Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jim Tortorella: The UNH-Colby College Connection

When longtime Associate Coach David Lassonde announced early last week that he was leaving UNH for the University of Denver, names of possible replacements quickly sprouted on various college hockey websites. Apparently, Jim Tortorella did not show up on anyone's radar - other than Coach Umile's. No, there is still no official announcement from UNH. If Tortorella is introduced as the new Assistant Coach at UNH in the coming days, as US Hockey Report and others have reported, his path to Durham will be one that is well worn.

The connections between the hockey programs at UNH and Colby College run deep. Tortorella himself was Umile's Assistant Coach at UNH before heading to Waterville, Maine to become Colby's Head Coach in 1995. When Tortorella arrived at the Alfond Rink, he crossed paths with Scott Borek, who was leaving the Colby job after three seasons, to become the Head Coach at Lake Superior State University. Many years before these comings and goings in the early 1990's, there was one move down the Maine Turnpike that changed UNH Hockey forever.

At the end of the 1968 season, a 46-year-old coach named Charlie Holt decided to leave Colby and try his fortunes in Durham, NH. What Holt accomplished at UNH is worthy of the label "legendary". In his second season in Snively Arena, he won the Spencer T. Penrose Award as the NCAA Coach of the Year. He went on to win that distinct honor two more times in 1974 and 1979. In 2010, ten years after his passing, Coach Holt was recognized with the Hobey Baker Legend of Hockey Award.

If 51-year-old Coach Tortorella takes the position on Coach Umile's staff, he will arrive with an impressive resume of his own. As Colby's Head Coach, Tortorella's overall record is 230-138-33. Several of his former assistant coaches have advanced to careers in Division One including Brendan Whittet, head coach at Brown University.

Of course, unlike Coach Holt, Coach Tortorella will not come to UNH as the new head coach. He'll be on a staff of colleagues who know each other well and his role will be more limited. Presumably, Tortorella would focus on coaching the defense and goalies. Time will tell.


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