Denver sun sets on Jim Montgomery era, should rise on David Carle

Photo courtesy of Patrick Green

For the second time in just over five years, the University of Denver is searching for a replacement for a legendary hockey head coach. Five years ago, Peg Bradley-Doppes and her staff had the unenviable task of finding a worthy replacement for 19-year head coach George Gwozdecky. Though it seemed like a questionable hire at the time, they knocked it out of the park with Jim Montgomery. Now, with as much momentum as the program has had in over a decade, newly hired Athletic Director Karlton Creech and his advisors (which include Bradley-Doppes and current AD Ron Grahame) have an important hiring decision to make. The right one is already staring them squarely in the face.

It’s been speculated that if Montgomery were to leave Denver for the NHL, current assistant David Carle would be among the leading candidates, if not the leading candidate to replace him. And rightfully so. There isn’t a candidate more synonymous with the current Denver Hockey brand than Carle. Sure, he’s only 28 years old, but if that’s your argument against hiring him as Montgomery’s replacement, you’re missing or willfully ignoring so much.

Carle’s hockey career didn’t exactly go as planned. From Anchorage, Alaska, he planned to follow in his older brother Matt’s footsteps and play college hockey for Gwozdecky at DU before pursuing what would have almost certainly been an incredible NHL career. Unfortunately, during the 2008 NHL scouting combine, doctors noticed an abnormality in his heart. After the combine and a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that could kill him instantly if he overexerts himself. As a result of the diagnosis, at the ripe age of 18, Carle made the difficult, mature decision to end his playing career.

Gwozdecky announced soon after the diagnosis became public that Denver would honor Carle’s scholarship and allow him to still be a part of the hockey program while he was at school. As his playing career ended, Carle’s coaching career began. He remained a part of Gwozdecky’s program as a coach, including a year as a graduate assistant, until he graduated from DU in 2012. After graduation and during Gwozdecky’s final year at DU, Carle accepted a position as an assistant coach with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. He helped lead the Gamblers to a 37-23-4 record and a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Carle officially rejoined the Pioneers as an assistant on Montgomery’s staff in January of 2014, replacing legendary assistant Steve Miller. Carle has been on Montgomery’s staff since and his growth as a coach is directly correlated with the program’s trajectory of success over the past four-plus years. While Montgomery was certainly the primary catalyst for the Pioneers’ national resurgence, Carle was there, taking on more and more responsibility and even accidentally coining the well-known and successful ‘proscess’.

Since his ‘retirement’ in 2008, Carle has done nothing but coach with the best of the best. From Gwozdecky to Montgomery, Carle has seen and learned what it takes to be successful behind the bench on the biggest stage at this level. To add to his unsung coaching prowess, his efforts on the recruiting trail haven’t gone unnoticed. Denver’s recruiting pipeline is in as good a position as it’s been since Gwozdecky’s heyday and Carle has played a key role in that. Don’t believe it? Try this on for size. Carle and his efforts (read: travels, plural) have been cited as one of the major reasons why Finnish phenom and 2018 Hobey Baker Award finalist Henrik Borgström chose Denver.

Borgström’s commitment is only scratching the surface, though. Take a look at Denver’s pipeline. It’s filled with talented, high-profile commitments and signees who will have huge impacts on the Pioneers when they arrive. Carle has led much of the effort to make all of that happen. And yes, he’s done it all before his 29th birthday.

Pointing to Carle’s age and his “lack” of experience as strikes against him is a naive, lazy take. He already has a decade of coaching experience and that was enough for his hometown’s program, the University of Alaska Anchorage, to offer him their head coach position, which he turned down just weeks before Montgomery took the job with the Stars (hint, hint).

Montgomery is right to put his support behind his former assistant. David Carle is ready to take the reins of the Denver Hockey program. Sure, he doesn’t yet have any head coaching experience, but there’s still no candidate more well-equipped to take over this program and keep Denver at the top of the college hockey world.

Armstrong, Gwozdecky, Montgomery. It’s time to add Carle to that list of pivotal DU coaches. No, it won’t be an easy task to replace Montgomery, but David Carle is the right man for the job and quite frankly, Denver is making a mistake if they don’t make him their ninth head coach.

40 thoughts on “Denver sun sets on Jim Montgomery era, should rise on David Carle”

  1. If they don’t re Carle, I will rip up and burn my Saturday night home season seats. Period.
    I think Killer Miller is a good talking point, but in the past several years, he has proven he will jump ship for a shiny opportunity every year. I don’t blame the guy for this but I think we need stability and a commitment to DU hockey that we can all truly believe.
    I think Appert is a good coach but hasn’t done anything spectacular since he departed DU for RPI. Also, US NTDP looks like a very good gig; would he consider leaving so soon?


  2. why does it have to be someone with an existing DU connection at all? montgomery didn’t have one and neither did gwoz – those worked out really well so bringing in new blood would be my vote.


  3. Nick, I cannot dispute any of your thoughts. Monty was a total outsider when hired and grew to love the DU overall culture. David already loves it. Other high profile candidates who might want the job are also assistant coaches who have never “run their own program”. We should take Carle over them. However, I have some head coaching friends on the D1 level in college hoops. To a man,they have all told me that running your own program where you are responsible for everything is a big step up from being a hot shot capable assistant. If DC gets the job, expect some growing pains.


  4. Tough decision….This ranks right up there with deciding to fire Gwoz.

    Peg built a culture of developing and promoting from within…So, if it were left solely up to her, I think she would give David a shot.

    Glad I’m not in the shoes of Karlton, Ron, et al.


  5. Well stated Nick. Employers often like the ‘shiny new object’ instead of in-house talent. I hope they give David a chance in the ‘nation-wide’ search. He deserves it. And, if David pans out, he could be a 20-30 year Pioneer coaching legend. Plus, I like the current type of players he recruits and the way DU plays on the ice. I can say flatly that the rest of the NCHC doesn’t want to see ‘relentless Pioneer hockey’ anymore -and David can bring it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 5B-Or Carle could use this job as a steppingstone to the next level right? Open up the interview “proscess” and take care of due diligence.


  7. DU should & will do its Due Diligence and actively pursue all candidates.

    IMO until a better candidate is thrown out there, Carle will be the favorite.

    Tavis & Monty aggressively supported Carle over the past week. Since they worked side by side him for the past several years, that’s an key insight into the Program.

    If Carle gets the gig, Tavis and presumably Joe Howe would make up the staff. Any other candidate has to compete against that trio.


      1. Man that Crimson & Gold Kool-Aid is extra strong lately……By retire you mean Monty canned him so he could pay Joe Howe, right?

        This troll’s opinion thinks Carle has the inside track because he will cost and demand the least because of age and experience. Will fit right in to the athletic department’s “don’t spend money if they don’t have to” mentality.


  8. HIre the best person for the job. If that’s not Carle, then don’t hire Carle. The only arguments in the article in favor of hiring Carle concern his recruiting and his history at DU, rather than his coaching ability. Probably because neither the author nor anyone else know how Carle would be as a head coach. DU is not in a position where they need to take a chance on an unproven commodity. DU should only care about winning, not promoting from within. Montgomery’s preference should not carry much weight–he sounds more like a guy who wants his assistant to get the job, rather than doing what is best for the program. If Carle is the best candidate, hire him. But it’s very strange to hear people pushing for Carle without knowing who his competition would be. You say he’s the best candidate without knowing who the other candidates are!


    1. 1:14- You realize that’s from a bias source, right? The nice thing about having your own communications department is that you can paint the picture however you want!

      Keep drinking the PIO purple drank!


      1. Seems odd DT would say good things about Monty if he fired him in that article but who knows


    2. Hey thanks for the Twitter shout out. (Odd…) Anyway, you took the time to post my comment on Twitter, so I thought I’d take the time to re-read your article for specifics on Carle’s coaching ability. Here are your highlights: 1) He’s synonymous with DU hockey. Now that’s specific. 2) More details about his time at DU, how he didn’t play due to a heart condition. Great story, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant to his coaching ability. 3) Carle “took on more responsibility.” Again, how general can you get? I certainly hope that he had responsibilities! 4) He famously spelled a word.wrong. 5) He has worked with “the best of the best.” That is your analysis. Frankly, it kind of sucks for an explanation as to why Carle would be a good coach. Write a second article and elaborate, please.


  9. I think it’s human nature to fear change, especially with the program in a top 5 position right now. When things are good, fans want continuity, as Pio fans have also taken a liking to the fast-paced, high skill era hockey of the Montgomery era and want more of it.

    It’s also human nature to want to reward our fellow Pioneers for their love and loyalty to the program. David Carle has given the better part of the last 10 years of his life to the program as a student and coach, and as such, he is certainly deserving of the highest level of consideration to lead it. I like David Carle, as most people do. He likely will be a very good head coach.

    But Monty is no longer with DU, and his endorsement of his assistant should not lead to an automatic coronation.

    This is a top 5 NCAA coaching job in a great city, and as such, there will be no shortage of great candidates who can bring things such as head coaching experience, NHL connections, and other intangibles to the table that should be evaluated rationally.

    If Carle comes through the evaluation process as the best candidate, I will be 100% behind him if he’s selected.

    But if there are better candidates, it’s also DU’s duty to explore them, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When we restarted LetsGoDU, thanks to Damien Goddard we wanted to post opinion pieces and give people a chance to respond – agree or disagree. We want to provoke thought.

    I live 5 blocks from DU so I get to see what goes on and I sit right next to the DU bench. I have seen Carle run practices, manage line shifts and combinations and talk to players on the bench. He is not a potted plant – he is very much involved.

    I also agree with Swami – interview the best candidates. If Carle is the best he should not be penalized for his age. If it is a ‘jump ball’ it should go to Carle. If someone is better taking us forward, I hope Carleton, Ron, etc. pick them.

    I think Nick took a reasoned approach in his argument.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Appreciate the comments, 5BWest. It’s not that I’m against hiring Carle. I just think (and maybe Swami agrees) that it would not serve the hockey program to go into this “procsess” with any one person as the favorite, particular someone with no head coaching experience. And I don’t like when hockey alums, or Monty, or whoever, try to advocate for someone just because they have “paid their dues” at DU. Line up all the candidates….maybe Greg Brown, Dineen, Carle, and others…make a determination as to who is the best. Maybe it’s Carle. But it should be because he is the best (or projected to be the best), and not because Monty wants to keep continuity of his coaching staff at DU.

    I agree that Carle has served under two excellent coaches in Gwoz and Monty. That certainly helps a lot. But does Carle also have the special hockey mind that Gwoz and Monty have? I have NO idea. And I don’t know how anyone outside the program would know with such certainty to support thinking that hiring Carle is a no-brainer.


  12. No matter who is chosen from the long list of interested and qualified candidates, I hope……No, I PRAY, that Monty’s up-tempo, puck hound, overwhelming the opponent style of play continues!


  13. Most of the assertions in this blog post are not backed up with facts of any form. It is mostly, “if you don’t get it, then you know less than me…”. Nah, bro, there are people who read this who know 10 times what you do about the hockey world…stroke yourself on your own time and don’t tell people what to think. It comes off as douchey.


  14. What’s Mannino doing now? He won the Clark Cup at the USHL Chicago Steel as an Assistant Coach a couple yrs ago. He’s another DU alum who should be mentioned. Chris Niutini should also be talked to. Why? Not sure. I just like saying his name.


  15. Mannino just left an assistant role at UNO and went to Miami-Ohio. According to our Twitter friends in Omaha, he took their recruits with him.


  16. How about Paul Jerrard? He was my neighbor when he was on the Avalanche coaching staff. Still owns a house in Parker. He had a snowblower that would seemingly run for hours on an empty tank of gas LoL


    1. While this shouldn’t be a sole determining factor for selection, it should be strongly considered that by hiring Carle, DU will assure continuity to the recruits. If Carle has had as big of a hand in the successful recruiting process then it should be a consideration that if he’s not chosen, some recruits could decide to go elsewhere. I haven’t read anything of this so I’d be curious to hear from DU fans in the know if this makes sense or am I making much a do about nothing? (Personally, I would make this search and selection process as short as feasibly possible and I’d like to see DC be given the job).


  17. Miller would be a disaster. Say hello to defense first and hope for a mistake for a breakout for offense. Booring style of hockey.


    1. McKinnon and Goodsir were both likely pushed out by DU, as DU kept getting better and better players to commit, rather than those players leaving because of Monty leaving.


  18. It was either push out a d-man or likely lose Comrie…DU has an excellent recruiting class but the numbers were too much and the fat had to be skimmed.


  19. A few questions on our current recruiting classes, if anybody knows the answer to these please let me know.

    Is Sean Comrie coming in this coming season or the following season?
    Same question as above but for Ryan O’Reilly, when is he coming in? Both were originally listed for 2019.
    What is Eero Teravainen’s status? He has not yet signed his LOI. Do we think he’s out?
    Will Cole Guttman be healthy for the start of next year?
    Does anybody see Luko signing an NHL deal after rookie camps in June, as Trevor Moore did?

    If anybody has any of these answers or opinions please share.


  20. Comrie was slated for ‘18, not enough $$$, so he was being deferred but is a likely 3rd round (maybe 2nd) NHL draft pick…likely he would have not come — and Mackinnon’s stock has tumbled. Easy choice.


  21. Teravainen is likely on another form of scholarship aside from athletic. LOI’s are for kids getting athletic $$$…


  22. Also: A Letter of Intent is an agreement between an athlete and the AD, for the athlete to have at least a portion of their tuition covered by athletic money for one school year…


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