Gadowsky Leads Princeton Back to NCAAs
Princeton Mentor Makes All the Right Moves
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ALBANY, N.Y. Four years ago, Princeton athletic director Gary Walters took a chance. He was letting go a Princeton alum in Len Quesnelle, who had been on watch while the program's win totals deteriorated. Walters took almost two months to find a new coach, and in the process, spurned a number of highly-qualified Eastern candidates, some with Ivy League experience.
When he made the announcement, it was a bit of a shock to the sleuths who were trying to follow the process — he announced Guy Gadowsky, the then-coach of Alaska-Fairbanks. Gadowsky, Walters said, impressed him with his character and educational philosophy.
Four years later, Walters' choice has been validated, after Princeton returned to heights previously only attained under Don Cahoon, won its second ECAC title, and made the NCAAs.
But Walters didn't need last weekend to validate his choice.
"Guy is just a class act," said Walters, a former Princeton basketball player in the Bill Bradley era, who is now in his 14th year as the school's athletic director. "He runs a program that, if I had a son, I'd want him to play for Guy. He's second to none on our campus. I'm awfully proud of him and proud of the kids. He has a strength that speaks of leadership.
"I just think there's a sincerity and an integrity. And an ability to teach. Those are the basic qualities as a director of athletic and former coach — you want someone who communicates effectively, and walks the walk too, and he does."
He has certainly earned the respect of his players, by the communication, the integrity — and it doesn't hurt that he preaches a brand of hockey that players enjoy. He came in promising he could turn Princeton into a team that could play hard, smart and more open, and he's come through. And fellow coaches have noticed.
"I have a lot of respect for what Guy's done there," said Colgate coach Don Vaughan. "We know the history of the program, and the turnaround is incredible. It's how they're playing. When you get a group of guys to go consistently over the wall like that, one line after the other where you can't really tell the difference between their first and fourth line, with that kind of energy, you got to tip your hat him.
"He's found a formula that works. And it's fun to play against. You better be on your game, you have to keep your feet moving. It's the way the game ought to be played."
When Gadowsky came to town, you wondered whether he was walking into a cauldron that would be hard to fight through. Princeton was a historically moribund hockey program, awakened relatively briefly by the sheer force of nature that was Don Cahoon.
But Gadowsky was convinced it was the place for him. To him, it was an honor to be there, and he assumed — rightly — that there were enough resources to compete at Princeton if just channeled properly. And like Cahoon, he embraced the entire culture, which helped.
"Once I met guys like Landis (Stankievech), Mike (Moore) all these guys, I knew it was the right move," Gadowsky said. "I'm honored to be part of Princeton University and get to go to the rink with these guys. That's a huge value to me. I have three children now that on occasion get to rub elbows with these guys, and that's invaluable to me."
Stankievech is one of those players who proves that, if you put the right personalities in the mix, shake it up with a little skill and motivation, that it can go a long way. Soon, Stankievech will be an official Rhodes Scholar, one of 80 around the globe so named each year. Gadowsky benefits from that kind of personality. But Stankievech also credited Gadowsky with guiding him on this path.
"I'm along for the ride in this whole thing, (so) that might be the biggest compliment I ever received, that I had even a shred of influence on him winning a Rhodes Scholarship," Gadowsky said.
Being an "outsider" has proven to be a non-issue. Like Gadowsky says, "they speak hockey." But it's not always the same, especially when you have guys that need to spend their entire senior year working on a thesis, and other academic rigors. Not every coach coming from the outside has been able to relate.
"Hey now, CC is the Ivy of the West," said Gadowsky, a Colorado College graduate.
"I tend to be tight-lipped when we start discussing certain political views, or the economy or the environment, but I enjoy listening to them, that's for sure."
There's still a question as to what the high-water mark is at Princeton. This year's 21 wins was a school record, one more than the 20 under Cahoon in 1999. Is an every-now-and-then ECAC title and a one-and-done NCAA tournament appearance the most the program could ask for? Or does the Princeton resources — what with an enormous endowment that may soon make tuition obsolete for mid-income families — enable the Tigers to be like Cornell, with the Frozen Four at least a possibility on the radar?
Well, clearly Gadowsky believes it's the latter, or at least wants to believe it. Or just so you know, he thinks this year's team is pretty good too — and it not just happy to be here, facing the powerhouse North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
"Maybe I'm a little biased, but I think they're a helluva hockey team," Gadowsky said of his club. You've got unbelievable offense — Lee Jubinville, Brett Wilson, Cam MacIntyre, Matt Arhontas. Our defense — Mike Moore is as good a puck-moving defenseman — as well as he shoots the puck, and you don't want to play against him; he's a crusher, believe me. I think we have a very, very good hockey team."
And the rest of the league is counting on him ... and watching him for pointers, perhaps, too.
"He's not giving it up, I can tell you that," Vaughan said.
"We'll all be watching. But it's more in the attitude, he's got them buying into what he's doing," added Vaughan. "There's more than one way to do that, but if you listen to his kids, they love coming to the rink. So if you can get that, and they're working hard, you're doing something right."