ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine will announce on Tuesday who will comprise the search committee that will help select the new men’s ice hockey coach.
Maine athletic director Steve Abbott said he hasn’t given members of the committee a specific deadline, “but I’ve let them know I’d like to have a candidate as soon as possible.”
He also said, “I’m very happy with the committee [members].”
Abbott said they haven’t met as a group yet but will shortly.
Former University of Maine captain Jim Montgomery, the school’s all-time leading scorer who helped lead the 1992-93 team to the school’s first NCAA championship, won’t be a candidate because he was officially named the new head coach at the University of Denver on Monday.
The committee will be seeking a replacement for 12-year head coach Tim Whitehead, who was fired a week ago with one year remaining on his contract.
The university bought him out for a year’s salary of $195,000. The money came out of privately raised money in the president’s discretionary fund.
Associate head coach Bob Corkum has been named the interim coach.
Whitehead compiled a 250-171-54 record at Maine.
However, after guiding the Black Bears to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances his first six seasons, including four Frozen Fours, they have earned just one NCAA berth the past six seasons.
Abbott said Montgomery would have been a “legitimate candidate” for the Maine job, but he was happy he landed the job at Denver.
“He’s a very good coach with very good credentials,” said Abbott. “I’m very happy for him. He was a great player at Maine and a great captain.”
“You always like to see alums and former players do well. I wish him the best of luck,” added Abbott.
Montgomery has said he was “shocked and stunned” that he hadn’t been contacted by Abbott or other Maine officials about his interest in the job.
Abbott said Monday that the two did talk a few days after the Black Bears were eliminated from the Hockey East playoff quarterfinals by UMass Lowell on March 15. But the decision hadn’t been made to fire Whitehead.
He said the decision wasn’t made until April 8, and the announcement was made the next day.
“Jim contacted me and I called him back and we had a very good and comprehensive conversation about the program,” Abbott said. “By the time we made the decision on Tim, Jim was already deeply involved in the [Denver] process.”
Montgomery flew to Denver from Dubuque on Thursday and interviewed on Friday.
Abbott said he has heard the grumblings of fans who wondered why the university waited so long to fire Whitehead.
“We had a lot to discuss. We had to consider where the program was, where it needed to be and what we needed to do to get it there,” said Abbott.
Montgomery has said he had no doubt he could return the program to national prominence.
But he also said if he didn’t get the job, as a concerned alum he wanted to make sure they chose the best possible coach to return the program to national prominence.
Montgomery has had his No. 19 jersey retired, and he is a member of the University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
Corkum, who has been an associate head coach for five seasons, said last week that he was interested in the job and feels he can lead the program back to elite status. Fellow associate head coach Dan Kerluke had initially said he was interested in the job but backed out to support Corkum.
Corkum said he would be more animated than the calm and collected Whitehead and his teams would play a “physical, high-tempo game” he compared to “smashmouth football.” He also said the players would be disciplined and “they would be held accountable [for their actions] on and off the ice.”
It’s possible that Maine could make Corkum the interim head coach for the entire 2013-2014 season, but it’s unlikely, according to Abbott.
“That certainly would be something we would consider,” said Abbott. “We have a lot of possibilities. But our plan is to conduct a national search and have a full-time coach in play next season.”