Anchorage Suspends Coaching Search, Shift Gears
School Had Come Under Harsh Criticism
CHN Staff Report
ANCHORAGE, Alaska Alaska-Anchorage announced late Thursday that it has suspended the current search process for its next head coach.
“We are committed to getting this right,” said Tom Case, UAA Chancellor. “We plan to restructure the search committee and review the job criteria to ensure that we are choosing from the most robust possible pool of candidates.”
UAA has been without a coach since letting Dave Shyiak go just after the end of the regular season. Its original search committee did not include any "hockey people," which drew a large amount of criticism.
That committee brought four candidates to campus for interviews and community forums. Those four:
* Long-time Air Force assistant Mike Corbett;
* Michigan Tech assistant Damon Whitten, who played four years at Michigan State and was a previous assistant for Anchorage for one season;
* Chris Brown; the current head coach at D-III Augsburg (Minn.) and another one-time Anchorage assistant;
* Current head coach of D-III Utica (N.Y.), Gary Heenan, who built that program from scratch over the last 12 years before going 21-6-1 this past season and reaching the NCAA semifinals.
“We hope those candidates will continue to keep their hats in the ring,” said Case. “It has become clear over the last several weeks just how strong community interest is in Seawolf Athletics, which is positive. We all want the future of Seawolf hockey to be bright, so slowing down for reflection and adjustment of our process will serve us well.”
While vague, noticeably absent from the news release was athletic director Steve Cobb, who has come under fire from the local community in recent weeks.
Both the Alaska state hockey association and UAA alumni penned scathing letters to the university, questioning Cobb's leadership. The program has notoriously non-competitive, by and large, in the WCHA since joining almost 20 years ago, and attendance has dwindled.
The original search committee was comprised of UAA men's basketball coach Rusty Osborne, running coach Michael Friess, volleyball coach Chris Green and faculty athletic representative Stephen Strom.
Former UAA defenseman Mark Filipenko, president of the UAA Hockey Alumni Association, told the Anchorage Daily News that the change of plans was welcome.
"I think the search was flawed going out and redoing it makes sense," Filipenko told the ADN. "They've said, 'We want to do it right, and the program deserves it.' I think there was a pretty good push from the hockey community, not just the alumni. People stepped up.
"This is one of the first times I can remember the university listened to the hockey community. I've got to give credit to the chancellor for making a tough decision.''