CC AD Ralph: We Need to Maximize Our Resources
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
When Scott Owens decided to leave Colorado College after 15 years as head coach, the word resigned was used. But as usual in this instances, the reality is more complicated.
Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph said that he and Owens were going through the usual end-of-year program evaluation, which is, of course, also Owens' evaluation. He said after a long conversation, Owens agreed it was best to step aside.
Reading between the lines of those initial comments, it was clear that something Ralph was saying spurred, if not encouraged, the decision.
"There's things in the program we need to do better," Ralph told College Hockey News on Wednesday. "We're an incredibly well-resourced program, we have outstanding facilities — we need to maximize that. We weren't doing it. You need to push and do more and maximize what you have.
"Scott did the professional thing and resigned."
The implication is that Owens was resistant to utilize all of CC's resources, whatever that in fact means.
"Most people wouldn't think we have (all these resources) for the size school we are," Ralph said. "We have a new strength and conditioning center, there's a hockey development center, plus the national strength and conditionin association is here. USA Hockey is here.
"We weren't maximizing our resources, and using it to build and develop and strengthen the progarm. Scott is confident in his abilities, he's been a head coach a long time and was confident in the way he was running his program."
Owens, by the way, has not been available for comment.
Colorado College went to seven NCAA tournaments in Owens' 15 seasons at his alma mater, plus one Frozen Four, and he coached two Hobey Baker Award winners. CC won 28 games in 2007-08 and 23 games in 2010-11. That was followed by two seasons around the .500 mark, then with this year's 7-24-6 record in the first season in the NCHC.
Ralph said he understands that wins were going to be more difficult in the new NCHC paradigm, because of how tightly-compacted the teams are. So his decision wasn't just about wins and losses.
"Wins and losses matter, but we recognize going into the new league just how things were going to be game in and game out," Ralph said. "You might have a supremely talented team — the example is Miami, they're so talented, so well-coached, and they finished eighth. But in the postseason they were within a post of getting the championship to overtime.
"The players loved the balance because every night matters, but it does put a lot of pressure on coaches. ... Administrators all understand the new pressures. We all respect the fact that a 20-win season is more difficult. As long as you're playing the game the right way, with energy, enthusiasm and passion."
Ralph said part of the evaluation is making sure he's doing a good job, too, providing his coaches with the resources they need.
"Are you putting the right things in the right places to have success," Ralph said. "We've both seen programs that cycle though coaches and don't win. There's fundamental elements that aren't correct. So you better cast an eye on yourself. If you're so arrogant to think you can't be the problem, then you are the problem."
Ralph has said that Owens was a tremendous recruiter and talent evaluator. So the question is, how does someone in Ralph's position judge the other aspects of a coach, like Xs and Os, without having been a hockey coach before?
"There are so many styles that can win," Ralph said. "Some coaches are offensive ... others defensive — there's no one style that's successful. And so coaching is about styles and adaptability, changing with who you have in the program. It's a little arrogant of me not having a hockey coaching or playing background to tell a coach I know more about Xs and Os than someone who has been doing it his whole life. But you look at practices, conditioning, off-season programs. So much goes into it."
Of course Ralph doesn't get into specifics of what coaches he has targeted, or who may have already applied. That's understandable given the sensitivity to coaches in existing situations and how that impacts recruiting. He has been through this before, when he was AD at Rensselaer and hired Seth Appert after letting Dan Fridgen go.
But he has said that the search will be nationwide, and that he wants a coach with certain specific characteristics. And he said he solicited input from the team as well.
"They won't make the selection, but in determining attributes, experiences and teaching styles, the biggest thing is, they're looking for someone who loves the game," Ralph said. "They want a great teacher of the game — personal development is really important to them, someone who can be a hands on. Motivation is a bigger component than I expected. You shouldn't have to motivate someone too much, but there's times when they're hurting or sore or tired that a little push goes a long way."
As far as looking into alumni, like Owens, Ralph said there are advantages, but he doesn't want to limit the search.
"Some places think you can only have an alum," Ralph said. "There are certainly inherent advantages to that — they understand the culture and the expectations. But also the idea of having a non-alum and having outside opinions and diversity of thought is attractive."
Despite the inherent discomfort any time a coach departs under these circumstances, Ralph made clear that the program Owens leaves is in good shape.
"This is not a rebuilding project by any stretch," Ralph said. "Scott was really good about making sure players graduated and following through on the fact that they graduated in four years. He treated guys like adults. It wasn't like they were a bunch of children. He let them have their independence.
"And his eye for talent is oustanding. You look at some of the players that came through that he spotted — (Peter) Sejna, (Marty) Sertich, (Brett) Sterling, the Stuart brothers, (Richard) Bachman, (Jack) Hillen — high-end talent. He's got a gift for that.
"He loves this place. But it's an opportunity for everybody to get a fresh start, and that's a positive too. Sometime you can hang on too long for the wrong reasons. But he's a great Tiger, a proud alum, and he cares deeply."