Dennis Williams, head coach and GM of the Everett Silvertips, shakes hands with an assistant coach at the end of a season-opening victory over the Vancouver Giants on Sep. 24, 2022, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. Williams has accepted the head coaching job for the men’s team at Bowling Green State University and will leave the Silvertips after their WHL playoff run ends. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Dennis Williams, head coach and GM of the Everett Silvertips, shakes hands with an assistant coach at the end of a season-opening victory over the Vancouver Giants on Sep. 24, 2022, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. Williams has accepted the head coaching job for the men’s team at Bowling Green State University and will leave the Silvertips after their WHL playoff run ends. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Coach, GM Williams leaving Silvertips for Bowling Green State

After seven successful season leading Everett, Dennis Williams is heading back to his alma mater. He’ll stay with the Tips through the WHL playoffs.

EVERETT — The 2024 WHL playoffs will be Dennis Williams’ swan song with the Everett Silvertips.

Williams, who’s been Everett’s highly successful head coach since 2017 and the team’s general manager since 2021, is departing after the playoffs to rejoin his alma mater, becoming the head coach of the Bowling Green State University men’s team, both the Tips and Bowling Green announced Wednesday.

Williams is returning to Bowling Green, where he was a player from 1997-2001 and a part of the coaching staff from 2008-10.

Williams was unavailable for comment because he was traveling to Bowling Green, Ohio, for an introductory press conference, which is scheduled for Thursday morning. He is expected back in time for Everett’s playoff opener against Vancouver on Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena.

In a press release Williams said: “I’m extremely happy to have the opportunity to go back and be a part of the Bowling Green hockey team and community. It was a tough decision. When it came down to it from a family standpoint, it’s a place that’s still very dear to us. My oldest daughter Emerson was born there. I’ve spent seven years there. We felt it was time to embark on a different challenge and opportunity, and it has nothing to do with my feelings toward the Everett Silvertips, (owner) Mr. Bill Yuill and (chief operating officer) Zoran Rajcic.”

Said Rajcic: “It came down so quick, it all got started (last) Thursday, so it wasn’t very long. I was hoping for him and us and everybody that we’d get at least another year. But that’s always the threat when you have a coach with his winning percentage, everywhere he’s gone he done very well and provided success to the organization. It was inevitable that at some point in time he’d leave to work at a different level of hockey, I just didn’t want it to be this soon.”

Williams’ arrival in Everett in 2017 came amidst some controversy. He was coaching the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder, a team also owned by Yuill, when he was hired to replace Kevin Constantine, whose contract wasn’t renewed despite the Tips winning the U.S. Division championship in 2016-17.

But Williams justified the change immediately, guiding Everett to U.S. Division and Western Conference titles in his first season behind the bench. In total he compiled a 270-104-15-15 record during his seven seasons in charge, good for a .705 winning percentage. No team in the entire Canadian Hockey League had a better winning percentage during that time frame. He also coached the Tips to four division banners. He was named the Western Conference Coach of the Year in 2017-18 and 2019-20 and the U.S. Division Coach of the Year in 2021-22.

Williams added the general manager duties in 2021 after the organization declined to renew then-general manager Garry Davidson’s contract amidst financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Williams’ lasting legacy as the general manager is the trade he made with Kamloops at last season’s trade deadline that sent stars Olen Zellweger and Ryan Hofer to the Blazers in exchange for four players and nine prospects draft picks, including four first rounders. It is arguably the biggest trade in WHL history.

The timing of the announcement is inconvenient for Everett, coming two days before the playoffs begin. However, Bowling Green wanted to have a coach in place in advance of the NCAA transfer portal opening Sunday.

As for replacing Williams, Rajcic said the plan is to separate the general manager and head coaching roles, the way it was for the 18 seasons prior to Williams assuming general manager duties. Rajcic said he’s in conversations with assistant general manager Mike Fraser about assuming the general manager position. Fraser was hired as the team’s head scout in 2018, promoted to director of player personnel in 2021, then promoted again to assistant general manager in 2022. Fraser’s primary roles have been overseeing Everett’s scouting staff and managing the Tips’ prospects draft.

Rajcic said he’s in no hurry to fill the coaching vacancy.

“When something comes down that quickly people tend to want to rush to a solution,” Rajcic said. “My solution is that we have Mike in place to get us through now and the prospects draft in May, and we’ll get a chance to talk during that period. And we have Dennis Williams to coach us through what’s hopefully a deep run into the playoffs.”

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