Tim Army Interview, Part 2

Many loyal followers of PC hockey look upon Tim Army as a savior. They see a link back to the time of Frozen Fours and nationally ranked teams. There are also many fans of Friar athletics who are pleased that the coach is an alumnus. However, for Tim Army becoming the Friar hockey coach is simply the fulfillment of his destiny.

On a follow-up question Tim noted he could not speak about any players he was recruiting. However he did say the process of signing next year's freshman class has already begun. He also was clear in saying that he will bring in players who fit his general philosophy of how hockey should be played. We are also not keying on one particular geographic area like we have in the past few years. The search for talent will be global. He believes the diversity of coming from different backgrounds will have a cohesive affect as it did during his own playing day when PC had a very broad recruiting base. Further, while he wants players who'll benefit from their time at PC, by bringing in people who fit the PC culture, PC will produce well rounded people in whom the school can be very proud of. The goal will be to have minimal disruptions caused by off ice behavior.

As has been stated in other interviews Tim has given, PC is very much part of his life. His dad and mom were married by the Father of PC hockey, Father Schneider. Tim met his wife at PC and his children have been christened at PC. It becomes very easy to see the tying together of PC and hockey both for Tim and his whole family. Likewise you get a clear picture of how events take you away from what is important to you, but make you a better person when you are drawn back to your core.

As someone who had the opportunity to watch Tim's entire PC career it was like jumping into a time machine to a very successful era. Discussing his time at PC provided not only insight into a leading member of PC's most successful hockey class but provided the opportunity to discuss a lot of themes that will reverberate during the Tim Army era as coach.

For instance when talking about both his freshman year at PC and his season at Maine in the AHL Tim talked about how he had to adjust. He quickly realized that things that came to him easily at a lower level required adjustments to regain the edge at a higher level. The most prominent change he had to make was getting himself to the physical level required first by the college game, then the pro level. Playing his best game at a much lighter weight then the average player Tim had to work at building his own strength

He also realizes there are no magic bullets that solve all problems. Again using his time at PC as an example he pointed out that the building of chemistry is a process. Despite all the talent his team had in his freshman year the piece to make it all click never fell into place. However with few personnel changes, but building off the experiences of the previous season, his sophomore team clicked right from the beginning.

Having drawn you in this far I'll report the one fact most people have inquired about. People who remember those days will like how the present team will play the game. The ultimate aim will be that the team learns how to win consistently. To get there is a process with no step by step instruction manual. However, from experience Tim has found young players, like college players, respond well to a high pace game. The goal is to set a framework within which the team can be creative, aggressive and attack oriented. What it avoids is a style which puts the team back on their heels waiting for the clock to run out. The new mindset which will be established seeks to have the players on all levels playing with a passion and as a confident cohesive unit. One key will be that the players will be expected to play this game regardless of the score or the time remaining.

The good part is that Tim has been through this process. A lot of what he drew from a coach like Ron Wilson will be indispensable in implementing the change. Wilson is an excellent teacher and skill development coach. A lot of his success has come from getting his players to unlearn what they have learned. The players need to approach his plan with an open mind, make the necessary adjustments and play to their own strengths doing what they are capable of. Practice and desire will be required, as with teaching anything to young people, you need to repeat the lessons you want them to learn. Tim's role in this will be to develop a relationship with each player so there is a base with which to work. Wilson and others who have worked with Tim have repeatedly called him a great people person and one on one teacher. With a relationship established Tim is confident he can develop any skill the player wants to improve on.

From his own experience Tim can draw on the change in the coaching staff. In his junior year he and his teammates had to adjust to Lamoriello leaving and an outsider, Steve Stirling, being brought in. Tim was quick to point out that all that separated that team and a probable NCAA bid was one goal in a playoff mini game. From this experience Tim felt he got a good first hand look at a coach who has (and has since enhanced) a reputation as a solid bench coach. Stirling was good at teaching relations, making adjustments and giving the players the chance to use their own intuition and even free lance a little.

Another area his own experience provides a strong background for is building team leadership. When the 1985 team went to the NCAA finals Tim was the captain. Now in 2005 a key element in PC's success will be the relationship Tim can build with team captain Tony Zancanaro. Through the captain the team will establish its own identity. As the intermediary between coach and players the captain is the person through whom Tim can instill a work ethic and a care about winning from within the locker-room indirectly. Acting as a go between also helps the chemistry, for while it's a fine line to walk by a player, it is a very good way to bring good communication and cohesiveness to the team.

With his departure from Providence Tim ended up playing a season in the AHL. In an ironic sense it was spent in another city that seems to play a significant role in the Tim Army story. As a player in the New Jersey Devil system he was assigned to the Maine Mariners. They played their games in Portland. It was from Portland that his grandfather played some of his minor league ball and it would be in Portland that Tim would get his first head coaching job. Besides seeing once again the need to adjust his game to regain an edge the next biggest impact on Tim came from his coach.

The Maine coach was former Bruin coach Tom McVie. From McVie Tim learned the meaning of what goes into being a professional and watched carefully the way McVie handled himself. When the Portland team became his team to coach Tim adopted many of the precepts he learned from McVie.

The following season was spent mostly in the Finnish league, where Tim enjoyed quite a bit of success, and when a Swiss Elite team needed players, a short stint there. However 20 years ago the route from Europe to the North America was not seen as a way to the NHL. This gave rise to the first thoughts of moving to the next natural step in his hockey career.

The summer of 1987 also saw the first time a series of unexpected events brought Tim back to PC. That summer Tim accepted a job as both a teacher and coach at Portsmouth Abby and even moved to an on campus apartment in preparation for the job. At that point PC assistant Dick Umile decided to go into private business. With the opening on his staff PC head coach Mike McShane decided the best way to fill the position was with an alumnus who had success as both a student and an athlete. It didn't take long for McShane to realize Tim was the perfect fit.

In his first two years back it was again time to make adjustments. The biggest adjustment in going from being a player to being a coach is to think like a coach. A player often is able only to see what is happening through his own eyes, the coach must see it as the big picture.

Beyond that his first years provided many opportunities to absorb lessons which would serve him well later. The first team in many ways is a team that parallels the current Friar team. They were young, they had fits of inconsistency, but overall they were a talented group. Despite its youth and its overall record the team in the end was able to rise to the occasion and slip past BU in the quarterfinals. The 1988-89 season provided a lesson in the dynamics of a team overcoming obstacles and coming together. A more current analogy would be how a coach like the Patriot's Bill Belichick takes the cards he is dealt and plays them to the best of his ability. For the Friars they had to overcome the loss of Tom Fitzgerald to the pros and 4 players suspended, one for the season. Through the early season struggles the team developed its identity, and with the return of its missing players the team worked together to bring about a positive change and a winning attitude. Ultimately the team reached the second round of the NCAA's falling short only when Maine was able to rally in game 3 of a best of 3 series.

The 1988-89 season also was a key year in how this year's team will be coached. That was the year Stan Moore first came into the program. From the start he bonded well with Tim. With a very similar philosophy of the game the two forged a bond that remained strong over many years and many moves by both men. Tim sees Stan as a nice complement to himself. He is an outstanding teacher, an open personality and is very easy to relate to. With plans to work at changing the philosophy on how the team will play on ice Moore will be a key piece to the success this season.

Tim, just as he does with his players, expects to create an environment that will work to help Moore grow too. Moore is a veteran and highly regarded assistant who is on the verge of getting the top job somewhere in the near future.

While success may not be defined by championships, PC enjoyed a highly successful period during Tim's years as assistant. Twice they went to the NCAA's at a time where fewer teams received bids, numerous other times they fell just short. They put together 4 straight 20 win seasons, developed some elite talent that made it to the NHL and ultimately it was the last recruiting class Tim helped bring in that keyed PC's last Hockey East championship.

More significantly Tim kept pointing out learning lessons that will help him as he prepares to take over. For instance he pointed out how important it was not to rush back a player from injury if he is not both mentally and physically ready to play. The example was the major injury Rick Bennett suffered in 1990. Or the use of the sour taste the 1990 playoff loss to UNH left in the team's mouth, providing a rallying point for the next season's team to get through UNH to the NCAA tournament.

End of Part 2...

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