- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

Boston University coach Jack Parker conducted a clinic Friday at Verizon Center — not a clinic on how to coach hockey, but a clinic on what it means to be a coach.

He has been the heart and soul of coaching for 36 years, guiding generations of hockey players to more than 800 wins, 20 trips to the NCAA tournament, two national championships and a chance for a third Saturday night against Miami (Ohio) in the Frozen Four.

Parker is a legend in college hockey, a two-time NCAA coach of the year. His rival Saturday, Miami coach Enrico Blasi, acknowledged as much.

“A couple of our guys asked how old he is, and I said anywhere between 80 and 100,” Blasi said. “Jack’s one of those guys that when I started as a young assistant, he wasn’t afraid to initiate conversation with you and make you feel like you’re part of the family. … When a young guy gets an opportunity to talk to someone like Jack Parker, you listen.”

I listened to Parker, who is actually 64, talk Friday about how he almost left coaching 20 years ago — a passionate tale that young and old should hear whether you coach hockey or not.

“The director of athletics job was opening up,” Parker said. “It was going to be filled in midseason. I had been there maybe 15 years by then and was pretty successful. Ego got in the way — 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.’ But I was thinking, ‘Why would they look beyond me?’ That is what my mindset was. It was strictly ego.

“A lot of people think that you get into coaching, then you get into administration, and this would be a nice way to finish your career,” Parker said. “All that was going to my head when — as they say, be careful what you pray for — I got the AD’s job. I will never forget it. There was a press conference upstairs in the rink, and I was sitting with everybody else. The executive vice president was about to introduce me as the new director of athletics. He was saying, ‘This is a guy who has been a great coach for a long time. He has been affiliated with BU for a long time.’ I was sitting next to our swim coach, who had been at BU longer than I had been at the time. I said, ‘They must be talking about you … or me, I’m not sure which.’

“He said, ‘They’re not talking about me, Jack. I’m a coach.’

“When he said that, it kind of shocked me,” Parker said. “Part of the deal was that I would finish coaching the team that year. Then I would no longer be the hockey coach, and my first job as AD really would be to replace myself. I went down to practice to talk to my team. I was telling my team what this means, that this is my last year. And as I was saying those words, I realized I had made a mistake. I am a coach. What was I thinking of?

“The next two weeks were as bad a two weeks that I’ve had in my life, from anything other than tragedies in the family,” Parker said. “I went down to see the president. It was my first meeting with him as director of athletics. We were going to have a meeting on the philosophy of the department. I said, ‘Before we talk about that, I’ve got a big problem.’

“‘What’s that?’ he asked.

“I said: ‘I’m afraid I made a mistake. I don’t want to be the AD. I want to go back to being a hockey coach.’

“‘We can fix that,’ he said. ‘So who should we get as the AD?’

“That’s how simple it was,” Parker said. “I was fretting over it for two weeks. … I remember I was on a long bus trip the next year, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Boy, am I glad I am back on this bus, instead of in some office.’

“I remember in the two weeks that I was director of athletics, I had a women’s basketball coach who was very upset with me that I wasn’t going to a wine- and cheese-tasting contest before her basketball game.”

Jack Parker is not a wine-and-cheese guy. He is a coach, and he chiseled out words Friday that should be etched in stone about what that means.


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