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 the fourth and final part. Part 1, 2, and 3 are also available to read.
GORDON: What does it mean to you as assistant coaches that Coach Bergeron gives you autonomy, allows you to make decisions and give your opinions, and be involved in all facets of the program on and off the ice, during games and practices?
SCHUTTE: It’s huge. It’s necessary and essential for any organization to have growth, and we needed growth. Our players have to have a voice and Berg is great with that. The players have a strong voice and so do we. We’re not falling on deaf ears. At the end of the day, you want to be respected and you want to be heard. It’s OK if we disagree at the end of the day, as long as we’re respected and heard. One thing Berg does well is he opens the door and provides a platform for that. There’s not many situations where we disagree. We’re fortunate in that regard.
We like to joke that Ty and I can hide behind these doors, but he’s the head coach and the one in the public eye, and he’s going to take the darts.
EIGNER: If Barry or I come back from a recruiting trip and say we have to have this kid, Berg isn’t going doubt us one bit. He trusts what we’re doing. If we say, this is a kid who can help us, he says what’s the plan to get him.
SCHUTTE: We can have any conversation with each of us, and we know our friendship or relationship won’t be tarnished or hurt because of that. That’s very important and we don’t have to change who we are. We can go through it together and make a positive change. We know we have each other’s back and that to a man is where Ty and I know Berg has our back. Hopefully, we’re not putting him in situations where he has to fight too hard. He allows us to have a voice and there’s a lot of trust in the relationship where he has our back.
GORDON: Do all three of you watch a recruit before offering him a scholarship?
EIGNER: Typically, Barry and I will watch a player, especially early on. Berg had a great reputation coming in here and he was a great role model for us to learn from. Everyone assumes recruiting is watching. But the process is the relationship, talking to the coach, talking to the player. You learn something from every situation.
SCHUTTE: Berg is huge. We’re very fortunate that with Ty and I not having been in the college recruiting world, to have a head coach who is great at the recruiting and enjoys the recruiting. He wants to be involved in that. That was critical in our growth and our development. We were able to watch and listen to his conversations about recruiting, whether it be on the phone or in person. He was a great example and role model.
EIGNER: Berg doesn’t look over our shoulder and go out and watch kids because you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re new. Berg will talk to a kid on a visit here, but he won’t typically see a kid play until he’s committed to Bowling Green. Or if we get wind we’re on a player and we’re getting down to the end and we’re thinking other schools might be involved, if we think it might be a good idea for Berg to go watch the kid to show how much he means to BG, then Berg will go watch. Sometimes, that sways a kid.
SCHUTTE: Berg is involved in the recruiting, not necessarily always involved in the watching. But he’s on the phone all the time. He has a great network in the hockey community and he trusts them and they trust him. We’re smart enough as assistants to know he’s good at it and we want him involved. He’s tireless. He’s relentless in terms of the digging and the background. There’s not a rock that doesn’t get turned over with him. We’re both better because of him. We’re may more thorough than we ever would have been based on his example.
EIGNER: When we get kids here, he’s great with them. We relate differently to different players. We make connections with different kids. Sometimes I won’t connect with a kid, so Ty will call them and connect with them. I’ll connect with some kids Barry doesn’t. Sometimes we both connect. And some kids don’t want to hear from the assistant coaches because we’re not good enough, so Berg has to call. He’s good at talking to kids, pushing for answers, trying to find out where a kid’s head is at. He knows all the right questions to ask and that’s helped Barry and I develop as recruiters.
GORDON: As the Falcon program continues to have success, are you considering moving on, perhaps to a bigger school/program or a school/program that is perceived to be more prestigious or in a better league?
SCHUTTE: I don’t want to be moving my family around. My family loves Bowling Green. I really enjoy Bowling Green and I love working here. The midwest and Ohio have been home for me since I’ve been in Ohio and for my wife, too. As long as we have the support here with our program and the resources necessary to compete at a high level, we enjoy being here and as a staff being here. You never know what the future holds. But it’s not like we’re out there looking. I hope we can bring back, to use my wife’s word, the glory and turn this into a dynasty, and watch my kids be able to go to BGSU and call it a day here. When you’re talking colleges, it’s a short list of communities and schools and people that you’re going to find better than here.
EIGNER: Coaching is the only profession I’ve been in since I stopped playing. I don’t see myself doing anything else. My family really, really likes it here. I want to see, selfishly as an alum, see the program get back to what it was because I don’t think there were a lot of people who thought it could be brought back to what it was. It was left for dead. It’s not where we want to be and we’re not satisfied, but no one would be excited to see that more than me where Bowling Green deserves to be. But you don’t know what the future holds. There are bigger schools, but does that mean better? There’s a lot of time and effort and energy being put into support this program. Why would you leave Bowling Green? There are certain programs I never seeing myself going to coach at, even if they bring the Brink’s truck with a $20 million contract. Our situation here, I don’t know how many you’re going to find that are better.
GORDON: Do you want to be NCAA Division I head coach?
SCHUTTE: It doesn’t get me out bed. At one point, it was a way bigger thought in my mind than it is today. If being a head coach means going back to juniors first or living on the other side of the country, then no. It’s about people and opportunity. If there was the right situation with the right people and the right opportunity, I would consider it. There are so few opportunities in college hockey for as many people who are doing it. I consider ourselves really fortunate. We’re two of 120 assistant coaches in college at a school that we believe has everything in place to win championships. Being a head coach is not a necessity or something that has to happen because of the relationship we have with Berg and we have as a staff. The fact we have a voice and we’re more associate coaches who have as much say as anyone and Berg is great about keeping that door open, that’s part of the reason it’s not as big a deal to me. I feel like we share that office, at times. If he closed that door and put himself up here and us down here and if it was a tiered system as far as responsibility, maybe I’d feel I’d want to be the head guy more. But because we’re a team effort here, I don’t feel that way.
EIGNER: I agree with Barry. If the right opportunity came, I would certainly enjoy looking at it because there’s a competitive part of you that would like to see if you could become a head coach and really do it. Berg is very supportive. Whatever you want to do, tell me how I can help. But it would have to be the right opportunity. Fifteen years ago, if it was just my wife and I, and no kids, different story. Now, you’re talking about your family. But if Berg and Barry were telling me, you’re crazy, why wouldn’t you take that opportunity? I’d have that same conversation with Barry. There have been opportunities for all us where people have called and asked, would you be interested?. At this point, I haven’t been interested. But at some point before I’m done with this, I’d like to see if I’m any good at being a head coach. I’ve been a high school head coach, but it’s still a situation where you’re a head coach and I think I’d be good at it. But it has to be the right opportunity.
GORDON: Because the college and minor hockey seasons are all going at the same time, assistant coaches often have to miss their own games to be on the road recruiting. That means a coaching staff often only has two of its three full-time staff members at a game. Do you miss being at the Falcon games? When you’re on the road, do you follow the Falcon games via text messages and social media, or do you ignore them until the end of the game you’re watching.
EIGNER: Initially, it bothers you. We could be at every game if we wanted. Berg gives us that opportunity. You could do as much or as little recruiting as you want, just do what is right. We don’t need three people there all the time. Having three there doesn’t make it better. Do we need three guys on the bench in Alaska? No. It doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t you go recruiting?
It was harder in the beginning and less hard now because you understand there’s a reason you’re not at your own game. You’re not at the game because you’re doing a huge piece of the job and a larger percentage of our job is spent doing recruiting more than anything else.
I used to follow the games on Twitter and it can ruin your night, depending on how the games go. Now, I don’t even check our score until after the game I’m watching is over to check my phone to see how we did. Once in a while I might check after a period, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Some guys check all the time. Everyone is different. And if we’re in different time zones, I might call Barry in between periods and see how the game is going.
Thank you to Barry and Ty for taking the time to talk to BGSUHockey.com. Check back tomorrow as we talk to Chris Bergeron about his assistant coaches.