Monday, April 25, 2011

Bye, Guy

TigerBlog always feels somewhat guilty when he orders at a Chinese restaurant. Lo Mein. Fried rice. Beef and broccoli, or maybe with vegetables. Egg roll. Soup.

It's so ordinary.

TB assumes the people who answer the phone and cook the food roll their eyes at such orders, what with menus that they put great thought into.

Still, TB's first choice when he's not in the mood to make dinner would normally be Chinese food.

One day a few summers ago, as he walked into the Chinese restaurant in the Princeton Shopping Center, he saw Guy Gadowsky walking out, carrying three bags. He wore shorts out of the 1980s or earlier, and he couldn't have been happier with his dinner selection. He smiled ear-to-ear, talked about how great the food was in the restaurant and how much he hoped TB enjoyed it as well.

Take Guy Gadowsky away from an athletic competition, and that's what you get. There aren't too many friendlier people out there, too many who laugh as easily, too many who are so genuine when they tell you they hope you enjoy your own Chinese food.

Put him in an athletic competition, and he's a whole different, uh, Guy.

The coaching profession lends itself to the ultra-competitive, and there are few TB has ever met who match Guy Gadowsky in that category.

TB learned this first-hand playing squash against Gadowsky, but that's not really something that was necessary to figure it out.

Gadowsky, who announced Sunday that he was leaving Princeton to become the first men's hockey coach at Penn State, inherited a team at Baker Rink that had won won eight games total the previous two seasons. At Princeton, Gadowsky won eight games in his first season and increased his win total in each of the next five seasons, including a program-record 22 wins in the 2008-09 season.

He won an ECAC title and an Ivy League title, and he took Princeton to two NCAA tournaments in seven years. Princeton went from a team with almost no history of success since the days of Hobey Baker himself to a regular in the national Top 20. Princeton players that he brought in and coached started to consistently reach the NHL.

He did it by imposing his will on the program, and his players responded in a big way. They played hard, aggressively, up-tempo, and the results speak for themselves.

Beyond just the turnaround in record, Gadowsky brought Princeton hockey back to be something that people wanted to watch. Attendance went way up, and Baker Rink became as exciting a venue as Princeton has.

When TB heard Gadowsky was leaving, one of his first thoughts was what Gadowsky's historical place at Princeton would be.

TB thought that Gadowsky was the top Princeton coach of the last decade, but what about beyond that?

Princeton's athletic history is filled with coaches who have won national championships, and it's also filled with coaches who found teams who were near rock bottom and turned them around.

And surely there have been coaches who have stayed longer at Princeton than the seven years that Gadowsky was here.

What Gadowsky did, though, was something special. Hockey is a sport where several Ivy teams have great traditions, and breaking into that hierarchy wasn't easy.

And other than a stretch in the 1990s under Don Cahoon and featuring Jeff Halpern, Princeton had never been part of the elite. Princeton had only one winning season from 1960 through 1995, and that was in 1967-68.

Turning Princeton hockey into what it became during his tenure was one of the most extraordinary coaching performances in the history of the school.

When Gadowsky arrived, Princeton was coming off seasons of 3-26-2 and 5-24-2.

As he arrives in State College, his new program is coming off seasons of 0-0-0 going back to 1946, the last time Penn State had varsity hockey.

Penn State has no team, no players, no schedule, no games until 2012-13. Click on any of those links on Penn State's webpage, and you'll get "information coming soon" as a response.

Well, the first piece of that information has been taken care of. The head coach is in place.

Penn State appears to be making the necessary commitments of revenues to fielding as strong a hockey team as possible. And clearly a school like Penn State can certainly be competitive quickly, with its name recognition and place in the world of intercollegiate athletics.

And now with Gadowsky in charge of the program, that commitment is in good hands.

Penn State has gotten someone dynamic to be the head man for its hockey program. It has someone with the drive and desire and sheer competitive will necessary to follow through on the school's investment.

Good luck, Guy.

Princeton will miss you.

1 comment:

jaybuls said...

Just to let you know, Penn State does have a Hockey team, it's a member of the ACHA and has won the national championship a number of times, and has gone to Nationals almost every year. It is a club team, but Guy will be coaching them for at least one year, before they hit the NCAA, running.
But thanks for the information on our new coach, I saw the presser and was impressed. You did a good job of giving us a peek into the man of the ice.
Good column.