EVERETT — Kevin Constantine is out as head coach of the Everett Silvertips.
The Western Hockey League franchise announced Tuesday that Constantine’s contract, which expires May 31, would not be renewed.
“They just told me they weren’t going to rehire me,” Constantine said Tuesday afternoon. “There wasn’t any discussion of (why). It was just ‘You’re not being rehired.’ It was a very short conversation.”
Constantine was in his second stint as the team’s head coach. He guided the Silvertips to the 2017 U.S. Division title, but Everett’s season ended Friday in the second round of the playoffs when the Tips were swept in four games by the Seattle Thunderbirds.
This season’s team finished the regular season with a 44-16-9-3 record (100 points). The point total was the second-most in franchise history and marked just the second time the Tips have reached triple digits in their 14 seasons. In his second stint in Everett, Constantine guided the Tips to two U.S. Division banners and three consecutive first-round playoff series wins, but didn’t advance past the second round.
“You’re never excited to make a decision like we’ve made here,” said Tips general manager Garry Davidson, who hired Constantine for his second stint in 2013. “But in the end, ownership and management put their heads together and decided this was something we had to do.”
A native of International Falls, Minnesota, Constantine coached the Silvertips from their inception in 2003 through the 2006-2007 WHL season. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (326) and games coached (576).
The 2003-04 WHL Coach of the Year, Constantine led the Tips to five U.S. Division titles in his eight years behind the bench. He led the team to its only Western Conference title in the team’s inaugural season, both of the franchise’s Western Conference finals appearances, and its lone Scotty Munro Trophy for best regular-season record in 2006-07 before departing to coach the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League.
Unlike a decade ago, Constantine isn’t leaving this time of his own volition.
“My life was very simple — I got a family, a wife, a child, a couple of animals and a hockey team, and I poured my heart and soul into that,” Constantine said. “I had no interest in doing anything but that. I had no interest in leaving or going somewhere else to coach. I came back to Everett because I enjoyed the first time around and I loved the area (and) the people. Really, my hope was just for that to continue. It didn’t work out that way and now, of course, as anyone would in life, you’ve gotta get ready to figure out what you’re going to do next. So that’s what I wake up to tomorrow and try to figure out. Up until then I was just really, really happy and content doing what I was doing.”
The knock on Constantine — one with which he takes great umbrage — is that his teams are all defense and no offense. Davidson has preferred a more wide-open, high-flying offensive style, similar to that employed by the Portland Winterhawks, his former organization. That’s part of the reason the original partnership of Davidson and Constantine took many by surprise in 2013.
“I think I said when I came here we were at the opposite end of the spectrum, so that hasn’t changed,” Davidson said. “I hoped we would grow more together (but) I don’t think we ever did very much.”
The Silvertips have never been a particularly high-scoring outfit — even the 2006-07 team, which captured the Munro Trophy, scored just 239 goals. Four of Everett’s top five highest-scoring teams played for Constantine, including the 2014-15 squad that won the division and set a franchise record with 242 goals. Six of the Silvertips’ top eight defensive teams — as determined by goals allowed — played for Constantine.
“‘Defense-first’ is a term that I don’t even understand what it means,” Constantine said. “I can only assume it means you care more about defense than offense. That’s incredibly false. There are things that work on the offensive side of the game and things that work on the defensive side of the game. You work to be good at both of those. We spend more of our time on the offensive side than the defensive side. … We spent all of our summer studying the offensive side, not the defensive side. And at the end of the day, you still are going to be given a set of players that is going to dictate more as to how you produce offensively than it is defensively.
“(Defense) is a component of positioning and hard work and I think coaches can impact that quicker than they can impact the offensive side,” he continued. “While coaches can certainly help on the offensive side, you’re still going to have your offensive production be related to your talent more on the offensive side than the defensive side.”
Davidson said he plans to focus his attention the next several weeks on the upcoming WHL bantam draft that takes place May 4 in Calgary. After that, he’ll zero in on finding the Silvertips’ next coach. Assistant coaches Mitch Love and Brennan Sonne both have contracts independent of Constantine.
“I believe in continuity and I think those guys bring some continuity to our program, so it’s going to be my wish that we keep continuity here,” Davidson said. “So that’s something we’ll have to work through with the new guy.”
Both Sonne and Love are former Silvertips who played for Constantine.
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