Kevin Dean And Don Sweeney Conference Call Transcript On 7/18
/ Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS GENERAL MANAGER DON SWEENEY AND PROVIDENCE BRUINS HEAD COACH KEVIN DEAN
Opening statements… Don Sweeney: Thanks everybody. The Boston Bruins and Providence Bruins are very proud to announce that Kevin Dean will be the new and the 11th head coach of the Providence Bruins. We had an extended search for the head coach position. [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. Kevin has worked with and learned from some very, very good coaches during his time in New Jersey, including the last five years working with Bruce Cassidy and the success that they had in winning and developing at the American Hockey League level. Kevin’s work ethic, his core values, personality and hockey I.Q. all presented very well during the search and we feel he has not only earned, but is ready for the challenge and the opportunity of being head coach for the Providence Bruins.
Kevin Dean: I’d like to thank, first and foremost, the Jacobs family, Cam [Neely] and Donny [Sweeney] for giving me the opportunity. I thank Donny for the kind words there. It’s a position and a job I’m excited for the challenges that it’s going to present. 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. To me, all those things are exciting. I’m very grateful to a number of people, like I said, the Jacobs family, Cam, Donny. Working with Butch Cassidy the last five years was just terrific. You talk about a smart hockey mind, I’m not sure, on the offensive side of the puck especially, you’re going to find a better one. Claude Julien’s always opened his office to me when I’ve had questions. I have a lot to be thankful for at this time [and] a lot of hard work ahead.
On juggling the new entry-level players with some of the older players in Providence… KD: That’s always the tricky part in the American League. It’s one of those few times when you’re competing against players on the same team for spots up top, right? In a perfect world, and a world we’re going to try to create that environment, will be to have a merit-based team where the best players will play. But special care and special attention and focus will be given to the young players and the players identified as prospects with a really good chance to play in Boston so that they can grab those spots. But they’re going to have to grab them. Nothing’s going to be given to them. They’re going to have to come in and put their best foot forward from Day One and consistently and constantly work on the things that they need to get better at to play up top. Claude’s a demanding coach and I have a pretty good understanding of what Claude is expecting when players come up to Boston. I think players are going to have to understand that from Day One. As players get older, sometimes their habits and their details slip from their games a little bit. But that can’t be the case from the young kids. The young kids are going to be the ones pushing to make the team up top and we want the best players to play up top. It’s not going to be handed to anybody.
On what he takes from his year of being a head coach in the ECHL… KD: The East Coast, I think if you ask any coach down there, it’s a challenge because the reason you just said, you generally go through 40, 50, 60 players in any given year. And that was a challenge. First time head coach, that kind of exacerbates the challenge to some extent. The biggest thing I can take from that year was – the biggest mistake I thought I made was I got wrapped into results early, instead of the process to get the results you want. In other words, I was so worried about wins and losses in October and November I think I lost sight of the big picture and creating that consistent how you want to play game in and game out and how you practice prepares you that way. I want to play a fast game, good in transition, and defend well when we don’t have the puck. But this is going to be a work in progress from Day One and I have to understand that and work towards that.
On working with the young defensemen… KD: I’m very excited to say the least. I just got a taste of Robbie O’Gara and Brandon Carlo at the end of last year, 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. That to me is what makes a player exciting to work with is you can point to something in their game to get excited about, something in their game that can take them to the next level. Every one of those players has something. They’re going to be challenged, 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. You look at these kids and the assets they have, it’s almost impossible not to get excited.
On familiarity in Providence easing the transition… KD: Well, I have a good relationship with the D that have been there for the last few years, for sure. And that should help the transition, in terms of presenting ideas and they should trust me a little bit more quickly than someone coming in off the street that they don’t know. I’m going to have to change roles a little bit and be harder at guys at certain times, so in that regard there might be some challenges. But, again, if you look any player in the eye and just honestly tell them face-to-face, man-to-man, what the situation is, they should respond in most cases. It should help because there’s a trust factor built in, but it’s always the challenge for a coach to get the players to buy in and understand what you’re trying to teach them and sell them. The sooner you can get it done the better obviously.
On what makes Kevin Dean the best fit for the job… DS: Well you’re 100 percent correct that it is a very important time for us. And I think that I mentioned that development was at the forefront of our decision making in this process and we felt that Kevin you know has worked very well with Bruce. I think the continuity there, understanding what the philosophies of our organization are, they align with what he believes in 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. And the attention to detail, you know Kevin is obviously going to be a head coach here at the American Hockey Level for the first time but he has the learned skill set from working with other coaches and he’s looking forward to applying it in a more foundational role without leaving behind the development tools required to each individual development of the players. He sees across the spectrum. I think that his personality lends to teaching every day, communicating every day. His players understand there’s a trust factor but there’s also a requirement as to what’s going to be needed for them to continue to get better and he can convey those things. Obviously it’s incumbent upon us now to work with Kevin to find the right assistants that can complement what he does and what he’s going to have to continue to learn on the job a little bit. But again I think the familiarity piece and the development as being the fundamental principal here, those two things really align with what we want to do going forward. And the importance as you pointed out that all of these young players that are going to be there. We’ve surrounded him with some very quality people and personalities, you know, with Tommy Cross and Chris Breen coming back you’ve got familiarity with several players that have been there. They’ll see a different light of Kevin and how he approaches things but they will always see the work ethic and the teaching component to what he brings to the table.
On if Tommy Cross and Chris Breen will be the key players returning to Providence to help guide him… DS: Well they obviously bring a veteran presence and the familiarity of having played under Kevin; they will bring a leadership role. In Tommy’s case he played his first games last year in the National Hockey League, they’ve been giving up their dream of playing in the National Hockey League level. We bring in Alex Grant that’s played for a number of teams that also can bring a veteran leadership. We have several players that are returning that will be vying for an opportunity up top but also have an understanding of where they are at the American League Level so they can continue. We have a very young group, we’re very aware of that; that was certainly part of our discussion with Kevin during the process. He understands that there will be some learning curve associated along the way and he’s fully prepared for that. We had young teams in the past and they’ve handled that very well. You’ve seen our teams get better as the year goes along because of the attention to detail that Bruce and Kevin put into the players games and I think that’s going to bode well. But you’re right, he has to lean on players that have been there and that would have implicit trust with him.
On assistant coaches for Kevin Dean… DS: Yeah we’re going through that process now. We’ve got several candidates that we’ll be discussing. I had not had those talks until we had named the head coach, as I said extended search coaches that we had discussions with, but always having Kevin strongly in the mix of it as an internal candidate. And it took a while. We wanted to get through Development Camp, 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, maybe some experience to go along with what he brings to the table and obviously in likelihood adding another development component to this.
On coaches that inspired him… KD: Well thank you first of all for the congratulations. But yeah I had the benefit, I think, at the time I played for some of the best coaches that were out there. I played for Ken Hitchcock, Jacques Lamaire, Larry Robinson…Robby Ftorek was a terrific development coach. So I played with some really good coaches. I would say Larry Robinson was the one who…he just…I don’t know if you know Larry but you know a great personality and a great teacher and a great man. Morally and as a person you don’t find a nicer guy and a more complete person than Larry Robinson and still was a great hockey coach. So a lot of what I try to do is predicated on how Larry was 20 years ago when I worked with him in Albany and New Jersey. So yeah and as far as partners in coaching, anyone you coach with you can take something from. You know I worked with Kurt Kleinendorst who was very detailed, very organized, presented very well. Johnny McLain who had a ton of passion for hockey, really worked well with young players, you know and then with Butch was just a great offensive mind, very creative, always thinking outside the box and you know very organized as well. So there’s something to gain from everybody, but at the end of the day you want to be successful, you have to be yourself, right? 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 you know if a group of 20 individuals is playing well I have to think the team is right behind them.
On if coaching was in his mind for a long time… KD: It was. My last year I was driving in the car a lot to practice, I lived a few miles away from the rink. And as the season started winding down I knew it was going to be my last year I started making calls to the University of Wisconsin and some other teams in pro hockey because I knew that I wanted to be into it. I had a very young family at the time and I believe my wife was pregnant at the time so I didn’t want to make a huge move at that time. So you know I threw some feelers out and three or four years later something actually opened up that I was interested in. But yeah I knew for a long time before I started coaching that it’s kind of the direction I wanted to go.