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VIP Insider Post #90 (4/7)

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Exclusively for our VIP supporters, TMR editor Mike McMahon brings you these “insider” posts, where he’ll discuss the news and give some insight and perspective on the stories we’re covering here at The Mack Report as well other insider info from stories around the country …

— I’m not going to lie, I was caught off-guard yesterday when I learned that Providence associate head coach Scott Borek was offered the Merrimack coaching job, and that a contract was being worked out. It’s a surprising hire. Everyone — and I mean everyone — I spoke to in the last two weeks all believed this was Paul Pearl’s job, and everyone believed that Pearl was the clear-cut top choice. I’m talking everyone from current D-I head coaches, current assistant coaches, player agents, former players, etc. Other applicants in the process all thought it was Pearl’s job.

Borek is surprising only because I didn’t get the sense that he was heavily involved in the process until this week. I knew he had applied, but no one seemed to know that there were serious conversations happening. This was Paul Pearl’s job, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t.

The reaction since the news last night has been split. These are all off-the-record conversations, of course, but some in the hockey community tell me that Borek’s recruiting ability is going to help Merrimack right away. Others tell me that this is a big mistake for the program, and Pearl should have been the guy.

My concern would be that head coaches aren’t the ones on the front line recruiting. If Borek’s recruiting ability is his top asset — and all indications are he’s a very good recruiter — then you’re taking that away when you make him a head coach. He’s not on the road, he’s on campus with the team. Sure, the head coach is the closer, but I’ve long held the belief that good recruiters don’t necessarily make good head coaches. There are good head coaches who are also good recruiters, though.

And that’s not to suggest that Borek will fail at Merrimack. It’s just that being a head coach is a totally different job, and he hasn’t been in this position since 2001 when he was let go by Lake Superior State. Some of the best coaches in the NHL were at multiple stops before finally figuring it out … just look at Bruce Cassidy on the Boston bench right now.

Here’s what one coach sent me this morning:

“(Redacted) told me this when I worked with him … the problem with college hockey assistants is you’re training for a job other than head coach, so your strength as a recruiter is not that valuable. If you want to be a head coach, go be a head coach somewhere. Being a an assistant and a good recruiter is a different job. It would be like taking experience as a police officer and then trying to jump in and be the chief of the fire department. You’re helping people in both jobs, but they’re completely different. A patrol officer for the police department shouldn’t run the fire department, even if he’s a good police officer.”

People are going to bring up the NCAA violations at UNH for improper recruiting practices. That’s a legitimate concern, but even at the time I remember getting the impression it was a honest mistake more than anything else. The school self-reported the violations and it had to do with software sending out emails.

But the proof will be in the pudding. The head coach, while not on the road recruiting players, is still the closer back on campus when kids come for a visit.

Another current Hockey East coach told me yesterday, “As an opposing coach, I know what Merrimack was under Mark and I don’t know if you can get any better than that with their current rink situation. But what would scare me is if they brought in a really good recruiter.”

Borek is a really good recruiter, by all indications. He’s recruited teams that have gone to 13 of the last 16 NCAA Tournaments.

I also think it’s critical that Curtis Carr remain on the coaching staff. Carr is going to be an excellent head coach. He’s really smart, studies the game like crazy and the players on the current roster absolutely love him.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th 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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