MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Phoenix Coyotes associate coach Barry Smith said Monday that he's leaving the NHL team for a head coaching job in the Russian Elite league.
Smith, who was head coach Wayne Gretzky's top assistant the past two seasons in Phoenix, informed the Coyotes of his decision during a meeting with CEO Jeff Shumway.
The 55-year-old Smith had two years left on his contract with Phoenix, which had the worst record in the Western Conference this season at 31-46-5.
Smith spent 11 seasons as an associate coach with the Detroit Red Wings before joining the Coyotes.
Smith has also been a head coach at the collegiate level and in Europe and hopes to one day hold the same position in the NHL. He said he welcomes the challenge of rebuilding SKA St. Petersburg in Russia and running his own program.
"Before it gets too late in the tooth for me, I thought I'd try it and see how well I can do with it," Smith told the East Valley Tribune. "It's a situation which was very attractive because it's not just to be a coach but also director of the whole hockey operations."