Ed. Note — This story will appear in Thursday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
NORTH ANDOVER — Call it fate. Call it destiny. Call it whatever you want. When Scott Borek first met with Merrimack athletic director Jeremy Gibson, he knew the head coaching job with the Warriors was one he needed to chase.
About two years ago, Borek lost his son, Gordon, in a car accident. He was just 22 years old and played on the club hockey team at the University of New Hampshire.
Less than a mile from that meeting with Gibson, the song “I Go Back” by Kenny Chesney played on the radio. It’s a 14-year-old song, and not one you typically hear on current country music station; it was also Gordon’s favorite.
“If you listen to the radio on a country station, you could listen for hours and not hear that song,” Borek said. “It’s never played. When that song came on the radio, my first instinct was to either turn it down or turn it off, because I can’t go there. But when my hand got to the volume button, I cranked it up to the top and just let myself feel it. To me, that message was from my son and he was telling me to go get this job, go get that championship and make me proud. That’s why I’m standing here in front of you.”
Once Borek got into the room and had that meeting, he realized that ambitions at Merrimack were large.
“This was something bigger than I thought,” he said. “This is a chance to do something special. I came in hoping to build a program, and I left that meeting thinking that we’re chasing national championships and trying to hunt people down. We’re going to talk the talk before we can walk the walk, and when we can walk the walk, we’ll do it with humility.
“I told our players today, we’re chasing national championships. … Doing that at Merrimack College will make me the proudest coach I could possibly be.”
Borek was a finalist for the position along with Harvard associate head coach Paul Pearl and Northeastern associate head coach Jerry Keefe. Borek was offered the job on Friday and had signed his contract by Saturday. According to the college, it’s a multi-year deal, but exact terms weren’t provided.
At the press conference, Borek and Gibson both gave statements before both were made available to the media for questions.
“We have bold aspirations for our men’s hockey program,” said Gibson. “We want to win championships. The hiring of Scott Borek represents a new bold voice for Merrimack hockey.”
Borek has a reputation as one of the top recruiters in all of college hockey. After spending 13 years at UNH under Dick Umile, Borek joined Nate Leaman’s staff in 2015. In total, Borek’s teams have qualified for 13 of the last 16 NCAA Tournaments.
Borek said that Curtis Carr, who has been at Merrimack since 2011, will be retained as an associate head coach. He also confirmed that the program will hire a second assistant that he described as a “road warrior,” and said that a full-time director of hockey operations will be added as well.
“Our new slogan here is Mission Merrimack, and the Mission is all capitalized,” Borek said. “What have we done today for our mission? I’ll ask the players that consistently and I’ll ask the coaches that all the time, day and night. I’ll ask myself every day. That’s the most important thing.”
Borek will hit the road later this week on a recruiting trip. The work has already begun.
“There was a comfortable feeling right away,” Merrimack junior Michael Babcock said. “It’s my senior year, so I’m thrilled about (Mission Merrimack). One thing I was looking for was someone who wasn’t looking to keep over and die and rebuild the program with his people. I got one year, and I’m hoping to extend by hockey career after that. He’ll be a big part of that. We’re on a mission and we’ll be ready to go. We’ve been on a mission the last few weeks working out. It speaks volumes about where we’re headed.”