Puck Swami’s Rapid Reaction: DU Balances Continuity with Risk in David Carle’s Hire as Head Hockey Coach


DU’s New Head Hockey Coach David Carle – Photo Credit: CBS

The University of Denver’s hiring of David Carle as its ninth hockey coach in nearly 70 years of program history is a hire that has elements of excitement, safety and risk baked -in, and the fact that it took three weeks for DU to announce it means that the hire was no slam dunk.

Carle does have a lot going for him. He has 10 years of seasoning as assistant coach with DU and Green Bay (USHL) under his belt, and can be seen as representing logical continuity of the great program-building that’s happened under former head coaches George Gwozdecky and Jim Montgomery, with the Pios making the NCAA tournament every year that Carle has been behind the bench.  As one DU hockey alumnus texted me after the news, “I love this hire. [Carle’s] got the goods.” 

Besides his experience, Carle is known as a strong recruiter and teacher. He received a ringing endorsement from successful outgoing head coach Jim Montgomery.  Monty likely specifically prepared Carle for this takeover over the last two years, as NHL teams zeroed in on hiring Montgomery. In addition, Carle is a Pioneer alumnus with his heart and soul in the Denver program, and has a strong family association with DU, as his older brother, Matt, won DU’s first Hobey Baker Award in 2006. 

Certainly, all schools take pride in hiring one of their own as a head coach. Carle is only the second DU alumnus to ever be DU’s head hockey coach, with Marshall Johnston as the first. Johnston was hired in the late 1970s, and he didn’t last five years in the position.

Carle also represents what is likely to be a continuation of Denver’s recent up-tempo, crowd-pleasing,  relentless puck pursuit playing style, given Carle’s role in developing it with Montgomery, and given the players that Carle recruited specifically to play that style. It also means that current assistants Tavis MacMillan and Joe Howe are likely to stay on as two of Carle’s assistants, preserving additional continuity and recruiting class comfort. Carle will need to add either another assistant coach or operations director to his staff in the coming weeks.

As a bonus for DU, the University likely saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in hiring Carle, as someone with no head coaching experience simply cannot command the kind of financial package that an experienced head coach could command, allowing DU to spread its resources to other aspects of its sports programs.

Those who are skeptical of the hire, however, have reason to be that way, too.

At only age 28, Carle will be the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I and, in fact, he’s never been a head coach at any level. Indeed, DU explored hiring a number of experienced and successful college head coaches before deciding on Carle, and it will be seen as a bold, yet risky move in the hockey world.  For a top-five program to go this young is a risk, indeed.

Personally, I don’t care that much about his age.  He has four more years of coaching experience than other coaches his own age, as he started coaching while a freshman at DU. George Gwozdecky clearly saw something special in Carle, and  honored Carle’s scholarship after a heart condition ended Carle’s promising playing career just before he had a chance to suit up for Denver. Gwozdecky and made him a student assistant coach for his four-year undergraduate career, and he’s been coaching ever since.

DU has had other successful head coaches who were still in their 20s when hired.  Two who spring to my mind are current head soccer coach Jamie Franks, and Hockey coach Neil Celley. Franks took DU to a NCAA College Cup Soccer (final four) in 2016 before he turned 30.  Celley was hired as DU’s second hockey coach at the age of 24 back in 1951, and led DU to a .646 winning percentage in his five-season coaching career before giving way to legendary coach Murray Armstrong in 1956. Young coaches can relate well to current student-athletes, have a long-term upside if successful, and most importantly, can be hired for less money than more experienced coaches.

The three real risk elements that concern me around Carle’s hire are:

1. He has not been a head coach before, and DU is a top-five program.  Ask any assistant coach who becomes a head coach to tell you about the learning curve, and they’ll tell you it’s a steep one. No longer just a helper, he now becomes the boss. Furthermore, with the complexity of today’s program management, the hockey portion of the job is possibly the easy part.  Now Carle must step up to new pressures — running the budgets, academics, donors, politics, media management, marketing and other non-hockey aspects of the program. He must also manage people, and be accountable for the success or failure of one of the most prestigious programs in the sport. He’ll certainly have help, but it won’t be easy.  Some DU fans may not like this hire, as they would have expected a program like DU to land a more experienced, high profile coach, and they may believe that DU went the cheap route, rather than the best route.  Only time will tell if they are right.

2. The lack of an NHL connection. One of Jim Montgomery’s big plusses in recruiting  was being able to tell hot prospective players that as a former NHL player himself, he knew what it would take to help prospective NHL players make it to the ‘show’. Carle is certainly a great recruiter himself, but it may be that much of his effectiveness was connected to selling Monty’s NHL credentials. Carle does not have that arrow in his quiver now. My hope is that he can hire an assistant coach who has an NHL playing history, as that association matters when selling DU hockey — especially in Canada, where DU needs to continue to be strong in recruiting.

3. The perception that DU couldn’t hire a more experienced coach.  Let’s face it, if Carle was really the top choice, DU could have hired him instantly. The facts are that DU wanted to see who else was out there.  Personally, I wanted DU to use this vacancy opportunity to evaluate every candidate, and I applaud DU for doing its due diligence. But there are those who will see DU as not being willing to commit the resources necessary to hire a winning, experienced head coach when they had the chance to do it. The risk to the DU brand is significant if Carle fails, and in Denver’s fickle, oversaturated market, this is certainly a riskier hire than finding an experienced head coach.

I wish David Carle every possible success as he takes the reins of our beloved program.

But I would be lying to you if I said I see only clear sailing ahead. He will take on a young DU program with about 20 freshman and sophomores next season, and fans here are  used to watching top 10 hockey teams.

Carle has a big job ahead of him, and I hope he’s up to it.

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus.  He shares his views here periodically at LetsGoDU.

BREAKING NEWS: David Carle named Denver Hockey Coach

LetsGoDU can now report, based on reliable sources, that the University of Denver is prepared to announce David Carle as the new hockey head coach for the University of Denver. Carle was a favorite of outgoing head Coach Jim Montgomery and apparently for the search committee, too.

Carle now appears to have been the front runner all along as Denver players and fans speculated about Montgomery’s replacement. What was a surprise, was the announcement filtering out heading into a busy Memorial Day weekend. However, the move is certain to buoy fans spirits who wanted a continuation of the current approach and playing style.

Carle, a 2012 graduate of the University of Denver  officially joined the Pioneers’ staff on Jan. 1, 2014, replacing departing long time associate head coach Steve Miller,

As a player, Carle was originally recruited to the University of Denver as a player, but was forced to retire from hockey in July of 2008 after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – which is best known as a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes and is a primary disease of the myocardium muscle of the heart.

Carle joined the Denver staff following a season as an assistant coach with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. During his time with the Gamblers, Carle helped guide Green Bay to an overall mark of 37-23-4 and a second-place finish in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with a total of 78 points. In addition, the Gamblers set a franchise record for 15 consecutive victories on their home ice during the 2012-13 campaign.

The Anchorage, Alaska, native was a standout defenseman as a prep at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.) as he helped lead the Sabres to back-to-back national titles in 2007 and 2008.

The move makes Carle the youngest D1 hockey coach in the nation. While his age must have played a part in the ultimate decision, Denver got to see Carle develop and grow with Jim Montgomery and believe this move could be a great long-term call for the DU hockey program with what has now been coined ‘relentless Pioneer hockey’. And, as mentioned in an earlier LetsGoDU article, we believed that David Carle was an ideal candidate for the job.

Carle has a rich hockey tradition in his family as his brother Matt became Denver’s first Hobey Baker Award winner in 2006 and is a current member of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. His younger brother, Alex, 24, just completed his junior season at Merrimack.

DU Club Sports deserve #1DAY4DU support

As usual, we are encouraging everyone to participate in One Day for DU again this year. We believe your dollars would be wisely spent on DU athletics – they recently earned an  unprecedented 10th Director’s Cup and continue to be the highest performing Division on campus.

See their 2018 highlights below:

But there are also other athletes on campus representing Pioneer Nation with DU on their chest. And, they often give their blood, sweat, and tears on the roads, fields, and ice – and often out with cash out of their own pockets.

We need to help.

We want to point out a few DU Sports Clubs which have garnered local, regional and national success. With a successful DI Athletic Department, DU’s Club Sports often fly under the radar – and we hope you give to them as well. There are 34 sports clubs at DU and we are highlighting four of our favorites below.  Continue reading DU Club Sports deserve #1DAY4DU support

Phase 1 – First-Year Student Residence Hall and Student Commons Echo Collaboration

Rendering: Aerial view west along Evans Avenue, shows the new student commons (student union) replacing Driscoll North and the new first-year student residence halls to the far west.

Yesterday, we revealed details of the DU Career Achievement Center/Alumni center. Today, we are showing the first-year student residence hall and the Student Commons (student union).  Continue reading Phase 1 – First-Year Student Residence Hall and Student Commons Echo Collaboration

Phase 1 – Capital Plan revealed at the heart of DU

Photo: The University is making a bold architectural statement, breaking ground on a Alumni and Career Achievement Center, designed to open the center of the university to students, alumni and visitors.

About a year ago, LetsGoDU reported on a 140 million dollar capital project portfolio to transform the DU campus to align with the 2025 Strategic Plan for the University. Phase 1 has already started with the demolition of homes along high street for first-year student residence halls and community commons. Phase II, also discussed in a prior LetsGoDU article is a transformation of the entryway into the campus along between Buchtel Boulevard and Asbury, along University Boulevard. The Phase II redevelopment will include a hotel, retail, and graduate student housing and will not be initiated for several more years.

Now, LetsGoDU can reveal details about the design of the Phase 1 projects. Today, we will cover the University Career Achievement Center which will also act as the career center for students as well as an alumni hub for the University. Tomorrow, we will reveal details of the new Student Union and a new first-year student residence hall.

Continue reading Phase 1 – Capital Plan revealed at the heart of DU

Great Danes win Quarterfinal dogfight to end Denver’s season

photo courtesy of laxbuzz

There was no stopping the high-powered No. 2-seeded University of Albany Great Danes from advancing to their first ever Championship Weekend with a 15-13 Quarterfinal win over the University of Denver Pioneers. The energy, the hard-hits and the passion from the Great Danes was unbeatable. The game came down to dogfight across the entirety of the field and it was evident, the Great Danes wanted it more. The efforts from Denver to stay in the game were too little, too late.  Continue reading Great Danes win Quarterfinal dogfight to end Denver’s season

LetsGoDU joins Magness Mayhem to talk Denver Hockey coaching search

We’re about a week and a half removed from the day the news broke that former University of Denver Hockey head coach Jim Montgomery would leave the Pioneers and to the Dallas Stars in the same role. Now that some time has passed and the goodbyes have been said, attention has shifted to who might replace Montgomery behind the bench. Continue reading LetsGoDU joins Magness Mayhem to talk Denver Hockey coaching search

Denver ends Notre Dame’s season for second straight year, advances to Quarterfinal vs. Albany

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

Throughout the 2018 season, the Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse team has had issues playing a full 60 minutes. A fourth quarter collapse against Duke in February cost them a big early season nonconference victory and a first quarter mishap against Notre Dame dug the Pioneers into a hole they couldn’t climb out of. Both of their regular season losses were directly related to the Pioneers’ inability to play to their potential for a full four quarters of lacrosse. Today, however, against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, Denver played great lacrosse all game long and came away with a big 9-7 victory to end the Irish’s season for the second year in a row. Continue reading Denver ends Notre Dame’s season for second straight year, advances to Quarterfinal vs. Albany

Pioneers’ season ends at hands of defending national champs

It wasn’t a guarantee that the Denver Pioneers women’s lacrosse program would even be at this point, playing the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a week ago. After a great regular season and BIG EAST Tournament that ended at the hands of the Florida Gators in the conference title game, Denver remained on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday. Thanks to a number of major conference victories and a signature nonconference victory over the Colorado Buffaloes, Denver was awarded a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Continue reading Pioneers’ season ends at hands of defending national champs

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