Monday, March 11, 2013

Capping a legendary career, Parker calls it quits when season is through

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

After a career which spanned nearly five decades within the confines of the Boston University campus, Jack Parker wrapped up the point of Monday's press conference in roughly 15 seconds.

"It's time. I've been coaching the team for 40 years. I've been a coach for 44 years, I was a player before that, so 48 of the last 49 years I've been reporting for duty and that's enough," deadpanned the man who turned 68 years old today.

Currently sitting on 894 career wins -- most all-time for one man at one school in NCAA hockey annals -- and looking for more heading into the Terriers' Hockey East Quarterfinal series against Merrimack which begins on Friday at Agganis Arena, Parker didn't lose any of the edge which defines his distinct humor when discussing the path which led him to today's announcement.

"I always talk about BU being a family. I have two daughters and 226 sons and the team I have now are my youngest sons. And I'm not having any more children. I didn't want this to turn into a 'farewell tour' where I was celebrated at every other rink in the league. I wanted the team to know that we were going to go through this together."

And when it's all over, Parker won't be riding off into the sunset to enjoy retirement. His particular brand and success has led his boss to want to keep him close by when the whistle blows for the final time. 

"Jack has had an outstanding career at Boston University...he's been a mentor and coach to so many over the years," said Boston University president Robert A. Brown. "I'm also very pleased to announced Jack will stay on as a special advisor to me."

When all is said and done, Parker will have to add at least another five years to his tenure on Commonwealth Avenue, as his contract with the school has been extended through 2017-18. That should be plenty of time for things to sink in and to transfer from one phase of life to the next.

"It won't hit me because we have games to play and there are things I still need to do in order to coach," Parker added. "Maybe it'll hit me when the season's over. It feels weird because I'm doing this now and I'm still the head coach."

Despite a nice round number like 40 years, or the fact that Parker's two years removed from the age of 70, and the fact that a man who has meant so much towards advertising the BU experience was given the chance to go out on his own terms, it's not all a bed of roses. There are those who might point to the revelations of a "culture of sexual entitlement" stemming from an internal review of the program following the arrest of two players involved in alleged sexual assaults late last season and the resulting negative press as more than enough reason to step aside.

It's a charge Parker calmly, yet flatly denied, while heaping praise on others for weathering the storm.

"It was a trying time for us and our program. People ask it it will tarnish my reputation...the people I'm most concerned about are the people who support BU hockey, and the people in the press who know me well and our program well. I give a ton of credit to our players and to my assistants for keeping things focused and on track."

Boston University snagged third place in Hockey East this season, finishing 15-10-2 in the league and 18-15-2 overall, while dealing with the sudden departure of sophomore forward Yasin Cisse to opportunities in Canada as well as freshman forward Wes Myron.

The latter caused Parker to quip early in February to the BU student paper, the Daily Free Press, "I don’t remember too many guys quitting because they didn’t like their ice time my first half of my career. My second half of my career has always been a little bit of that. The reason for that is guys who have expectations of playing pro hockey … If they can’t make it here, maybe they’re not going to play pro hockey, you know?”

That gap in perception is something Parker alluded to when asked to assess what changed around him during his four decades guiding the program.

"I think the coaching is much better than ever. The attention to detail is much better. The kids are different, it's a much different type than I handled in the 70s and 80s as opposed to now. The game hasn't changed that much and the hockey people haven't changed that much. It's a great thing to be part of."

All told, Parker will walk away with the chance to become only the third man to post more than 900 wins, after Ron Mason and rival head coach Jerry York of Boston College. He leaves behind a massive legacy which includes 57 former players to have suited up in the NHL, 24 trips to the NCAA Tournament, a record 21 Beanpot titles, along with eight in-season Hockey East championships and seven playoff conference titles.

There's also the matter of three national titles: 1978 (against BC), 1995 (Maine) and 2009 (Miami-Ohio).

We also won't have to worry about him worrying about what to do in retirement.

"I did not consult with anyone except my twin brother, who has been retired since 1990...and it's his birthday too obviously...he's been haunting me for years to retire. Nobody knows (what to do) until they retire, then they find something to do. Now I know I have something to do. I'll have some people to hang around with which is nice, too."

According to College Hockey News on Sunday, there are five men on the short list to take the reins next season: current Colorado Avalanche and former standout Joe Sacco, John Hynes, former player and current assistant Mike Bavis, former Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan and David Quinn.

Parker made it a point to note that, while he will be involved in the search for his successor, he will not have final say and will not be in the new leader's ear when he feels it necessary: "The new coach won't need me to look over his shoulder and cast a shadow over the building. I'll be around only to take my grandchildren to the games. It'll be a relief to the whole family. My role will not be to be between periods asking why you're not playing this guy."

As for how he'd like to be remembered and if there was any words of wisdom to pass along to his players, recruits and those surrounding the program as it moves forward, Parker was typically brief.

"Care about people you're around. I hopefully cared about them and they cared about me, that's the most important thing."

Before Parker's arrival, Harry Cleverly (1945-62) held the record for longest head coaching tenure in Terriers' history. Now Parker passes into history, in the rare position of still being able to make it before the end arrives.

"It's been a great run. I've had a great time doing it."
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