Boston University has narrowed the search for its next head coach, and according to multiple CHN sources, an announcement could come as soon as this week.
According to several sources, current prep head coach and former NCAA assistant Shawn McEachern, BU associate head coach Albie O’Connell, Boston Bruins assistant Jay Pandolfo — all former Terriers — and Union head coach Rick Bennett were among the final group of candidates.
McEachern, who played three seasons (1988-91) with BU before leaving for the Olympics and an eventual lengthy NHL career, has been the head coach at The Rivers School since 2010, previously serving as an assistant coach at both Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern.
O’Connell has been a long-time NCAA assistant, moving to Comm. Ave. with David Quinn when he took over for Jack Parker. Pandolfo has been a Bruins assistant since last season, previously serving as a development coach for the organization. Bennett has been in charge of the Union program since Nate Leaman left for Providence.
McEachern and O’Connell have both had two interviews for the job.
Among other candidates considered, sources tell CHN that former NHL head coach Joe Sacco, currently an assistant with the Boston Bruins, is no longer under consideration due to not having his college degree. The Boston University administration appears steadfast on that necessity, which also rules out current AHL head coach Clark Donatelli.
Pandolfo also does not have a degree, despite playing four years for the Terriers. He signed with the New Jersey Devils following his senior season in 1996, and is two classes short. However, he is sufficiently close enough to getting his degree where it could work. Like with Tony Granato at Wisconsin, it’s not believed that would stand in the way of Pandolfo getting the job, as he could finish his degree in short order, potentially even this summer.
Buffalo Sabres assistant GM Steve Greeley, who was formerly an associate head coach under Quinn, was never aggressively pursued by BU. According to sources, BU administrators were concerned that Greeley might leave the program too soon for another shot in the NHL. Greeley is currently on the trajectory to be an NHL general manager, and he even turned down the Carolina Hurricanes GM job earlier this spring.
John Hynes, who is currently the head coach of the New Jersey Devils, reached out through channels to suggest he would be open to listening to what BU has to say, but sources say that BU never contacted him, which has attracted the ire of some alums.
It’s been suggested that BU athletic director Drew Marrochello is looking for someone who is more likely to stay at BU for an extended number of years, unlike Quinn, who spent five before leaving last month for the New York Rangers. If so, that rules out a number of attractive BU alumni candidates who have past NHL ties and/or future aspirations.
If Marrochello believes he needs to keep the hire “in the BU family,” McEachern is the likely frontrunner, with Pandolfo and O’Connell also in the running. If Marrochello is OK with widening the search, Bennett could still be in play. However, Bennett will require a hefty buyout owed to Union. Merrimack was interested in pursuing Bennett earlier this spring, according to sources, but that interest stalled when college officials learned that his buyout was around $500,000. Of course, that payment would be easier on a school like BU, which has more cash on hand and also isn’t paying a buyout to Quinn, the way Merrimack is paying a one to Mark Dennehy this upcoming season.