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Q&A With … Scott Borek

Scott Borek was introduced as the new head coach of the Merrimack men’s hockey team on Wednesday. After his press conference, Borek met with media. The following is a transcript of that Q&A session.

You hit on “Mission Merrimack” as being the slogan for the program. What are some of the first steps in that mission? Where do you start?”

Borek: “Well, first I need to go to HR. I need to get that stuff out of the way. I say to the guys that they need to take care of business in the classroom, and I know that they have and will continue to do that. But you have to take care of those things. It sounds funny to say that I need to go to HR, I need to get my computer set up, but you really do have to get all of those little things out of the way first.

“For me, it is about getting to know the place. I’ve been coming to Merrimack a long time, all the way back when Ron Anderson was coaching here. It’s obviously changed quite a bit since then, but I want to get to know the people and the place. From there, I need to go out and sell it. I think there is a growth mindset here, so it’s a pretty exciting sell. Most of my first two months will be spent on selling, whether it be to the alums, the former players or to the future players.”

As you go through this process, what made the program an attractive destination for you? It’s a Hockey East job, and I get that, but what about the job made you want to pursue it?

Borek: “Construction. Every single time I’ve been on this campus, whether it’s a Sunday, or watching a junior game or a midget game, or if we were coming to our own games here when I was an opponent, there is construction going on everywhere on this campus all the time. From the football stadium this year, now hearing talk about going Division I, all these things that are going on to build the place makes it an exciting place for me to be.

“At Providence, that was culture. It’s the culture here too. That’s what I hope to do in the future, I want to move in the Providence model. That’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”

When you’re recruiting players, is there a certain type of player you think you’ll target for this job?

Borek: “At UNH, we always went after good sticks. We wanted players with good sticks and a high hockey IQ. At Providence we were going after hard, competitive players. It was a different set of skills. I think you join those two together, and that’s easier said than done. It’s easy to say, but I think that gives me a great background.

“Offensively, I think I bring some things that we can use. I think it’s given me a way to view those players. I really learned a lot at Providence about the way Nate did things and the way that the staff did things. Winners compete every single day, and that’s what we are going to try to bring here. We want guys who are captains, guys who are leading scorers, guys who are willing to compete even if it’s Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Those are the players we want.”

I ask players a lot how they saw themselves evolve, let’s say from their freshman year to their senior year. You were a head coach a while ago at Lake Superior State. Where do you think you have evolved as a coach since then?

Borek: “I love the question, and I think that’s the elephant in the room. After my experience at Lake Superior, where we weren’t successful, then I think people wondered ‘how do you get this head coaching job?’ But when I was at Lake Superior, one of the most frustrating things was that I never coached the team like it was my own.

“I tried to carry the program the same way Jeff Jackson did, and we couldn’t be more different as people or as coaches. We’re great friends, but it was failing for me. That’s why we failed. I didn’t coach Lake Superior Scott Borek’s way. I’m much more emotional, I’m much more passionate just in the way I go about my day. Jeff is more methodical. I like to get guys who are more emotionally based. That experience was a poor one. I was disappointed in it. I didn’t coach the team the way I wanted to until the second half of my fourth year. I thought I was going to get fired that year, so I said ‘screw it, I’m going to coach it my way.’ We went on a huge run and I ended up as Coach of the Year that year, but it was only because it was finally my team.

“I come to Merrimack and I know that this is my team. They’re going to show themselves that way. They’re going to work that way. I’ve learned from two of the best coaches in the game in Nate (Leaman) and Richie (Umile). I can’t wait to get started. But I am going to coach it Scott’s way, not the way I coached it at Lake Superior.”

Do you have any idea what your staff might look like?

Borek: “First thing’s first, and Curtis (Carr) is going to stay. The school made it very clear that they were going to let the staff be my decision. I sat with Curtis for a couple of hours literally an hour after I signed the contract. I’ve always known Curtis and respected him, and after sitting down with him I knew that this is a guy I can work with and we can work side by side. I really am fortunate to have him.

“We’re still working through the kinks with the other assistant. I think we’re going to want someone who can be a little bit of a road warrior. Someone who will be loyal and aggressive. I want someone who is willing to take ‘no’ for an answer, and then ask for ‘yes’ again.

“We’re going to be bringing in a Director of Hockey Operations, and we’re looking for someone who is an experienced coach who can come in and be a quality control coach. That person will have a lot to do with our staff. He can’t have a lot to do with our players, but he can control a lot of organizational parts. I’m hopeful that we can attract the right person for that part.”

Is having that “road warrior” guy you were talking about, who can go on the road for maybe 20 straight days to recruit, is that important in today’s landscape?

Borek: “I think now you have to have someone like that, because we’re recruiting kids at all different age levels. It used to be that you could go to Hockey Night in Boston, and then your recruiting was over. Now, you are recruiting next year’s team but you’re also recruiting three years down the road. You really need a guy who has access to the road 365 days a year. That will be one of our staff rules. You’ll recruit 365 days a year. Whether it’s on the phone, whether it’s over email, it could be Christmas and I’m going to want to know if you made contact with anyone today. That’s the only way we’re going to get to where we want to go.”

What have been your impressions of the guys that are here? I know you’ve met with them but you also coached against them as well, so there has to be some familiarity there I’m sure.

Borek: “What I expected to find is exactly what I found, and that’s really quality guys, who are really committed players. That’s who Mark (Dennehy) is. Mark would never surround himself with anything but that. I’m not surprised at all by that. I really like these guys, and I think there’s something we can build as a program with those guys, and I’m not even talking about wins and losses. I’m talking about creating something special. These guys have been a part of something special, and now let’s be part of something that’s a little different, but also special. They were very accepting. They were locked in from my very first meeting with them.”

I talked to a lot of former Providence players over the last few days, who all speak very highly of you and how you helped them. What do you think when you hear that, as a coach? Obviously you coached those guys but I am sure there are a few who you brought in and recruited as well.

Borek: “I got a text from almost every guy on the team. It was heartwarming. I worked with two guys there in Nate and Kris (Mayotte) who are just over-the-top talented. I just tried to find my space there. I once told Nate that I thought I could take a month off and go away, and he wouldn’t even notice because him and Kris were so good. I really didn’t even understand the impact I had on some of those kids until I took the job here and started hearing from some of those guys. It was an honor to be with that program. It really was. Even though I left Providence, I left it sadly because I loved my time there. That program did a lot for me in a really difficult time for me. I just think it’s a wonderful place, and I really hope we can create the same image here at Merrimack.”

Mike McMahon is in his 12th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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