Early Names in the UMass Coaching Search

Posted by: Joe Meloni

Late Tuesday morning, we learned, first from Fear the Triangle, that UMass coach Don Cahoon had stepped from his post of 12 years. While Cahoon remains silent and John McCutcheon remains as evasive as possible regarding the cause of his former employee’s dismay, some names have come the forefront as possible replacements.

For the most part, fewer than 24 hours after the news broke, we don’t know too much about the candidates. With the season under way in about four months, McCutcheon and his staff will have to move quickly in replacing Cahoon. Below is list of names I’ve heard from some of my sources around the country, while others are nothing more than my own speculation.

The Favorites:

Darren Yopyk, Scout, Minnesota Wild

Yopyk is currently a scout with the Minnesota Wild, as far as I know. He took the job last season interviewing at both Princeton, his alma mater, and Northeastern. Yopyk has been considered one of the top young head coaching candidates by many in the last two years after his successful run aiding Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy is the program’s rebuild. Yopyk is a skilled recruiter, and an even more gifted coach. Dennehy and others around Merrimack have been adamant that Yopyk will be a premier coach in college hockey once given the chance. Last season, his interview for Princeton appeared to have landed him a job before visa issues held up his appointment. Meanwhile, the Northeastern process proved to be mostly a formality with St. Botolph St.’s own Jim Madigan getting the job. Yopyk does have experience with the UMass program, having served as a graduate assistant and administrative staff member with the Minutemen under Cahoon. Moreover, Yopyk played for Cahoon at Princeton from 1996 through 2000. UMass assistant coach Len Quesnelle, who is reportedly still under contract, was an assistant at Princeton while Yopyk played for the Tigers.

Jim Montgomery, Head Coach, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)

The connections between Montgomery and UMass are minimal, but a source has indicated that Montgomery has been discussed as a possible candidate for other jobs. The Maine alumnus won a championship in the USHL in 2010-11 with the Fighting Saints in the team’s first year of existence. Last year, both Boston College freshman Johnny Gaudreau and Northeastern junior Vinny Saponari, now a sophomore and senior, spoke highly of Montgomery’s work in Dubuque. Again, the connection between Montgomery and UMass isn’t as strong as it is with Yopyk, but he’s been successful everywhere he’s gone in college hockey. After a lengthy pro career that saw him bounce between the NHL, AHL, IHL and Europe, Montgomery spent a season as an assistant at Notre Dame and four at Rensselaer before taking over at Dubuque.

Kyle Wallack, Assistant Coach, Yale

Wallack’s name was initially mentioned to me as a replacement for Blaise MacDonald, who resigned as an assistant to Cahoon last week to take the head coach job at Division III Colby (Maine). However, as I said on Twitter this morning, it’s clear his name has come up as a potential replacement for Cahoon. Wallack spent last season as an assistant to Keith Allain at Yale after spending a year with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. Prior, he was ¬†on the bench at Yale for five years after two at Holy Cross and two at Connecticut. At Yale, he’s proven to be a capable recruiter during the Bulldogs’ recent run of success, which included a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11. Some have suggested he’s the No. 1 candidate for the job for a series of reasons. Aside from his track record in terms of recruiting, UMass has agreed to pay the remaining year on Cahoon’s contract. Hiring a first-time head coach, like Wallack, Yopyk or Montgomery, may help the Minutemen find a capable young candidate at cost.

The longshots

I’m not going to go into much detail with these names. As I said, the process is still quite young, and it’s not clear what UMass’ plans are. However, there are some names that some sources have named as potential candidates.

Nate Leaman, Head Coach, Providence

In his first year at Providence, Leaman transformed the future of the Friars. After missing the playoffs in each of Tim Army’s final three season, PC flirted with home ice before fading down the stretch. However, they managed to pull off the first-ever No. 2 vs. No. 7 upset in the Hockey East Tournament, defeating Massachusetts-Lowell in three-game. The chances that Leaman would even consider leaving PC are scant, but his name came up. Given the enthusiasm surrounding PC hockey that Leaman is largely responsible for, it’s doubtful that he would make another move after heading to PC from Union last year.

Mike Cavanugh, Assistant Coach, Boston College

Cavanaugh has been at BC for 17 seasons and success has been the constant during his stay. Often credited by the players with assembling their wildly successful penalty kill, Cavanaugh has proven to be a strong coach and recruiter. Looking back, Cavanugh’s name has surfaced as potential head coach around college hockey, but something seems to be preventing him from getting the nod. Last year, he reportedly interviewed for both the Providence and Northeastern jobs, but still spent his season on Jerry York’s side. Obviously, ending yet another season in Chestnut Hill with a national championship wasn’t a bad thing, but you have to think Cavanaugh would like his shot.

Len Quesnelle, Assistant Coach, Massachusetts

This seems doubtful, but Quesnelle appears to still have his job. While this could be temporary until he finds another position, sources say Quesnelle plans on staying in Amherst. This leads to a series of conclusions. Yopyk’s appointment could be one, however, Quesnelle becoming the 13th head coach in the history of UMass hockey — third in the modern era of the program — could be another.

Other names will certainly be tossed around in the coming weeks. For now, these are the names I’m hearing. With the offseason nearly three months old, UMass will certainly look to move fast.


3 Responses to “Early Names in the UMass Coaching Search”

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    […] is a look at the early frontrunners for the vacant UMass head coaching […]

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