George Gwozdecky quipped that he didn’t have much success at Alfond Arena when he brought his Miami and Denver teams to play the University of Maine.
But he wouldn’t mind being the home coach rather than the visiting coach.
Gwozdecky, who last week was fired as the head coach after 19 seasons at Denver, said he is interested in the Maine job.
Tim Whitehead was fired on Tuesday after 12 years at Maine, which made just one NCAA tournament appearance over the last six years after going to nine straight.
“At this point, I’d be interested in every job. I want to continue coaching and I would be foolish to close a door on anything. A number of people have reached out to me but nothing has been offered to me yet,” said the 59-year-old Gwozdecky, who posted a 443-267-64 record at Denver and has won at least 20 games in each of the last 12 seasons.
Gwozdecky’s Denver teams have lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament five times in the last six years.
Including his five seasons at Miami, Gwozdecky has a career record of 593-391-85.
He has had 17 seasons with at least 20 wins among his 24.
Gwozdecky preferred not to comment on whether he has been contacted by anyone from Maine.
“In my mind, there have been a lot of successful alums that have gone through the Maine program who would be prime candidates. Jim Montgomery and Scott Pellerin would have to be two guys who would get serious consideration,” said Gwozdecky.
Montgomery, who captained Maine’s 1992-93 team to its first NCAA championship, is the head coach and general manager of the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League. Pellerin, a two-time Maine captain and the school’s first Hobey Baker Award winner in 1992, is the head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the American Hockey League.
“One of the things every school looks for is someone with ties to the school and Maine certainly has quite a few of them,” said Gwozdecky.
Gwozdecky said he was a close friend of late Maine coach Shawn Walsh and replaced him as an assistant at Michigan State after Walsh took the Maine job in 1984. He said the Maine job is a desirable one.
“Absolutely. I don’t have any doubt about that,” said Gwozdecky. “Shawn built it into a powerhouse. They have tremendous support from the fans and with the job Tim has done [coaching and upgrading the facility] since Shawn has passed certainly makes it a highly valued, highly regarded position nationwide.”
Gwozdecky beat Whitehead 1-0 in the NCAA championship game in 2004, the first of the Pioneers’ two straight NCAA titles.
Gwozdecky almost came to Maine as an assistant coach in 1984. He had already been offered the Michigan State job by MSU head coach Ron Mason, Walsh’s mentor and his future father-in-law.
“Two weeks after Shawn got the Maine job, he tried to talk me into coming to Maine. He made it sound like I would be foolish to turn down the Maine job and take the Michigan State job,” Gwozdecky said, noting that Michigan State was a national contender while Maine had three successive losing seasons.
But Mason convinced him to go to Michigan State, where he stayed for five years before taking the Miami job.
Gwozdecky, who attended Walsh’s wedding to his first wife, Tracey Mason, had two memories from his visits to Orono.
“One year [1991 with Miami], we lost something like 10-0 [11-4] the first night,” recalled Gwozdecky. “The second night, we were getting beat badly again. After a period, they put a spotlight on the entryway and there were several Maine players who weren’t dressed for the game because they had just returned from the World Juniors. So we were getting beat by their ‘B’ team.”
A much fonder memory came during the year they used to have the East-West senior all-star games at Maine.
He was coaching the West team.
“And I finally won a game at Alfond Arena,” he said.