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Hockey coaching candidate profiles: BC should kick the tires on Nate Leaman

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Providence v Boston College Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

It has long been presumed that when Jerry York eventually retired as head coach at BC, the coaching search would mostly be focused on internal or internal-ish candidates — those with close ties to BC, either as alums or members of Jerry York’s staff.

This seems likely, but without a doubt, BC will want to do its due diligence and explore candidates from outside the BC community as well - including exploring some top names in the sport and seeing if they’d be willing to decamp to Chestnut Hill.

If they do that, there should be very, very few names ahead of Providence College head coach Nate Leaman on the call list.

While there is no rumor or report linking him to the job at this time, common sense dictates he’d be part of any national search, and given serious consideration should he be interested in the job [a big if].

Leaman, age 49, has 350+ career victories across two head coaching jobs, at Union and Providence. At Union, Leaman laid the foundation for the team that went on to make the Frozen Four in 2012 and win the national title in 2014, taking the program to two 20-win seasons in 2010 and 2011 and winning the Spencer Penrose Coach of the Year Award.

After taking over Providence it took him just a few years to take that team from the dregs of Hockey East to a serious contender.

The Friars went 14-20-4 in his first season in 2011-12, but by 2014 he had them in the NCAA tournament and in 2015 they won the national title at TD Garden, an accomplishment for which BC should send him many millions of dollars just as an eternal thank you:

Providence returned to the Frozen Four in 2019. 2020 and 2021 were rebuilding years for the Friars, but they had a decent 2022 at 17-11-2, and look poised to have some of the best returning talent in 2022-23.

Leaman checks a lot of boxes that would be desirable in a head coach at a program like BC: he’s won in Hockey East, he’s won with a formerly less-heralded program like Union, he’s performed at a Catholic school, and he’s at an age where he’s in his “prime” coachingwise and has a good amount of time ahead of him. He also at this point has a consistent record of success that stretches back over a decade, so nobody could call him a flash in the pan or the shiny object based on a few good seasons.

It’s also worth noting that he coached the US world junior team to gold in 2021, which no doubt is a helpful connection given how often BC recruits from the US National Team Development Program.

If you’ve got a blank slate and are drawing up the top names among coaches with experience in eastern college hockey, Leaman would maybe be the #2 name after Greg Carvel, and probably a notch ahead of guys like Norm Bazin and David Quinn.

We have no idea if Leaman would even be interested in leaving Providence, either for BC or for the NHL or anywhere else. After initially being signed through 2021 at PC, we are not sure what year his current contract ends, with PC AD Bob Driscoll saying in 2017 he’s essentially signed for as long as he wants to be head coach at Providence.

Asked recently about the terms of Leaman’s contract, Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll joked that it’s a lifetime contract. To wit: Leaman will be the head coach of the Providence College Friars as long as he wants to be.

“I would never hold him back in something he wants to do,” Driscoll said. “But my assumption is that he’s very happy here. I believe he’ll be here for a very long time.”

But unlike in the basketball coaching searches, where it was probably a folly to think Providence’s successful coach would consider an approach from BC, that’s probably not the case in hockey. BC has as much cache as any job in the nation, and while Leaman certainly has the tools he needs to be a consistent contender at Providence, BC offers additional financial resources and an even stronger opportunity to rule the roost in college hockey.

While there are plenty of reasons not to consider leaving Providence, BC may be able to offer a combination of money and legacy that might be enticing. BC could sell Leaman on being able to be the guy who, at his age and with his pedigree, gets BC in to the neighborhood with North Dakota, Denver and Michigan on the list of programs with the most national titles.

If we’re in Pat Kraft’s shoes, we’re certainly at least giving Leaman a call and seeing if he wants an interview - and giving strong consideration if he does.