He has worked closely with many of the organization’s young players in recent years, having spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach of the Providence Bruins.
Last week, Dean was on the ice for all four days of Bruins Development Camp.
His experience in helping to shape players who could become vital pieces to Boston's future made him a natural fit to take on a larger role – which he did on Monday.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced Dean as the 11th head coach in Providence Bruins history. Dean takes over for Bruce Cassidy, who was promoted to Boston earlier this offseason to become an assistant to Claude Julien.
“We had an extended search for the head coach position,” Sweeney said during a conference call Monday afternoon. “[Director of Player Personnel] John Ferguson and myself spoke and met with several candidates. However, we always considered Kevin a very strong internal candidate.
“Developing young players was always at the forefront of our search and Kevin has institutional knowledge of our current players. He is totally invested with the process of helping players get to the National Hockey League.
“He sees across the spectrum. I think that his personality lends to teaching every day and communicating every day.”
After a number of years spent as an assistant, Dean was thankful for the opportunity to take on the more foundational position of head coach.
“I’m excited for the challenges that it’s going to present,” said Dean. “I’ve been coaching now a long time. I’ve learned a lot but know that I have a lot to learn yet in front of me. Those challenges are exciting to me. It’s exciting to work with the tremendous young athletes we get a chance to work with.
“It’s even more exciting when I think of all the young talent that the Bruins have coming into the organization quickly in the next few seasons. We saw it last week at Development Camp.”
This is the second head-coaching opportunity for Dean. The 47-year-old Wisconsin native led the ECHL’s Trenton Devils during the 2010-11 season, before moving on to Providence.
Prior to taking over Trenton, Dean was an assistant coach for the Lowell Devils from 2006-07.
“I think if you ask any coach down there [in the ECHL], it’s a challenge, you generally go through 40, 50, 60 players in any given year,” said Dean. “First-time head coach, that kind of exacerbates the challenge to some extent. The biggest mistake I thought I made was I got wrapped into results early, instead of the process to get the results you want.
“This is going to be a work in progress from Day One and I have to understand that and work towards that.”
Dean, who played for the University of New Hampshire, before going on to suit up for 331 games in the NHL with Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and New Jersey, always knew he wanted to take up coaching when his career was over.
As a result, he made sure to take in as much knowledge as he could along the way, mentioning Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, as well as Cassidy – for whom he was an assistant the last five years – and Julien as his influences.
“There’s something to gain from everybody, but at the end of the day if you want to be successful you have to be yourself, right?” said Dean. “You have to be the person that you are first and foremost because you’re standing in front of a room with 25 guys every day and you can’t pull the wool over those eyes.
“You can’t be something that you’re not or try to be someone that you’re not. Your true colors are going to shine through; they’re going to sense it and they’re going to pick up on it. So I’m just going to try to be myself and be honest with these kids and work hard every day and dig in and focus on these kids as individuals.
“And if a group of 20 individuals is playing well I have to think the team is right behind them.”
Dean, a defenseman during his playing days, pointed specifically to how much he is looking forward to working with Providence’s core of young blue liners.
“I’m very excited to say the least,” said Dean. “I just got a taste of Robbie O’Gara and Brandon Carlo at the end of last year [in Providence], young players like Linus Arnesson and Chris Casto, and then you’ve got Matt Grzelcyk coming into the fold this year.
“All five or six of those players I just mentioned really have an asset that you can nail down… the challenge is going to be to bring that out in pro hockey and at the NHL level and still work on the things that they’re not good at.”
The hope – as it is with every player at the AHL level – is that Dean can quickly pass them off to Boston.
“I think the continuity there,” said Sweeney, “understanding what the philosophies of our organization are – they align with what he believes in, trying to work with younger players, develop them, have all their games rounded to the point where they can play at any different role in the National Hockey League.”
*Sweeney said he is in the process of discussing several candidates to be Dean’s assistants.
“We wanted to get through Development Camp, have more conversations organizationally and we arrived at the point we are today, and now we’ll move forward with surrounding Kevin with a staff he needs,” said Sweeney.