Jerry Roberts went about his team’s annual end-of-the-season meeting according to the book, at least for the first half of it.
But at the end, Roberts dropped a bombshell, announcing to his team that he was resigning as ice hockey head coach.
After a four-year coaching tenure that yielded two American Collegiate Hockey Association Regional tournament appearances and an ACHA National tournament appearance. Roberts cited his budding family as his primary reason for stepping down as coach.
“Over the course of the season, I found myself being much more interested in spending time with my wife and our baby rather than coaching,” Roberts said. “Having a child changes your perspective drastically and I found myself wanting to be home more than road trips and practices and stuff like that.”
“I discussed leaving the coaching job with my wife over winter break and she spent two months telling me it was a bad decision to leave,” Roberts added. “In early February, I had it in my head that this would be it. I thought in my mind I would do it forever but having a child really changes your perspective on things in a good way.”
Though Roberts had it in his head for some time that his run with the team in 2012–13 would be his last as coach, his abrupt announcement to the team came as a shock to most.
“I had heard beforehand that he was talking about leaving, but I never thought he would actually go through with it,” junior forward Joe Pisko said. “We had conversations about next season and he never hinted at it. He’s definitely Temple ice hockey, he loves it. Obviously, only a life-changing event would cause him to step down and I understand why he’s leaving but it definitely caught me by surprise.”
“Toward the end of the meeting he told us he had an announcement to make and told us he was leaving,” senior forward Kurt Noce said. “It was pretty quick and abrupt.”
Roberts originally played for the Owls from 2002 until his graduation in 2007, and was hired to coach the team in 2009 after spending nearly two years working with the team as an employee of Temple’s Campus Recreation department.
“If you asked anyone who is involved with the club, they’ll tell you there is no one who loves this team more than Jerry,” Noce said. “We were all pretty surprised when he told us he was leaving, but we understand he’s starting a family, and that’s more important than hockey.”
Despite leaving the head coaching post, Roberts will stay on with the team in an administrative capacity, a familiar role that should come all too easy for the former club president and coach.
“Previously I did a lot helping organize the club,” Roberts said. “I managed the scheduling, ordering of equipment and a lot of the administrative tasks. I’m still going to hold on to that responsibility and work with the players to take over some of that.
A true hockey guy at heart, Roberts will miss the life behind the bench he had grown so accustomed to during his time as Temple skipper, he said.
“I love being on the bench,” Roberts said. “I’m going to miss coaching, yelling at the refs and things like that. Outside of family and playing of course, it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done. It’s a ton of fun, and I’m certainly going to miss it. I’m going to enjoy my new role as the No. 1 fan, but I’m going to miss coaching a lot.”
With Roberts’ departure on the bench, the team is now charged with the task of finding a new leader.
A players committee comprised of Pisko, Noce, senior forward Nick McMahon and senior goalie Chris Mullen will spend the next month interviewing candidates and slowly narrowing down the field in finding the team’s next coach.
Among other things, Noce and Pisko both agreed the team could use a coach who is an enforcer first, and friend second.
“I think what we’re looking for is a coach who is very high on discipline,” Noce said. “If you go back and look at our last two seasons, we lacked discipline and we weren’t able to play a full 60 minutes right away. We’re looking for a coach who’s not going to be our friend right away. We want a coach who can instill discipline and be hard on us when he needs to, punish us when he needs to and a guy who is a very smart hockey coach.”
“Two of the main things [the committee] agreed upon was that we’ve lacked is a coach who can enforce discipline with penalties on the team no matter who it is,” Pisko said. “From an X’s and O’s standpoint, we’re looking for someone who’s able to adapt and bring in new systems that will work better for us.”
For a team that has missed out on the regional playoffs two consecutive seasons, a little shakeup behind the bench could ultimately work out as a positive change for the club, Noce said.
“We’re interviewing a good amount of smart hockey guys and I think whoever we bring in will make it a smooth transition and bring in a lot of excitement to our team as well,” Noce said. “I think with the last two years there was a little staleness about the team here and there and I think change is going to be good for us.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @daParent93.