Atlantic Hockey: Candidates emerge for Holy Cross' vacant coaching position

Former UMass Lowell and Maine head coach Tim Whitehead - Elsa - Getty Images

The rumors have been few and far between in terms of Holy Cross' opening.

Nathan Pine has an opportunity to make his first big hire as the new Athletic Director at Holy Cross. A former athletic administrator at Maryland, Pine is tasked with replacing veteran bench boss and alum Paul Pearl, who resigned earlier this month to take the associate head coaching position at Harvard.

As always when a coaching vacancy becomes available in Division I, there will be plenty of interest, but the Holy Cross situation is an interesting one. Pearl supposedly left due to a disagreement in the way funds were being distributed throughout the athletic department.

Pine could go two ways with this search. He could look for an older, experienced bench boss with head coaching experience or he could go after a young, up-and-coming assistant looking to make a name for himself and move on to bigger and better destinations down the road.

Two former Hockey East head coaches now coaching at lower levels that would be of intrigue are Colby bench boss Blaise MacDonald and Kimball Union Academy's Tim Whitehead.

MacDonald got his first head coaching gig at Niagara, now a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association. When MacDonald took over at Niagara, the Purple Eagles were an independent before moving to the now defunct College Hockey America.

After leading the Purple Eagles to an upset of New Hampshire in the NCAA Tournament, MacDonald moved on to UMass Lowell. The Merrimack Valley native had some ups and downs at Lowell, but his success there was hampered by an administration that didn't care about the hockey program.

MacDonald, also a former assistant at Boston University, UMass, UMass Lowell, Princeton and Dartmouth, played collegiately at RIT, another member institution of the AHA.

A former runner-up for the Spencer Penrose Award as college hockey's top coach, MacDonald just completed his second season at Division III Colby College. The Mules finished 11-11-3.

Whitehead, the former Maine and UMass Lowell head coach, stepped right into the prep school level and won a championship in his first season at KUA. He enjoyed tremendous success in his first few years at Maine, but after missing out on the NCAA Tournament in five of six years, he was ousted.

Whitehead was a victim of a lack of support at Maine with a minuscule recruiting budget, but he still managed to recruit several NHL players in his last few seasons there, including Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn.

A former Hockey East assistant who was out of the game last winter is another name that has been rumored to be a candidate. According to WEEI's Scott McLaughlin, Mike Bavis, the longtime BU associate head coach and former Terrier player, is a possibility for the job. Bavis would bring name credibility and he certainly knows the local area.

McLaughlin also threw out the name of former Holy Cross assistant and current Yale assistant coach Jason Guerriero. A Northeastern alum and former minor pro player, he would bring energy and a knowledge of the program that few candidates have.

There are two other current ECAC assistant coaches who have a background in Atlantic Hockey. Former UNH defenseman and current Brown assistant Mark White is known as a very solid recruiter. He helped procure some key commitments at Bentley before heading to become Brendan Whittet's righthand man at Brown.

Princeton assistant coach Greg Gardner, who is a candidate for the current opening there, would also be a name worth considering for Pine. He was a highly successful goaltender at Niagara before the Purple Eagles moved to the AHA, but he was an assistant there for Dave Burkholder during their Atlantic Hockey days.

Northeastern assistant coach Jerry Keefe, a former Providence player, is another intriguing possibility. A local to the general area, he grew up in Billerica, Mass. He was a standout player at Providence and is well thought of in hockey circles. He is an outstanding motivator and many give him credit for much of Northeastern's recent success.

The next two names are ones this writer also listed as candidates at Princeton. Providence assistant Ben Barr is another candidate. The RPI alum coached at Union with Nate Leaman before following him to PC. He was a known finalist for the Lake Superior opening earlier this summer so he's someone who is interested in finding a gig as the head man.

Union assistant coach Joe Dumais has been a big part of helping elevate the Dutchmen's program along with his boss, Rick Bennett, who just received a lengthy contract extension.

Dan Rubin, an Atlantic Hockey columnist for USCHO, also mentioned the possibility of Division III head coaches such as Babson's Jamie Rice and Trinity's Matthew Greason. This writer admittedly knows little about Greason, but Rice is a terrific coach. He's a former assistant at Northeastern, but he has a good gig at Babson and is in a good situation at the Wellesley campus.

This writer would tend to think that Holy Cross would best be suited hiring a younger assistant such as Gardner, White,  Keefe or Dumais. They would be more motivated to make a name for themselves as opposed to an older rehashed coach who might be more set in his ways and less energetic to turn around the HC program.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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