Photo: Courtesy of TampaBay.com
The noise is growing louder.
Over the past couple of weeks, it’s been reported that DU head coach Jim Montgomery has interviewed with the New York Rangers for their vacant head coaching position. And, since Ken Hitchcock informed the Dallas Stars of his retirement, speculation about Montgomery’s fit in Texas has started to circulate.
In The Denver Post yesterday, writer Mike Chambers indicated that DU assistant David Carle is likely a strong candidate to replace Montgomery if and when he moves to the NHL (the reality is it’s going to happen sooner or later). At 28, that would make Carle the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I hockey. It certainly would be a coveted job by any number of highly qualified and experienced coaches who would fight for the chance to run DU’s hockey program.
College Hockey News reported that Carle was a recent finalist for his hometown’s struggling college hockey program, University Alaska Anchorage, but once he was offered the position, he turned it down. At the same time, Jim Montgomery rumors have continued to swirl in New York and Dallas. And, according to Chambers’ article, “Carle believes DU will consider moving forward with the remaining staff, including assistant Tavis MacMillan and goalie coach/director of hockey operations Joe Howe.”
Carle was widely credited for his recruitment of Henrik Borgström when Carle traveled to Finland and made the pitch for Borgström to attend the University of Denver. He started as an undergraduate player for the Crimson and Gold but was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and took on a student assistant coaching role under then-head coach Coach George Gwozdecky. After DU, Carle served as an assistant coach with the junior-A Green Bay Gamblers in 2013-14. Carle was then brought back to Denver by Jim Montgomery in 2014. Under Montgomery, Carle plays an active role running practice and working the bench for the Pioneers.
Under outgoing Athletic Director Peg Bradley-Doppes’ leadership, there has been an effort to develop assistant coaches capable of stepping into the top spot. In soccer, assistant Jamie Franks became the youngest coach in NCAA soccer following the departure of Bobby Muuss. He led the soccer team to several undefeated regular seasons and made a trip to the final four and won National Coaching Staff of the year. In 2016, assistant volleyball coach Tom Hogan replaced Jesse Mahoney who departed DU to coach his alma mater, CU. Hogan continued to win conference titles and extended DU’s trips to the NCAA Tournament to four years in a row. Hogan has been awarded Coach of the Year honors by the Summit League as well. And other programs, such as gymnastics, who has assistant Linas Gaveika, are said to have ‘head coaches in waiting’. And there are more…
The other wild card is incoming athletic director Karlton Creech. Will he value continuity and the (very good) status quo or will he want to make a big splash with his first major hire by selecting an experience coach from outside the Pioneer hockey program?
There are plenty of external examples of assistants who have been elevated to the top spot and failed. Obviously, the skills required to be a successful assistant coach are different than the skills necessary to lead a team – managing people and budgets, working with administration, donor relations, and putting a public face on DU’s most visible program. But Carle clearly understands Montgomery’s system and, one could argue, the transition would be ‘seamless’ in terms of philosophy and playing style. And people within the program clearly must know his skills and capabilities to manage the additional responsibilities.
What do you think?