January 18, 2022

Walsh weighs possible offer from Denver

ORONO – He stressed that he really enjoys coaching the University of Maine’s hockey team. He does not want anybody to get the misconception that he is unhappy at Maine. He isn’t actively seeking employment elsewhere.

But Black Bear Coach Shawn Walsh felt he owed it to himself and his pregnant wife, Tracey, to explore the head coaching job at Denver University, where he is one of two finalists.

The other finalist is Frank Serratore, once head coach of the Omaha Lancers of the United States Junior Hockey League, and a former assistant coach at the University of North Dakota.

Lake Superior State head coach Frank Anzalone is apparently no longer in contention for the position vacated by Ralph Backstrom, who resigned after nine years.

Walsh did not hide the fact that the upcoming budget cuts at the University of Maine and the apathetic attitude of the university’s Board of Trustees is of great concern to him.

“It is frustrating,” admitted Walsh, who has been named the Hockey East Coach of the Year twice (1987-88, 1989-90 seasons) and was a finalist for the National Division I Coach of the Year award in both of those years.

“And it is more so for President (Dale) Lick and (Athletic Director) Kevin White because the very ingredient that has improved this university dramatically, the ingredient that has had a positive effect on the enrollment, is being ripped apart by people who don’t understand (the value of the athletic program to the state and the university),” Walsh said.

Walsh pointed out that the net reduction ($355,000 over the next two years) is more substantial than people suspect.

“Athletics have been hit a lot harder than people realize and I want them to know it,” stated Walsh. “If you take into account some of the hidden moves that have been made internally, athletics has been hit twice as hard as any other department.”

“It’s like cutting Larry Bird’s salary because the Celtics lost (to the New York Knicks in the National Basketball Association playoffs),” said the six-year Maine coach. “And what really disappoints me is the fact that President Lick, Kevin (White) and the coaches have been able to succeed while still maintaining the balance between academics and athletics. Dean Smith and Scott King are the prime examples of that.”

Basketball player Smith was named the recipient of the Walter Byers Award emblematic of the outstanding scholar-athlete in the country (3.86 grade-point average in engineering). Hockey goalie King is carrying a grade-point average of 3.4-3.5 in biology and won the hockey team’s academic achievement award.

Despite his feelings on the budget cuts, Walsh spoke very positively about Maine.

“I was impressed with Denver and the positive direction they’re going in,” said Walsh. “`But I’m very happy with my position here. I love the people and Tracey and I really enjoy our house and the lifestyle.”

Walsh said he has not been offered the Denver job and said it will take a very substantial offer to entice him to leave Maine.

He would like to be an associate athletic director at either institution and feels he could be an effective administrator in addition to handling his hockey coaching chores.

Denver is a private school and does not have the financial problems that have surfaced at Maine. However, the Pioneer program needs to be rebuilt and will always have to battle powerhouses like the University of Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota for supremacy in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Walsh knows he has a very good Maine team coming back, one that could contend for the national title.

“But you can’t make a decision based on one team,” said Walsh, who will take several items into consideration if and when he receives an offer from Denver.

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