BOSTON - For the last six seasons, Kevin Dean has had a firsthand look at the future of the Boston Bruins. As an assistant coach, and later as head coach of the Providence Bruins, Dean had a hand in molding the future of the Black & Gold.
Now, Dean will have the opportunity to be a part of that future, while continuing to help develop the bevy of young players that Boston is expected to have dotting its roster over the next several years.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced that Dean had been named an assistant coach in Boston, joining Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo, and Bob Essensa on head coach Bruce Cassidy's staff.
"I'm excited for a number of reasons," Dean said by phone on Tuesday morning. "Probably the most important thing is I'm really excited where the Bruins are headed…Last year development camp and the development camp before, you can really see that there are some good young kids coming in.
"They've obviously got a great core in Boston and I think those two things together make it a really exciting place to have the opportunity to come coach."
Video: Kevin Dean hired as Bruins assistant coach
Dean spent the last six seasons with the P-Bruins, five as an assistant under Cassidy, before taking over as head coach in 2016-17, during which he led Providence to its first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2009.
"The Bruins are excited to be promoting from within our organization. Kevin's experience, work ethic, and commitment to winning and developing players qualify him as the best coach to complement Bruce's staff," said Sweeney. "Kevin's professionalism and communication skills have always been strong attributes. His success as a head coach this past season only reinforced our opinion that Kevin is both ready and excited for the challenges of coaching at the NHL level."
"We are very pleased to add Kevin to our coaching staff. He's an extremely knowledgeable hockey mind who is deeply committed to the Bruins organization and development of our players," added Cassidy. "We've established a strong rapport having coached together for five years in Providence and I look forward to working closely with him again on a daily basis."
Dean echoed Cassidy's sentiments, pointing to his previous experiences coaching under Cassidy - as well as his lengthy history with the organization - as one of the reasons why he expects a smooth transition to the NHL.
"Very comfortable with how Butch wants to play, and I believe in it," said Dean. "I think that's one of the reasons that he's comfortable having me is that I have fully bought into how he wants to play.
"I think it should be a little more seamless than it would be than if I was walking into a room or a coach's room with a bunch of guys I didn't know. The comfort factor will be huge."
Being named to an NHL staff is the conclusion of a long journey through the coaching ranks for Dean. After a 331-game NHL career - which included a Stanley Cup championship with the New Jersey Devils in 1995 - the Wisconsin native and University of New Hampshire alum, took a few years away before becoming an assistant with the Lowell Devils of the American Hockey League in 2006. The former blue liner then took over as head coach of the Trenton Devils in the ECHL, before joining Cassidy in Providence.
Now, some 16 years since he played in the NHL, the 48-year-old has again reached the sport's highest point.
"On personal level, it's exciting for me to be coaching with and against the best players in the world," said Dean. "There's nothing better than that as a coach."
Dean's performance this past season was a major factor in his promotion to Boston. During his lone year as head coach of Providence, Dean led the P-Bruins to a 46-23-10 record and a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell to the Syracuse Crunch in five games.
The highly successful campaign offered Dean a number of important lessons as he adjusted to being back at the helm.
"One is to just be yourself," Dean said when asked what he took from his experience as head coach. "I think any good coach is himself. You can't change your personality to fit the group. You've just got to be yourself and, hopefully, the group buys into what you're saying.
"From a coaching perspective, it was so valuable for me to be, for five years, in Providence with Butch. I was basically watching the defense and basically the defense and the PK.
"So, it's good for me to get out of my comfort zone and challenge my thinking and expertise in other areas to try and lean and get comfortable with other areas of the ice and coaching other positions."
Dean also had plenty of talent to work with, as he oversaw a number of the Bruins top prospects, including Peter Cehlarik, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly, Zane McIntyre, and Rob O'Gara - all of whom could be joining him in Boston in the not-so-distant future.
"You saw that last year with Butch, right?" said Dean. "Butch came into that role and there were a number of young kids in the lineup last year with [Brandon] Carlo, who he had coached the year before, [Noel] Acciari, Kuraly at times, Heinen at the beginning of the year. I think that helps a lot because these kids, they come up and, let's be honest, they're a little unsure and a little wide-eyed and maybe not as assertive as they should be.
"Hopefully, they get a voice in their corner that says, 'Listen, just go out and have fun. Play the game in the right way. Play it hard but enjoy it.'
"Hopefully, I can bring some of that and hopefully some of these young kids make the team and I'm there to help them along those times when they're feeling a little bit unsure or shell-shocked."