- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Like many successful, hardworking employees, Jack Parker felt he deserved a promotion. More to the point _ his ego felt he deserved a promotion.

So he got one.

Oh, what a mistake. He was miserable. The job he gave up was the one he was meant to have. Two weeks later, he swallowed his pride and got himself demoted back to where he was before.

College hockey would be a poorer place had Parker decided to keep the job as Boston University’s athletic director 20 years ago. If he had truly retired as the Terriers’ coach, he wouldn’t have won another national championship. He wouldn’t have reached 814 victories _ the most for any hockey coach at one school. His legendary status wouldn’t have become even more legendary. And, on Saturday night, he wouldn’t be back in the NCAA title game, leading heavy favorite BU against the Frozen Four first-timers from Ohio’s Miami University.

“Ego got in the way,” Parker began Friday when asked to relate the tale of his misguided, temporary career move in 1989.

The 64-year-old coach then told the fascinating story, remembering the details as if they had happened last month. It all started when the AD’s job came open during the hockey season, and Parker was feeling good about what he had already accomplished in 16 years as the school’s hockey coach.

He thought to himself: “They should make me the AD. Why wouldn’t they make me the director of athletics? I should get that job.”

“I never said to myself, ‘I want that job,’” Parker said. “I was thinking, ‘Why would they look beyond me?’ It was strictly ego. All that was going through my head when _ you know, be careful what you pray for _ I got the AD’s job.”

There was a news conference introducing his hiring. A school official began by reading off a grand list of accomplishments of the longtime coach. Parker, sitting next to the school’s even longer-tenured swim coach, remembers saying to his colleague: “Great, he must be talking about you _ or me, I’m not sure which.”

The swim coach replied: “Oh, they’re not talking about me. I’m a coach.”

“The minute he said that,” Parker said, “it kind of shocked me.”

After the media conference, Parker went downstairs to break the news to his team that he was hanging up the skates at the end of the season.

“As I was saying those words, I realized I’d make a mistake,” Parker said, “that I am a coach, and what was I thinking? The next two weeks were as bad a weeks as I’ve had in my life, except tragedies in the family.”

He had a meeting scheduled with the university president. They were supposed to discuss the “philosophy of the department.” Parker began by saying “We’ve got a big problem.”

“He said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘I’m afraid I made a mistake. I don’t want to be the AD. I want to go back to being the hockey coach,’” Parker said.

“He said, ‘Geez, we can fix that. I thought you were going to tell me your daughter was real sick or something. You’re the hockey coach. So who should we get to be the AD?’

“That’s how simple it was, and I was fretting it for two weeks.”

So Parker stayed in the rink and didn’t regret it. The next season, during one of those long bus rides to an away game, he remembered thinking: “Boy, am I glad I’m back on this bus instead of sitting in an office.”

Parker’s list of accomplishments easily takes up a page. He has coached BU to 22 NCAA tournament appearances, the most of any active coach and the most of any coach at a single school. He’s had only seven losing seasons out of 36. The Terriers have won 47 tournaments under his watch, including Frozen Fours (1978, 1995), six Hockey East championships and four ECAC crowns. Way back when, he played for Terriers teams that placed fourth (1966) and second (1967) in the NCAAs.

“Jack’s one those guys, when I started as a young assistant, who was not afraid to initiate conversation with you and make you feel like part of the family,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi, a relative youngster in only his 10th season behind the bench. “College hockey coaches are a small group, and I can tell you everybody gets along, and when a young guy gets an opportunity to talk to a guy like Jack Parker, you listen.”

Even if the message comes in unusual ways.

“A few years ago, in Florida, he slapped me in the face and caught me off guard,” Blasi said. “I said, ‘What was that for?’ And he said ‘Take a good look, this is you in 30 years.’ I thought that was pretty cool.”

Parker has won the NCAA’s Spencer Penrose Award for national coach of the year only twice, both times in the 1970s _ before he nearly quit for the AD’s job. Maybe, as he says, he’s not that great.

“I always say they should take me and put me at East Overshoe Three Buckles Up and take that coach and put him at BU,” Parker said, “He’d have my record and I’d have his record. I really believe that. There are an awful lot of good coaches at this level who don’t get a lot of recognition.”

One thing for sure, that AD job was never going to work out. That point was rammed home when the women’s basketball coach paid him a visit during his two weeks on the job.

“She was very upset that I wasn’t going to a wine and cheese tasting contest before a basketball game,” Parker said. “And I don’t drink. I was lucky the university let me off the hook.”


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide