By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Garry Davidson had no past history with Kevin Constantine. The Everett Silvertips general manager had never even meet Constantine face-to-face until Constantine arrived in town to be introduced as the team’s new head coach.
But Davidson’s investigations quickly revealed that bringing Constantine back into the fold would be more than just a public-relations move.
Constantine, the extraordinarily successful first head coach in Everett franchise history, was welcomed back to the team during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Everett Events Center.
Davidson, who was hired as Everett’s general manager in February of 2012, was not around during Constantine’s successful four-season stint from 2003-07. Nevertheless, he became convinced Constantine is the man to lead the Tips back to a level of prominence the organization hasn’t experienced since the last time Constantine was in charge.
And Davidson said the decision had little to do with Constantine’s popularity among the fanbase.
“I wanted to be careful that I wasn’t being influenced by (Constantine’s) early success here,” Davidson said. “I read the signs like, ‘Constantine for President,’ and those things. He was here for four years when things were very positive both on and off the ice. But I wanted to make sure I didn’t let that become a real influence. I reached out to lots of people — people in the office, players, Mitch (Love, Everett’s assistant coach) — and they were all pumping his tires big time. I started to interview him, did more research, and it became very obvious to me there was a lot more to it than just that the fans wanted him back.”
Everett had been without a head coach since Mark Ferner was fired in January. Davidson finished out the season as the interim head coach.
By tabbing Constantine, Davidson turns to an individual who has a tremendous track record in Everett. Constantine guided the Tips to a 162-97-20-9 record during his previous stint with the Tips, winning three U.S. Division championships, a Western Conference title, and a Scotty Munro Trophy for the league’s best record. It included a storybook inaugural season when Constantine guided the expansion Tips all the way to the WHL finals.
But despite Constantine’s past success in Everett, there were questions about how suited he’d be for Davidson’s vision of the team. Davidson has espoused an up-tempo offensive style, and one of the reasons cited by Davidson for firing Ferner was that Ferner’s style was too defensive. Constantine has developed a reputation as a defensive coach, and the success of his Everett teams was built largely around the ability to keep the puck out of the net.
But both Davidson and Constantine stressed their philosophies aren’t nearly as divergent as they may appear at first glance.
“After visiting with Kevin and doing a lot of research, certainly the early years (in Everett) they survived by keeping the puck out of the net,” Davidson said. “But in the fourth year they also scored a lot of goals and had one of the best power plays and penalty kills in the league. And they certainly racked up a lot of wins, which is ultimately what we’re all about.”
For his part Constantine, who spent the past six seasons coaching professionally in the American Hockey League and Switzerland, disputed the notion he’s a defensive coach, and he said his and Davidson’s philosophies are more compatible than critics claim.
“I think there’s maybe some misconception there,” Constantine said. “I think there was way more common ground than differences in how we think a program should be run.
“What we agreed on in common certainly was that developing players is very important, maybe more in the 16-20 age bracket than anywhere else in hockey. So developing players is a very important part of being a successful junior team.
“I think Garry would like a certain way of playing the game and a certain style of team. I think we all would. We all would like to combine the ability to generate goals as part of winning, because you need some of those. But at the same time, you have to play a good two-way game, too.”
Davidson acknowledged he and Constantine appear to have some differing philosophies. However, he believes both men’s strengths will complement one another going forward.
“There was always the concern that he plays a real tight-checking defensive game,” Davidson said. “Yet every time I reached out and tried to find something that really bothered me, I didn’t come up with anything.
“I think this could be an outstanding marriage, with the two of us drawing upon our past experiences, sharing it, and hopefully we come up with a solid formula that results in a lot of winning.”
Davidson said the coaching hires may not be done just yet. Previously Davidson said he intended to deploy a two-man coaching staff, with Love as the lone assistant. However, he said he and Constantine would discuss whether to add a third coach. From day one Everett used three coaches until Ferner and assistant Chris Hartsburg were fired in January.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.