Jack Parker retires at Boston University, leaving gaping hole that NHL could fill

Jared Wickerham

Legendary Boston University hockey coach Jack Parker announced his retirement Monday. Among the potential replacements are coaches currently in the NHL.

There are multiple layers to the news that Jack Parker -- a winner of nearly 900 games at Boston University -- would retire at season's end.

For starters, college hockey is losing one of the true all-time greats. Parker's teams at BU over the last 40 years have been among the best in the sport. The Terriers won three NCAA titles under Parker, made 24 NCAA Tournaments (they are on the bubble right now, and need more wins to cement a 25th bid in Parker's last season), won 21 Beanpot titles, and won seven conference championships. Parker's record of 894-471-115 translates to a superb .643 winning percentage. He's third all-time in wins, but it's worth mentioning that the top two on the list -- Jerry York and Ron Mason -- both worked at more than one school. Parker's wins have all come for Boston University.

(This isn't to diminish anyone's accomplishments. It's just worth noting that Parker hasn't coached anywhere but at Boston University.)

All this said, Parker's legacy isn't a simple one. Recent problems with off-ice behavior have caused many to wonder exactly how well Parker did his job. Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy did a fantastic job covering this after news broke of Parker's decision.

... incidents prompted Boston University to make a number of changes following a massive task force investigation that found a team-wide alcohol problem, "celebrity culture," and "sexual entitlement" to be at the center of the trouble. Among the recommendations that task force made was eliminating the position of "executive athletic director" Parker previously held so that he had to answer to a higher authority even as he stayed on as coach. The report also found more, unreported cases of sexual assault that took place ...

The run of bad behavior, and the uncovering of more bad behavior by players, doesn't help when it comes time to remember how great a coach Parker was. After all, there's no way of really knowing exactly what hockey players at BU got away with over the years. All we know is the school is now taking steps to curtail the problems.

Now, on to what will soon become a pressing matter for BU.

Who does the school tab to take over for such a legend, not just within the program but in the sport?

Well, Adrian Dater of The Denver Post went where we all knew someone would eventually go. Two members of the Avalanche coaching staff have BU ties, and all three have college hockey roots in that region of the country.

(Head coach Joe) Sacco and (assistant David) Quinn are Terriers alumni, after all, who both played under Parker — Sacco from 1987-90 and Quinn from 1984-87. They're both native New Englanders, Sacco from Massachusetts and Quinn from Rhode Island.

The BU job is one of the most prestigious in NCAA Division I, and it would only be human nature if either Sacco or Quinn had interest in that job. Come to think of it, the Avs' other assistant coach, Tim Army, probably would too, having been a former head coach at Providence College.

Of course, it's worth noting that none of the three could pursue the BU opening without permission from Colorado management. While Dater notes the organization has given assistants permission to look elsewhere in the past, it's hard to imagine that the coaches of a promising young team would automatically be granted the same permission.

Unquestionably, the Boston University job is going to be attractive, for both college and professional coaches. College jobs in general tend to carry more security than NHL gigs do. Even moderate success can be met with the kind of job security pro coaches can only dream of. While Barry Trotz continues to hold down the title of "NHL's longest-tenured coach," he has little on guys like Parker, York, and many others.

Sacco might not be the ultimate target, but the speculation is justified. Especially in a shortened season, the pressure to make the playoffs is magnificent. Who knows what will happen if Colorado doesn't make the top eight?

At BU, Parker's successor will have access to top recruits from all over North America, especially the Northeast. Parker built an impressive pipeline, and Job No. 1 for the Terriers' next coach will be to make sure that pipeline remains.

BU is a top program, even though it appears to have fallen behind York and Boston College in recent years. It will attract a top coach, and it will continue to attract top recruits.

And if your favorite NHL team has coaches with Boston University ties, be wary of what could come in the next few weeks as the schools sorts out a list of candidates.

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