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 recently sat down with Eigner and Schutte to discuss their roles as assistant coaches. The interview will be posted in four parts. Today is Part III. You can read part I here and part II here.
GORDON: Coach Bergeron didn’t always handle losing well during your early seasons here because of his fiery personality. How did you help him control his emotions and help him look at the big picture in terms of building for the future, instead of the wins and losses.
SCHUTTE: We got to go on the road recruiting and the conversations start to change. This coach in junior is saying positive things about Bowling Green on the phone or this player on the phone is excited to talk to Bowling Green, and Berg is stuck here in the trenches with the team the whole time. Ty and I could unplug for two or three days and go recruiting and see positive things going on.
It was hard because it took us longer than we thought it would to get to where last year’s team was. Last year was as challenging as coaching a team as we’ve had here. It wasn’t an easy 20-plus wins.
EIGNER: Sometimes in those first few years, it was better to be on the road watching a kid and developing a relationship. I come home excited about two kids and they’re going to be really good, as opposed to Berg’s being at the series getting your tail kicked and the bus ride home isn’t very fun. You’ve got two guys with the team bummed out and one of us is coming home from recruiting, saying I had a great weekend.
SCHUTTE: We tried to focus on recruiting. Ty comes home excited about two players who are going to help us next year and he’s pumped. We’ve got help coming. The future looks good and Berg doesn’t have that opportunity because he’s at every game. He’s on the front lines. He’s getting all the darts, and Ty and I are behind closed doors not taking any bullets. He was taking all of the criticism for the team.
It was the relationships we had with each other that allowed us to have those real conversations, that the program was improving.
EIGNER: From the get-go, we had to have some hard conversations and he encourages that. He’s competitive and he was an assistant coach on two Frozen Four teams, and his expectations for a team and a program are pretty high. We had to help him through that, but we never could have been able to do that if he didn’t encourage us to have tough conversations. ‘Hey Berg, you have to trust the plan is working.’ The recruiting was going well. When you were on the road for two weeks recruiting and didn’t see the team for two weeks and then come back and watch them, you could see the team was getting better. It’s like a puppy. If you’re there every day, it doesn’t look like it’s getting better. If you go away for a month and then come back, it’s holy cow, that dog is getting big.
GORDON: What do you like about coaching? What are you favorite parts of the job?
EIGNER: The relationships. Coaching isn’t for everyone because there’s a lot of things people don’t see. They think it’s awesome to be on the bench, but you’re away from home and you’re working almost every day, every weekend once we start. But the relationships are what make what we do special and really enjoyable.
SCHUTTE: To me, it’s about the guys in that (locker room). Those kids are very impressionable. You can have an impact on their life. We get these kid for four years and going through there day to day. We’re living vicariously through them. We’d all like to be young and go through college again, if we could. We have the good fortune of being able to do that with 27 guys every day. To tell them, don’t make the same mistakes I did. We want to help them and see them achieve all their dreams. We’re not going to do it for them, but we can aid and assist them through that process. That’s pretty cool to see them go through it and grow up, and improve as players, as people, whatever it might be. That’s why we’re doing college hockey. You have time to invest in players and the relationship you have with them.
EIGNER: With the time you recruit them, you might get to know a kid for six years. The relationship ends up being real over the course of their time. The weddings you go to, those types of things, are pretty unique to this profession.
SCHUTTE: To see the community and the campus rally around the team the second half of last season was awesome and cool. We, as a family, enjoy and love college towns. The coaching of the players day to day is what gets you up every morning. But to see the players improve and what their body of work has done for the community and the campus, is pretty awesome.
GORDON: How do the two of you get along? Did you instantly click when you first came to BG?
EIGNER: We knew each other before we got here, and we’re all pretty easy to get along with. Our strengths and weaknesses offset each other. There are things that Barry is really good at, that are critically important that I’m not very good at, and that’s a good thing. We get along well and our families get along well. That’s not the norm in this business. Now that we’re in our sixth year here and have built relationships with people in other programs, we know not everyone gets along in every program. Is every day perfect here? Absolutely not. But it’s still a good place to be.
SCHUTTE: We’ve gotten along from the get-go. That goes well beyond us because the wives and the kids get along well, too. It’s one big happy family to some extent, partially because we had to. Those were the only people we had to lean on because we had a lot of people going against us. All three of us balance each other out in a good way. We all have holes and we all have strengths. We complement each other really well and we have enough respect for each other to work on our weaknesses. That’s what makes us a good team and what makes coming to work each day fun. It’s OK because we’re not perfect and we don’t have all the answers. Berg gives us autonomy and he’s willing to listen. Sometimes, it’s hard because we’re passionate about what we’re talking about on a given day. We’re real fortunate. We enjoy being around each other and being around each other’s families and kids. We have a lot of fun together.
GORDON: Coach Schutte, what are Coach Eigner’s strengths?
SCHUTTE: Ty has a great eye for talent. Our three personalities, Berg is wound really tight, I’m wound pretty tight and Ty has a great demeanor every day. He does a great job keeping things in perspective and keeping it real, focusing on the moment, that day. A big strength of Ty’s is being able to shake off bad days or bad moments, whatever it is. For me, that’s hard. I get worked up and anxious about situations, and how it will affect the next situation. His relationship with the players is real and he has good relationships with them, and truly knows what buttons need to be pushed on each kid.
GORDON: Coach Eigner, what are Coach Schutte’s strengths?
EIGNER: I’ve been around some pretty good, genuine people in my time, and I don’t know that I’ve met a better person than Barry. He’s the kind of guy you could ask for anything any time any place and he’s going to be here. He has a bunch of integrity, which isn’t always normal for this business. If Barry’s involved in something, it’s going to be done the right way. If he says this is a good thing, that it’s something that will make our program better, then I don’t think you’ll get an argument from Chris or I. He’s really organized. There are necessary parts of this job that Barry does because he’s really good at it, like spreadsheets for our scholarship totals. Barry’s organizational skills are a piece you need to have. Those are valuable pieces we need to have because when we’re on the road recruiting, we need to know how many scholarships we have left and he can tell you we have 1.33 left. I don’t come up with that. Barry takes care of the numbers, You have to know what’s going on.
We’re from similar backgrounds. Our parents didn’t have a lot of money, and we’re both willing to work hard. He’s not afraid to dig in and do what he needs to get the job done.
The players enjoy playing for him. I still go out recruiting and talk to the junior guys who played for him, and they still say they enjoyed playing for him in juniors. And guys he played with still, say they enjoyed playing with him.