Jimmy Johnson, a legendary coach who accomplished the rare feat of winning two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and an NCAA football championship at the University of Miami, once said “You are what your record says you are.”
The University of Maine men’s hockey team’s record has not been spectacular since Red Gendron took over at the start of the 2013-14 season.
The Black Bears are 37-57-13 in that stretch heading into Saturday night’s regular-season home finale against Merrimack College, and Maine is in 11th place in Hockey East this winter.
On Friday morning, the University announced that Gendron has received a two-year contract extension, which will keep him in Orono through the 2018-19 season. His salary will remain the same.
A lot of people will look at Maine’s record and immediately think that extending Gendron was not a good one, but this move was geared toward the long-term success of the program rather than the short term.
Anybody knows rebuilding a college program takes a lot of time. A new coach needs a few years to instill his system and get his recruits into the fold. Gendron’s junior and senior classes consist of players recruited by former coach Tim Whitehead, now coaching at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.
Next year’s recruiting class, which includes four National Hockey League draft picks, will be the most important of the Gendron era. It was also important for the University to sign him to an extension, as recruits do not like lame-duck coaches.
The administration at UMaine trusts Gendron, as they very well should. He broke into coaching under longtime UMaine coach Shawn Walsh, and was an assistant on the 42-1-2 1992-93 national championship team. Gendron also won a Stanley Cup as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, and he was on the staff of a Yale club that claimed an NCAA title in 2012-13. UMaine athletic director Karlton Creech knows that Gendron’s resume is an impressive one, and he believes in him and Ben Guite and the rest of the Bears’ coaching staff.
The extension shows that Gendron will now have three more years to turn the program around. He is more than capable of doing so. Maine can also bid to host an NCAA regional in Portland in 2017-18, and should the city get that bid and Maine make the NCAA tournament, they would be placed in Portland regardless of their seeding. Just having the Black Bears there would be a box-office smash.
Maine fans need to understand that this is a process and this was not going to be an overnight fix. The next few seasons will truly tell the direction the program is heading as Gendron gets more of his prospects into Orono. Ironically, one of next year’s recruits, Pat Shea, played for Whitehead at Kimball Union.
This year’s version of the Black Bears will likely be on the road in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs, and hopefully they can steal a series in somebody else’s building, which will be another key to this process.