Williams should be ‘official’ head coach

Rsatkow and Rsatkow

As the BG hockey team prepares for its first round playoff series against Nebraska-Omaha, there is still a huge question hanging around the hockey program:

What will happen to interim head coach Dennis Williams?

On June 30 of last year, just months before the season started, former head coach Scott Paluch announced his resignation to take a position with Team USA.

That was when Williams, who was an assistant under Paluch, as well as a BG alumus, was named the interim head coach.

Despite the fact that the team had an overall record of 5-23-6 this year, the interim tag needs to be taken off Williams’ name, making him the ‘official’ head coach of the program.

There are several reasons this needs to happen as soon as possible.

Opponents of Williams will likely point to the team’s record this year and how they were last in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association in both goals and goals against.

However, as anyone who follows sports knows, rebuilding a team is not a one-year ordeal, especially considering what the hockey program has gone through the past 12 months.

Coupled with Paluch resigning just months before the season, there was uncertainty if there would even be a hockey team this year, which undoubtedly hurt recruiting efforts and left team morale low heading into the season.

Now, with the University and the state of Ohio combining to commit a total of $5 million to renovations of the Ice Arena, as well as large donations from former hockey coach Jack Vivian and Bowling Green native Scott Hamilton, the hockey program appears to be on steady footing going forward.

One of the reasons the team struggled early in the season was due to having to break in ten freshmen.

Although there is plenty of talent in this year’s freshman class, including Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who leads the team with 11 goals, it is rare to find a successful team in any college sport whose playing rotation consists of many freshmen.

They need game experience to grow, and heading into next season, that is something that they will have.

An area that this particularly hurt the Falcons was defensively.

After senior Brian Moore was lost for the season due to injury, five of seven defensemen on the roster were freshmen, the two exceptions being senior Kyle Page and junior Andrew Krelove.

While these freshmen showed great flashes of potential this year, growing pains and inconsistencies are common with first-year players.

Another reason Williams needs to be retained is familiarity.

How can the University expect to get great junior hockey players to want to play here if the team is under the leadership of its third head coach in less than a year? Some players commit to the head coach and not the University.

Just look at what happened when John Calipari left Memphis after last season to coach Kentucky; many of the players he recruited for Memphis came with him.

If the University changes head coaches again, it may deter future hockey players from wanting to play here, especially when there are guys in the same league, like Red Berenson at Michigan, who have been at their school for a while.

Anyone who closely followed this team can tell you that despite the record, this team played better as the season went on, although they showed inconsistencies, which is common with young teams.

Including shootout wins, the team won six of their last 16 games after the calendar turned to 2010. While in the first half, they won four of 18 games.

While two wins may not seem like much, the team also played great in several losses, including a 3-2 heartbreaker on Feb. 12 against No. 1 Miami.

Williams has also shown that he can resurrect a program as a head coach before. At his previous head coaching stop, Div. III Neumann College, the year before he took over as head coach, the team was 3-21-1.

In his final year as head coach at Neumann, the team had a record of 17-5-5. His last two seasons at Neumann were the best two seasons in their program history.

While not at the CCHA level, he has shown that he has what it takes to build a winner.

I do not think that it would be fair to base Williams’ future at BG on a win-loss record from this past year.

He had too much going against him given that at this time last year people were unsure if there would even be a hockey team, and that he only had a couple of months off to get players Paluch recruited to buy into his way of doing things.

Heading into next year, should he be retained, he would have a lot more going for him.

Although the team loses several talented seniors, including do-it-all defenseman Kyle Page, the team as a whole will be much more experienced, and he has lined up a fine recruiting class for the 2010-11 season.

The Ice Arena will also be newly renovated, which will hopefully attract more fans to home games on a regular basis.

But most importantly, Williams has shown in the past he can resurrect a program. There is no reason he should not be given a chance to do it again.