EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips decided to stay the course.
The Silvertips chose to fill their vacant head coaching position from within, announcing the hiring of John Becanic as their new head coach Thursday at a press conference at the Everett Events Center.
Becanic was elevated from his position as Everett’s associate head coach. He takes over for Kevin Constantine, who guided the Tips through the successful first four seasons of the franchise’s history. Constantine stepped down Tuesday to accept the head coaching position of the Houston Aeros, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
Evoking the words of coaching legend John Wooden, in which the former UCLA basketball coach said the greatest satisfaction came from overcoming a worthy opponent, Becanic said he was relishing the challenge of succeeding a man who was so successful during his time in Everett.
“The person I’m trying to replace is one of great worthiness,” Becanic said. “If I can do what he did then I will have great satisfaction.”
Becanic, who’s been Everett’s top assistant since the team began play in 2003, was the natural choice to succeed Constantine. It became even clearer that the 41-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was the likely successor when the Tips scheduled their press conference less than 24 hours after the Aeros announced Constantine as their new coach.
“You want to maintain continuity if you can,” Everett general manager Doug Soetaert said. “If you have strong assistant coaches you’re always looking at whether they’re capable of moving up. Do they have the respect of the players, do they have the knowledge of the game? Obviously I feel John has all that and I think it was the right thing to do. It’s his time to shine.”
The terms of Becanic’s contract were not disclosed.
Assistant coach Jay Varady also received a promotion. The 29-year-old from Cahokia, Ill., is the team’s new associate head coach. Varady also has been with the Tips since they began play in 2003.
“It really is a great opportunity,” Varady said from Florida, where he’s serving as best man in a wedding. “It’s great to be part of such a great organization. Having been here from the beginning and now having the chance to move up through the ranks, that’s exciting.”
Becanic brings a wealth of experience. Prior to his four seasons with Everett, he spent nine seasons behind the bench in various capacities. From 1992-94 he served as an assistant for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, winning the Memorial Cup in 1993. He then spent five seasons as the head coach and director of hockey operations of the Bismarck Bobcats of the Junior A American West Hockey League.
He joined up with Constantine and Varady in 2001 with the Pittsburgh Forge of the Junior A North American Hockey League, serving as an assistant coach in 2001-02 and the head coach in 2002-03. In his season as head coach the Forge went 43-9-4, won the U.S. Junior A national championship, and Becanic was named Coach of the Year.
When Constantine first began exploring the possibilities with the Wild about two weeks ago, Soetaert immediately approached Becanic. Becanic, who had drawn interest from other organizations in years past but remained loyal to the Tips, jumped at the opportunity.
“When I was given the associate head coach’s title a couple years ago it was a sign of commitment from the organization, and a sign that potentially I would be the successor,” Becanic said. “It just never seemed like Kevin was leaving. So I resigned myself to my position and was quite happy here with my family, I never once thought about leaving. There’s been other opportunities, but this is a dream job.”
The elevation of Becanic to head coach means the Tips will play a similar style as under Constantine, with a heavy emphasis on a strong defense. However, Becanic seemed open to the possibility of opening up the offense a bit.
“Wide open doesn’t win, that’s just the reality,” Becanic said. “But I think, maybe just from a different feel between the players and coach, the players may feel a little bit more free to do things. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be giving up two-on-ones all night, I think the defensive structure will stay just about the exact same. But there will be some changes, we don’t want to be predictable.”
The bigger change will be in the personality of the head coach. Constantine was known for his intensity, which could grate on players and referees but brought results. Becanic is known more for his ability to interact with the players, which was one of his primary roles under Constantine.
“I’m a player’s coach,” Becanic said. “One of my strengths is my compassion for the players and developing relationships. You’re not going to see me get purple in the face, you’re not going to see me be irate behind the bench, that’s not my personality.
“But the flip side is I probably have a lot shorter rope than Kevin has with regards to tolerance,” Becanic continued. “We will operate this team on respect. I will show the players the utmost respect, and in return I’ll tell them what I deem is respectful and disrespectful. If they cross the disrespectful line, they won’t play.”
By making such a quick announcement following Constantine’s resignation, Soetaert saved himself some headaches. In the 24 hours between Houston announcing Constantine as its new coach and the Tips announcing the press conference for their new coach, Soetaert said he was inundated with phone calls inquiring about the position.
As for the vacant assistant coach position, Becanic said he was planning on hiring someone with coaching experience rather than someone looking to break into coaching, such as a member of the Tips alumni. Soetaert said he hoped to have someone in place in the next few weeks.