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Maine Coaching Search: A month after Whitehead firing, the quest for a new coach continues

It has been a month since Tim Whitehead was fired by Steve Abbott following a dismal season where the Black Bears snuck into the Hockey East playoffs and failed to make the NCAA Tournament for a fifth time in six years.

Could Mark Osiecki come in out of left field to take the job?
Could Mark Osiecki come in out of left field to take the job?
Gregory Shamus

It has been a month since the University of Maine terminated head hockey coach Tim Whitehead. Athletic Director Steve Abbott formed a search committee to find the next bench boss of the school and state's premier sports team.

Bob Corkum was named the Interim Head Coach, but a source with direct knowledge of the search committee denies rumors that it is a foregone conclusion the former Black Bear will be offered the job on a permanent basis.

The Black Bears missed out on one of the early favorites to become the next coach when Jim Montgomery took the top job at Denver University. Montgomery, the captain of the 1993 NCAA Championship team and the school's all-time leading scorer, had been the head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. A former assistant at RPI and Notre Dame, Montgomery is considered to be one of the up-and-coming names in the college game.

Providence coach Nate Leaman, a graduate assistant under Shawn Walsh during the 1999 NCAA Championship season, has reportedly been in talks with PC Athletic Director Bob Driscoll on a contract extension after Maine asked permission to speak with him.

Former Black Bear goaltender and current UNH assistant coach Jim Tortorella has supposedly been in contact by members of the search committee. He led Division III Colby College for 16 seasons, compiling a record of 230-138-33. He is the brother of New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella who also played at Maine.

Yale assistant coach and former Black Bear assistant Red Gendron is another name being bandied about. He was Keith Allain's right-hand-man as the Bulldogs captured the NCAA Championship last month in Pittsburgh. He also has NHL experience, winning Stanley Cups as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils in 1995 and 2000. The former New England College (Division III) hockey and baseball player earned a masters in educational administration at Maine when the Black Bears went 42-1-2 en route to the school's first of two NCAA Championships. He will turn 56 in November.

The homerun hire would be former Denver coach George Gwozdecky. The 59 year-old led the Pioneers to NCAA Championships in 2004 and 2005. He led Denver to 12 NCAA Tournament appearances since taking over in 1994. He coached Miami and Division III Wisconsin-River Falls before his stop in the Mile High City. Overall, the 1978 graduate of Wisconsin has won 202 more games than he has lost.

Gwozdecky would certainly cost a lot more money than Tortorella, Gendron, or Corkum, but the investment would be well worth it. He is a proven commodity that would bring Maine hockey back to a position of national prominence. It was reported by ESPN's John Buccigross that Gwozdecky was in the running for the UConn job, but Boston College associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh was given the nod. ESPN personality and Denver Post scribe Woody Paige even suggested Gwozdecky could be a good candidate to replace Joe Sacco as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche.

That is not to say Gwozdecky is the only one that can get the job done, but he would bring instant credibility back to Orono. Some have criticized Corkum for the sole reason of having been on the bench with Whitehead. He wouldn't be the homerun hire of Gwozdecky, but he has loads of international experience with USA Hockey and played in over 700 games in the NHL.

One positive from how this has been handled is the very few leaks of information. There has been very little information sifting outside. It might have fans on edge with how things are being conducted, but sometimes a stealth search is better. The worst thing to happen would be having coaches publicly denying rumors, like the disaster at UMass-Amherst last summer.

Maybe a Mark Osiecki, the recently fired Ohio State coach, or Gwozdecky will emerge as the next head coach even with all signs currently pointing to Corkum, Tortorella or Gendron.

This process has gone on for over a month, counting the evaluation that led to the firing of Whitehead. This is a marquee job, and Steve Abbott must do everything in his power to bring success back to Alfond Arena.

Jeff Cox covers college hockey and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.