It's only about 10 feet, maybe less, down the bench, but going from an assistant to a head coach is a whole new world, as Doug Weight found out last season. But Weight was up for the challenge, guiding the Islanders to a 24-12-4 record as interim head coach before being officially named the head coach on April 12.
One month later, Weight chatted with NewYorkIslanders.com to talk about the Islanders, coaching and more.
NewYorkIslanders.com: Has anything changed about how you feel about the end of the season and what you want to do going into the summer?
Doug Weight: I'm going to make some changes to the people around me a little bit, and I'm going to make some changes starting in training camp, starting on our culture, starting on my first words to each player. Camp's going to be tougher than it's been. Camp's going to be a different look, and we need to have a better start. We need to have a different start than we've had in the past. We've had some good starts as far as a record, but we need to start with a different inspiration right off the bat, and we're going to do that. I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel, but I have time now and the luxury now of getting ahead of it and doing things the way I want to do it, and it's just going to be a continuation of what we started to do last year.
NYI: You played young players in some big roles and big moments this season. Is that indicative of the types of opportunities young players will have playing for you?
DW: You've got to put them in a position to succeed. I will say this, I did mention training camp, these guys have got to come, they have to bring it. Our young guys that want to be a part of this, they've got to come and misplace people off the roster to start the year. I'm going to expect it from Anthony [Beauvillier], I'm going to expect it from Mathew Barzal, I'm going to expect it from Josh Ho-Sang, Ryan Pulock and some of the guys that were here. With that same thought process, I'm going to expect it from the vets, so they're going to have to come in and battle with each other in a healthy competition.
Video: Weight calls in to discuss his new job title
NYI: With the way Jaroslav Halak finished the season last year and what you've gotten from Thomas Greiss since he's been here, what are your thoughts on the goaltending situation for next season?
DW: To me we have two great goalies. We have two great goalies who are going to be competing from day one. We are going to lead them, challenge them and make them better, but right now moving forward, we have the biggest prospect pool as far as [Ilya] Sorokin in Russia is probably renowned as the best goaltender outside the NHL and he's 22 years old, just turning 22. [Linus] Soderstrom in Sweden. They are names you may not recognize, but as much as you want to talk about it, if you want to talk about winning the Stanley Cup next year, we can win with Thomas, we can win with Jaro. They both know that they like each other, but they are competing against each other.
NYI: When you retired and became an assistant coach with the Islanders, what was it that drew you to coaching?
DW: I was exhilarated when I was on the bench. I love the passion that it takes to coach, I love the work it takes to coach, the feeling of butterflies because it's an intimidating job. I'm glad I was able to find pleasure in the discomfort because it makes me want to be better. Part of me when you're first going through it, you're like, I don't need this, but now I want this, I want to be good at it, I want to be great at it, so that's why I'm doing it.
NYI: You're only moving six or 10 feet down the bench, but how much does your world change going from an assistant to a head coach?
DW: It changes your world. It's an amazing thing when the buck stops here, so to speak. Not to sound immodest in that statement, but you have to run things and you have to run things in your way. You have to breed that confidence and let people feel your confidence. There's times you're vulnerable I think in any job and it was new, but I've been in the game for 30 years and I think I was prepared and confident and you can get overwhelmed. I think the one thing I did was every guy on that bench - I've sat there - they know what I'm thinking, so earmuffs, don't be full of crap, be honest. These people know what you're thinking, they're experienced enough and you have to have the confidence to make your decisions and to make final decisions and manage your staff.
NYI: You've said that as a player, you may have rolled your eyes at things coaches said in the past. It must be an interesting change in perspective being a coach now - anything you'd want to apologize to an old coach for?
DW: That would be a big long confession. I have a lot more respect for the coaches I had. It's an emotional game. I am going to say things where I am wrong, but all I need is their respect and we can go at it up in the office. That rolling your eyes stuff, it's going to happen, but as long as we have a respect for each other, it's an emotional game. I'm going to tell you what I'm feeling, it is what it is. I'm also going to reward you, I'm going to reward you with ice time, I'm going to be prepared. They'll be able to talk to me whenever they need. I'm going to be there for them. I really like our team, I like our guys, I want to be there for our families. To me, it's about we all want to go down the same road and that's success, that's winning. And we're doing it to make each other better. So throw your egos aside and let's do it together. I think it's fun.