BANGOR, Maine — Tim Whitehead has spent the last 22 years coaching hockey in New England.
With his children growing up quickly, the former University of Maine head coach can’t think of any place else he would rather be as he embarks on a new step in his career.
Whitehead will be moving to his third New England state later this summer as he confirmed Thursday he has been hired as the boys hockey coach at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H.
Whitehead, who on April 9 was fired as the Black Bears’ coach after 12 seasons heading the program, accepted the position Wednesday.
“It’s a real good school academically, and they’re really making a big commitment to their hockey, so that’s exciting,” Whitehead said. “I’m really grateful to the head of schools there, Mike Shafer, and the athletic director, Mike Doherty.”
In addition to coaching at the prep high school, which includes students in grades 9-12, Whitehead will be working in development for Kimball Union.
“I’m going to help them raise money for a new rink and fitness center. I guess all that fundraising that I didn’t really want to do at Maine may help me now,” quipped Whitehead.
He said his wife Dena, a former athletic trainer, also has been hired as a math teacher at Kimball Union.
Living and working in northern New Hampshire in a position that requires a less hectic pace fits the Whiteheads’ plans for providing a more stable home life.
“We’re looking forward to having more of a traditional family life, no doubt,” Whitehead said. “This is a real nice move for our family, especially when you combine the educational piece for our kids [Natalie and Zachary].”
The 51-year-old Whitehead said he also had been considering an offer to coach at Culver Academy in Indiana prior to being offered the Kimball Union job. He said he had received offers to serve as a scout and as an assistant coach in the professional hockey ranks, but couldn’t justify going in that direction.
“At this point in our family life, it wouldn’t have been a great move for our kids,” he said. “We’re hoping 12 years from now to say this is the best thing that could have happened to us.”
Another plus is the fact the Whiteheads will be closer to his sister, brother-in-law and their four children, who live in Montreal.
“We felt it was a great opportunity for our kids to be closer to their cousins, because they’re best buddies already,” he said.
Whitehead was dismissed at UMaine after his teams posted a 96-102-28 record during the last six seasons. That included 11-19-8 mark during 2012-13, when the Bears finished eighth in Hockey East and lost in the league quarterfinals.
UMaine also missed the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in six years after making nine consecutive appearances.
UMaine bought out the the final year of Whitehead’s $190,000 contract to terminate it early, using privately raised funds from President Paul Ferguson’s discretionary account.
Another key dynamic in that decision was the decline in attendance at games. Last season’s average home attendance of 4,175 was the lowest since 1991-92 (4,024 per game). UMaine athletics director Steve Abbott said the number of season ticket holders dropped from 3,600 to 1,900.
Whitehead’s teams had a 250-171-54 overall record (.583) in 12 seasons at UMaine, that after leading UMass Lowell to a 76-95-11 mark in five seasons.
Whitehead said he will always have a warm spot in his heart for the people of Maine.
“It’s tough to leave. We’ve got a lot of great friends here and our children do as well, but at least we’ll be reasonably close and we can stay in touch with family and friends,” he said.