feel awkward, I don't feel embarrased, I don't feel betrayed. Maybe the only feeling right now is a little disappointment that I won't be here to see our freshmen, sophomores, juniors graduate. I won't be here to see our freshmen class next year. And I won't be here to finish my coaching career. So perhaps disappointment is the best way to describe it, but I feel good about what we accomplished and certainly appreciation for the incredible experience that the University of Denver has alllowed me and my family to have."
Gwozdecky said that the response after the news got out yesterday, from former players and coaches, was similar to the response after his father passed away earlier this season.
"It's overwhelming," he said. "The support when you hear from these guys, to know they care and haven't forgotten some of the things they learned, whether it was different lessons or fun lessons to learn ... Four years as a student athlete, having the same guy talk to you every day and demand certain things, sometimes kick you in the butt, it can sometimes be challneging. So to hear from these guys, to see the size of their suport ... it feels good."
Gwozdecky came to Denver from Miami 19 years ago, and had 16 20-win seasons, including back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005. Denver made the NCAAs the last six years, but went 1-6.
Gwozdecky acknowledge the recent first-round NCAA tournament losses, five in the last six years, and the high expectations on the program.
"The string of consecutive losses in the NCAAs was disappointing," Gwozdecky said. "I understand that we have to win, and we have to win a lot of games. We've gotta win those games not only during the season, but in the NCAA tournament, win national championships. These guys that are sitting in front of you established that bar, way back in the glory days of Murray Armstrong. We try to emulate that. Some years we're able to achieve that. Some years we haven't. Some years it's a great finish, some years it's a frustrating finish. But the efforts, plans, work have only escalated based upon our expectations.
"Our motivation never came from anything outside the program, whether it's contract talks or anybody outside our locker room. These guys held themselves to a high, high standard, sometimes impossibly high. But I don't think we'd want it any other way."