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Boston College hockey coaching candidate tiers

With a week in the books since Jerry York announced his retirement, we’ve profiled a number of potential candidates for the job. Now let’s take a look at candidates by tier - rating their likelihood and what kind of hire they might be.

The Most Obvious Choice

Greg Brown, head coach, USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints
Candidate profile
Interview with Dubuque sports editor on Brown

At this point, the pretty clear and obvious favorite is Greg Brown, Jerry York’s long-serving deputy. While it wouldn’t be totally astonishing if BC ended up with someone else, he would be your odds-on favorite.

We initially had Brown and Mike Cavanaugh listed as “the two obvious choices,” but with Cavanaugh evidently reaffirming his commitment to UConn, Brown now stands alone in the ‘obvious choices’ category.

Brown may be a riskier pick than Cav would have been given his lack of head coaching experience, but he is potentially the highest-reward hire possible.

Nobody is going to be the next Jerry York, but Brown is probably the closest thing BC could find: a lifelong “BC guy” with exceptional reputation for his coaching and interpersonal skills, and someone who’d be a potential 10+ year contender. He’s had success in the USHL and was an outstanding associate HC at BC.

Cavanaugh would have been a safe pick given he has a track record now as a well-respected head coach - but Brown might offer more upside.

Our gut instinct all along has been that comparing Brown and Cavanaugh, Brown’s BC alum status and tour of duty in the NHL as a player and a coach might give him a leg up. We don’t know what led Cav to withdraw from the BC process but perhaps early indications were that Brown was the lead candidate.

The next likeliest?

If we’re setting up odds, the next likeliest candidate is probably Mark Dennehy, just given his status as a BC alum and the quality job he did at Merrimack, as well his ties to the pro game.

Of course, like Cavanaugh, this would also be more along the lines of a safe and reliable pick, though perhaps with less upside - Dennehy was pretty successful at Merrimack, and knows the culture of BC. But he’s also a known commodity, for better or for worse - a solid track record, but not necessarily the Carvel/Leaman/Bazin tier.

Higher risk, potentially high-reward picks who are likely to be interviewed if they want it

This is how we’d categorize JD Forrest and Scott Gordon, who are high-risk in different ways: Forrest, due to a lack of top-level and collegiate experience; and Scott Gordon, whose career has almost entirely been in the pros, so it’s hard to translate how that would carry over into the college game.

That said, these are both respected BC alums with impressive resumes, who should almost certainly be interviewed if they want it. Unlike a ‘know what you’re getting’ kind of pick, these two could potentially be high upside for different reasons.

The five candidates above are the only ones to be linked by sources or reports to the gig at this time.

The slam dunk hires

Greg Carvel, Nate Leaman and Norm Bazin are three guys who, based on their track record, offer BC the likeliest path to contending almost immediately, with very quick turnarounds at their previous jobs.

These are three of the very best coaches in the country, and would be absolute slam-dunk hires. Given the pedigree of BC’s program, they could try to go for a slam dunk like this in a way that the school simply couldn’t in any other sport.

But for various reasons they all feel unlikely.

Carvel seems highly unlikely to leave UMass; things are going very well there and he and his family seem happy and settled. Bazin is a Lowell guy; he’s been floated with some other bigger openings like Denver and CC but has always ended up back at his alma mater.

The gut instinct here is to think Leaman is the likeliest ‘slam dunk’ to make the leap, given he already once left a successful stint for a higher-profile gig, and given that BC pretty clearly offers a higher long-term ceiling than Providence - but BC would certainly have to show the money. If there is any chance at landing someone like Leaman, my guess is we’ll start getting some smoke after the upcoming coaches convention.

Would be surprised:

Mike Hastings is supposedly on BU’s target list, and his name has been floated for top jobs after the success he has had with Minnesota State. But Hastings going to BC or BU would be pretty surprising - going from west to east, and from CCHA to Hockey East is a huge culture shift and doesn’t feel like a fit - kind of like the Rand Pecknold rumors of years past but adding in a move across the country. That said, BC Hockey Blog suggested via sources that Hastings is a serious candidate at BU, and he’s been pretty reliable with insider info — if that falls through, he could be on BC’s radar too.

Speaking of which, Rand Pecknold at Quinnipiac used to be linked regularly when bigger jobs came open, but it seems like he’s happy to be a lifer with the Bobcats and it would be surprising on multiple levels to see him in the mix at BC.

Sources suggest that AIC bench boss Eric Lang is not eager to decamp from AIC, though he’s been contacted by multiple programs with openings.

Current deputies Mike Ayers and Brendan Buckley will be given consideration if they’re interested in the gig, but both feel like unlikely hires. Ayers might be ready to helm a team but his first head gig will probably be lower-profile than BC. Same goes for Buckley.

Dave Smith, the head coach at RPI, allegedly has been somewhat in the mix at BU according to a few conversations with insiders (though not near the top of BU’s priority list). Smith took Canisius to an NCAA tournament and an Atlantic Hockey regular season title before moving on to RPI, where he has an under .500 record but took over a dumpster fire and has built some stability the last two seasons. He’s likely destined for a higher profile job at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Even bigger shockers:

Jim Montgomery’s next head coaching gig will presumably be in the NHL, not college, but he’d certainly fall in to the ‘slam dunk’ category.

Ryan Soderquist has done an admirable job at Bentley, but he’s also someone who’d likely be in the running for a more mid-tier program if he’s interested in leaving his alma mater.

I think we all realize David Quinn would not be interested in the BC job, but let’s mention him anyway since we’ve seen it floated. Quinn is currently reportedly assisting BU with its search.

Odds and ends:

  • Eagle legend Brian Gionta is a skills development coach for the Buffalo Sabres; we have no idea if he’s interested in progressing further in his coaching career but if he is, an NHL or college assistant gig seems like the next landing spot. Could he be on BC’s radar for a re-tooled coaching staff?
  • Former Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, currently coaching in the AHL, seems unlikely to return to the college game; his son, Eagles legend Ben Eaves, is a strength coach serving under Mike and could be a longer-term candidate one day. The elder Eaves feels like a potential ‘break glass in case of emergency’ name that could pop up if likelier targets fall through.
  • BC fan favorite Teddy Doherty is currently head coach at famed high school program Shattuck-St. Mary’s; might he be interested in a BC staff gig once the new coaching staff forms?
  • There hasn’t been much talk about Brooks Orpik’s future at BC, with buzz around what could be next for Buckley and Ayers, but given his NHL experience, BC would be wise to keep him on staff if possible.
  • In the past, BC coaching searches have pretty regularly gone off the board, with surprising names emerging that eluded all earlier reporting. But we wouldn’t count on that happening here; unlike in football/basketball, BC’s status as a hockey destination, and the fact that the hockey community is pretty small, means that odds are once BC settles on a few candidates they’ll likely be able to land the person they want.