Assistant coaches Ty Eigner and Barry Schutte have played major roles in helping head coach Chris Bergeron rebuild the Falcon program over the last five-plus seasons.
BGSUHockey.com’s Kevin Gordon sat down with Eigner and Schutte to discuss their roles as assistant coaches. The interview is being posted in four parts. Today is Part II. Read part I here.
GORDON: How has perception of the Falcon program changed in the recruiting world?
EIGNER: The first year, you go out to the rinks and you know who the good players are. The question is, ‘Will they come to Bowling Green?’ The first year there weren’t many players who wanted to come to Bowling Green. We really had to work hard to find players who wanted to make us better.
If you can get the program to where 20, 25 wins and getting to the national tournament is the benchmark, then you’ve got a program Bowling Green is deserving of. It’s been that before
We can feel better about the quality of players who have selected Bowling Green, but then you can combine that with the progress of the wins and losses, because that’s what everyone judges us on. If you can get the program to where 20, 25 wins and getting to the national tournament is the benchmark, then you’ve got a program Bowling Green is deserving of. It’s been that before. It was a legitimate big-time program.
SCHUTTE: Perception is reality and we had to constantly remind ourselves, regardless of the record, things were going the right way. It was trending the right way. We had to stay in the center and stick to the plan. For Ty and I, going out on the road, it’s been a gradual change from day one when no kid would talk to you, no junior coach has respect for the program or coach. Your peers don’t have respect for the program or what’s going on. At the professional level, they’re forgotten about Bowling Green and not worried about watching Bowling Green for the most part.
That perception, that reality, slowly started to change as we made progress. Now, we’ve got junior coaches telling their players, you’d be crazy not to talk to Bowling Green or we’ve got pro guys who believe in the development of our players while they’re here.
Our focus going out was on our culture, what’s Bowling Green hockey going to be all about and how do we got out there and brand it, and then try to change the perception, and try to do that not paying attention to the wins and losses. We knew were going to take our hits. Every year, we’ve probably felt a little bit better about ourselves in the recruiting world because the perception has slowly changed.
GORDON: How did you change that perception?
SCHUTTE: It’s about people from the day we started. We were selling a plan. We were selling ourselves, this is who we are, this is what we’re all about, this is our mode of operation on a daily basis. We truly care about the relationships within this program and we value that. You want to be a part of it or you don’t, but you’re going to have to take a leap of faith.
We were selling ourselves, this is who we are, this is what we’re all about, this is our mode of operation on a daily basis. We truly care about the relationships within this program and we value that. You want to be a part of it or you don’t, but you’re going to have to take a leap of faith.
We also sold the college experience. We truly believe you can get everything you want out of your college experience at Bowling Green. You want a big-time degree, you can get that at Bowling Green. You want a social experience you can be proud of and have fun while you’re in college, you can do that at Bowling Green. You want to have a big-time athletic experience and have all of the support around you to do what you want to do, you have that here. At the end of the day, we were thinking it might be a handful of kids who are capable of that, so they had to trust us that they were going to accomplish those things on a day-to-day basis and we were going to surround them with more people who wanted those same things.
It came down to opportunity and relationships, and the recruits trusting us and our relationship.
GORDON: How did you learn to trust your eyes when making decisions about which players to recruit?
EIGNER: It was adjusting from watching high school hockey in Minnesota and knowing who the great high school players were there. I saw them and a lot of them went on to college, so I knew what they were doing there. Right before coming in here, I coached Nick Leddy and he was a first-round NHL pick here and I know I how good he is and I knew the kids right below him and where they went to play. Now, you go out and watch kids play, you say he’s like this guy or that guy, or he’s kind of like that. The biggest question for us is, what kind of kid is going to be successful at Bowling Green. He has to wired a certain way or he won’t like it.
SCHUTTE: Most guys can tell you who the best players are and all of us had extensive backgrounds at all different levels of hockey. For myself, I wasn’t getting opportunities because I didn’t have recruiting experience. To me, at the end of the day, it’s about people. Most everyone can watch a game and pick the top three players on each team. To me, what helped was we sat down together as a staff and identified what we wanted to be as a program and what kind of team we wanted to coach, what kind of style we wanted to play, and what kind of player will succeed in that.
Fortunately, Ty and I haven’t gone back and forth on many players in five years. What Ty values in a player and how a certain kid plays the game, I value those same things and vice versa and the same with Berg. Fortunately, the staff has had a lot of continuity in terms of what we want in a player and what we value in a player from a hockey perspective. That’s step one.
Step two goes back to our values and what kind of kid do we want to coach. At no point in time, do I think any of us were put in a tough spot. We haven’t had a lot of disagreements on kids because we’ve set some pretty clear expectations on the type of kid we want to coach as far as how we want to play the game and, collectively, what type of team we want to have and find the right fit.
We’re to the point now where we can be specific. We lost this. We need that. Before, we were simply trying to upgrade our talent to make us better. Now, we’re recruiting that we have this much money and we need to fill those holes. Let’s go find guys to be that.
EIGNER: We can see the kids we think would fit and doing well here, just as there are kids we know who won’t fit in here and won’t help us, for whatever reason. It’s which kids do we like and can see having success here, just as we know there are kids who won’t be able to help us. They might have the physical ability, but they’re not our kind of kid for whatever reason.
Because you have to invest in so much time in recruiting a kid, we don’t typically recruit 10 kids for one spot. We’re to the point now where we can be specific. We lost this. We need that. Before, we were simply trying to upgrade our talent to make us better. Now, we’re recruiting that we have this much money and we need to fill those holes. Let’s go find guys to be that. The program is to the point where we feel we can go out and find specific pieces.