Carvel Excited To Work On UMass' Future
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
BOSTON The night after St. Lawrence lost to Harvard in overtime of the ECAC semifinals, Greg Carvel was enjoying the championship game when his wife tapped him on the shoulder.
“She told me that she heard UMass was going to call me,” Carvel said.
The following Monday, UMass director of athletics Ryan Bamford was on the phone.
That began the process of Carvel becoming the next head coach of the Minutemen. He was introduced at a formal press conference on Thursday morning and met with the Boston media and alumni at the UMass Club in downtown Boston on Thursday afternoon.
While Carvel is excited about the future, leaving St. Lawrence was an emotional and difficult decision. He took over the program in 2012 and in just four years, built it from a team that finished 11th in the league the year before he arrived to a team that was consistently competing near the top of the ECAC.
On Tuesday night, he informed his players at St. Lawrence that he was accepting the UMass job.
“It was really emotional,” Carvel said. “My wife and I went back and forth, because especially being an alum, and taking on the program for Joe Marsh, I wanted to make sure that I gave back enough before I left, and I think that I did. … Considering the resources for the team, I think I left the program in a better place than when I got there.”
Just as Bamford did his homework on Carvel, the coach was also doing background work on the university. He spoke to former UMass head coach Don Cahoon, who told him getting involved in the community was vital. Amherst College head coach Jack Arena, who Carvel said he has known for 20 years, told him that it’s a “home run,” and that the program just needed the right guy in charge.
“I wasn’t going to leave St. Lawrence unless it was a position that I thought I could come into and bring to a better spot,” Carvel said. “This is a challenge for me and it’s one I’m excited for.”
Carvel said he met with the UMass players on Wednesday night for just over an hour, and he was surprised at their honesty and feedback.
“They’re looking for direction and want to be pushed in the right way,” Carvel said. “They’re an excited group.”
Carvel said he has had a bunch of people tell him the roster has skill, but he admits he has some evaluating to do. Not only has he never played the Minutemen, he said that he went through the roster and he didn’t recruit any of the current UMass players while at St. Lawrence.
“We just didn’t go up against UMass in recruiting,” he said.
As hungry and eager as the players same, the rebuild of the program will still be a process. Getting into the top portion of Hockey East will be difficult, and Carvel admits that he isn’t expecting things to skyrocket as fast as they did at St. Lawrence.
But there is also plenty of learning to be done. Carvel has so much unfamiliarity with his current roster and the rest of the league, that he’s likely to have a much better idea once he has the time to properly evaluate UMass’ current situation.
“You need to learn how to win,” he said. “You need to learn how to play together. There are so many layers to it. I go into this having no idea what next year might hold. It might be a similar record, it might be four or five more wins, and that’s fine. I know what I want to do, and the way to do it. The culture in your room has to be developed, and right now it’s a room that’s yearning for that, and that makes me excited.”
The next steps involve Carvel meeting with players individually as well as the staff, which is planned for Friday. Carvel said that he’ll also ask outside evaluators to give him thoughts on the team from last year.
“It’s a process,” he said. “I’m not familiar with a lot of these guys. I just have no idea what we have. I walked into the room and told the guys that we didn’t even try to recruit any of the guys. But I told them that it’s a fresh start and a first impression. I don’t know them and they don’t know me.”
UMass has struggled defensively over the last several years. This past season, the Minutemen surrendered the second-most goals in the country, behind only American Int’l.
Carvel plans on changing that.
“You have to be good defensive,” Carvel said. “I was in Worcester and I watched Providence and Minnesota Duluth, and those are two really good defensive teams. They didn’t give you anything and they didn’t make mistakes. You have to play a way that is hard for the other team to create offense.
“To me, that’s all about understanding what your identity is, and playing to that identity. I have a fairly good idea of what I’d like that identity to be.
“I could see the kid’s eyes lighting up when we met. They knew that things are going to be different and they’re going to be better, and that’s the thrill for me.”
Carvel could face his former team for the first time this November, when the Minutemen and Saints will both participate in the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast.
"That's crazy," Carvel said. "I thought about that almost right away. I told the guys at St. Lawrence that it will be hard for me to root against them.
"The players (at St. Lawrence) were good. Some of them were understandably upset, but I think they understood. I tell the players all the time that you get what you deserve, and I think the players are happy for me and believe that I deserved this opportunity."