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A Roadrunners Homecoming for Varady

Tucson's new head coach is an old favorite

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Jay Varady is staying "in house," even as he returns home to Tucson. 

Varady, who spent last season as an assistant head coach with the Coyotes, was (re-)introduced as head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners Thursday afternoon.

Previous to his stint with the Coyotes, Varady was head coach of the Roadrunners for two seasons, 2018-19 and 2019-20. His new contract with the Roadrunners is for three years.

Coyotes General Manager Bill Armstrong emphasized the importance of establishing stability in the development system with someone who has a proven - and familiar -- track record.

"You know what you're going to get from Jay, what he's delivered in the past," Armstrong said. "We're very confident this staff can help develop our players and help us achieve our big goal, which is winning a Stanley Cup. You're not going to do that without great development in the American (Hockey) League. So, we're very confident and very excited about the (Tucson) coaching staff that's assembled for next year."

Varady appreciates the GM's strong vote of confidence. 

"That's really important to us," Varady said. "We take it to heart. We're really excited to tighten the bonds between our leadership, our NHL group and our American League team. The plan is 'simple, but hard.'"

Varady, 43, likened the process - and the finished product - of developing prospects to the formation of a diamond.

"A diamond is the finished product," Varady said. "All of the things you have to get to before you get to the diamond is what forms it. And the two things that really form that are time and pressure. Those are really important. Time, here in the American Hockey League, is important. We have young guys who are coming here and they need time. They need time to get bigger and they need time to get stronger. We have to really be ready for that time and manage that time.

"There are two kinds of pressure in the American Hockey League - external and internal," he continued. "External pressure is the schedule, the competition every night. Some of these guys are coming from junior, college or Europe; some are doing it against men who have done it as a profession. And that's hard. The internal pressure, which I think is most important, has a lot to do with the coaching staff and management, to have expectations for these players. And when there are expectations, we hold them to those expectations. For me, that's extremely important. And as you do that, those expectations grow in the locker room, and it's held between the players."

Last season, Varady was able to witness, first-hand, the NHL successes of players he helped develop in Tucson -- Michael Bunting, Lane Pederson, Adin Hill, Hudson Fasching and Michael Chaput. 

"Last year, it was really exciting for me because I was kind of their next level of support when they came (to the Coyotes)," Varady said. "There was a good, strong bond. We were trying to push them to the next level, and for me now, it's about the next group. Who's the next group (of AHL players) that we're going to push through our development system like that?"

Varady was originally hired as head coach of the Roadrunners in July of 2018 and compiled an impressive 70-45-6-5 record in two seasons. He guided the Roadrunners to a Pacific Division title in 2019-20 and was named head coach of the Pacific Division at that season's 2020 AHL All-Star Classic.

Varady won't be the only familiar name behind the Tucson bench. His entire coaching staff will return: assistant coaches Steve Potvin and John Slaney and video coach Brady Morgan. Potvin served as interim head coach last season while Varady was with the Coyotes. He and Morgan have been with the Roadrunners since 2016, the team's inaugural season in Tucson.

"They're great coaches," Varady said. "Each guy has a little different strength that they bring. These are guys who know the (AHL) level. (Potvin) is passionate about working with the guys. Slaney played in the AHL. He's fiirst all-time among AHL defensemen in points. So, these guys know the level and they know the hard part that players are going through. 

"Then there's Brady Morgan, who basically does everything for our entire coaching staff and most of our players. If we didn't have Brady, I don't know which way we'd walk -- especially in the airports, because he's the one telling us where to go and when to do it."

The assistant coaches have an impact off the ice, too. Varady noted that Potvin often has extended conversations with players while waiting at the airport. Slaney will brainstorm drills over a cup of coffee in the office.

Varady will be ready to adapt his system to the one implemented by Coyotes head coach André Tourigny. 

"It's no problem," Varady said. "It's exciting. It's growth. If you just sat back and did the same thing year after year after year, eventually it gets old. There are probably going to be some changes in the tactics and structure, and that's exciting. It'll be growth for our players and growth for our coaches. And it will be fun to dig in. I'm sure we're going to get the computer smoking pretty quick with some video. That's usually what coaches do this time of year, and it's exciting."

Lead Photo Credit: Chris Hook - Tucson Roadrunners // Second Photo Credit: Chris Hook - Tucson Roadrunners // Third Photo Credit: Michael Martin - NHLI via Getty Images // Fourth Photo Credit: Chris Hook - Tucson Roadrunners

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