Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Steve Johnson Out at UNO; George Gwozdecky In?

Monday's report that Steve Johnson was leaving UNO wasn't a complete surprise. I had heard talk that it wasn't working out in Omaha for Johnson. What is surprising me is the talk of who might replace Johnson.
Whoa. That one raises some eyebrows.
At first glance, this one simply doesn't pass the smell test. A two time national champion coach doesn't step back to be an assistant coach.

Of course, most schools won't fire a two time national champion coach that's won at least 20 games the last twelve years. The thought process that led to that decision is about as dim as the lighting in Denver's Magness Arena...but I digress.  Gwozdecky has been mentioned for openings at UConn and Maine, but those schools either went (UConn) or appear to be looking elsewhere (Maine).  Gwozdecky says anything is possible, and even talked to CBSDenver  about going to the pros.

“We are in the discussion stage right now with a number of different people and a number of different organizations. It’s got to be the right fit for them, and obviously it’s got to be the right fit for myself and my family,” he said. “I’m examining and reviewing and making calls.”
So why would Gwozdecky even consider UNO? It doesn't make any sense, except in this light. Dean Blais always seems to be rumored to be retiring.  Talk last year was that he might be retiring after the 2014-15 season.  He quickly dismissed it, but it was out there. When Blais was hired, Mike Hastings was mentioned as the "head coach in waiting"...though he left last season for Mankato...and did a smashing job in year one with the Red Mavericks.

So what about Gwozdecky being UNO's next "head coach in waiting"?  Unlike Hastings in 2009, he's completely qualified.  But why would Gwozdecky want to be an assistant for UNO?  That's the puzzler.  It's hard to understand why.  One reason is that he could start building the foundation of his program by recruiting for Dean Blais. Recruiting starts earlier and earlier, much to my chagrin.  Gwozdecky could roam the high schools and pick his players now, selling them on the team of Blais and Gwozdecky with the assurance that at least one national champion coach will be coaching them six or seven years from now.  And if/when Blais does step aside, Gwozdecky ascends with his having a say in where the program stands.

The other reason is simply revenge: there's no better way to prove to Denver that they made a huge mistake than to beat them time and time again. And the best way to beat them time and time again is to be a conference foe.

Money for Gwozdecky probably won't be an issue; Denver is on the hook for his contract for now.  And I suspect that if money is an issue for UNO, Trev Alberts can find a way to make it happen.  Nobody thought Alberts would be able to land Dean Blais in 2009...but he did.

And if George Gwozdecky does wind up in Omaha, UNO will boast the most honored coaching staff in college hockey.  Dean Blais is a four-time WCHA coach of the year, assistant Troy Jutting is a two-time WCHA coach of the year with Mankago, and Gwozdecky is a three-time WCHA coach of the year.  Blais and Gwozdecky have each won the Spencer Penrose national coach of the year award twice in their careers.

Is it likely?  No.  But the possibility is certainly intriguing. It never hurts to dream big, does it?

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