April 6, 2014 Updated: April 7, 2014 at 11:40 am
Colorado College's hockey program is in shambles after winning seven of 37 games, but there's reason for hope. Leading the Tigers is one of college hockey's choice coaching jobs.
And that job is open.
Scott Owens left the job vacant Saturday, when he departed after 15 seasons. He once won big at World Arena, giving CC fans strong reason to dream of a national title.
The coach who follows Owens can win big, too. This ending should mark the beginning of a time of hope and revival for the Tigers, who lost their way in the final days of the Owens era.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore is not interested in leading the Colorado College program, but he's certain many in his coaching brethren would love the chance.
"It's an attractive job for a lot of people," Serratore said. "In the food chain, it's certainly way up in the upper half of jobs. To be able to go to Colorado College and take your swings, are you kidding me? It's very attractive."
Serratore is absolutely correct. Colorado Springs boasts the best weather and the most stunning scenery in the college hockey universe. I'll admit the competition is not exactly stiff. Duluth in winter never has been compared to the Garden of Eden.
St. Cloud in winter has been compared to Siberia.
World Arena is a spacious, modern facility, and when the Tigers return to winning, the big room again will be jammed with loud, borderline obnoxious fans.
North America's finest teenage hockey prospects spend their winters shivering in the cold in Minnesota and The Great White North, otherwise known as Canada.
CC's new coach can offer these teens a place to spend their winters in relative warmth. Sure, mom and the high school girlfriend might be several hundred miles away for these choice recruits, but the right coach/salesman could again stock the CC roster with elite talent.
For many seasons, that's what Owens did.
"He was a very, very good evaluator of talent," CC athletic director Ken Ralph said Sunday afternoon.
Yes, he was. Owens brought Marty Sertich, Brett Sterling, Peter Sejna, Mark Stuart, Richard Bachman, Jaden Schwartz and Joe Howe to World Arena, and the results often were spectacular. From 2000 to 2005, Owens averaged 27 wins, claimed five NCAA Tournament victories and landed the Tigers in the Frozen Four.
It's hard to remember, as Owens departs a fallen program, that only three years ago the coach and his Tigers were soaring. In the 2011 NCAA Tournament, CC destroyed defending champ Boston College and nearly earned a return ride to the Frozen Four before losing to Michigan.
The Tigers who romped past BC were young and jammed with talent. It looked as if Owens and the Tigers were soaring back to good times.
It was a vapor. Since the win over BC, a program came crashing down. The Tigers have won 43 of 116 games (with 13 ties). This season, World Arena became a quiet destination on weekend nights. The CC loyalists, and there are hundreds in the Pikes Peak region, remained staunch in their support, but thousands of less devoted fans looked for entertainment elsewhere.
The right coach can transform the Tigers back to winners and lure fans back to World Arena.
Ralph said he is no hurry to replace Owens.
"It's more important to get the decision right than to make the decision quickly," Ralph said.
He's right. A patient search could deliver a superlative coach.
SERRATORE SAYS NO
Air Force coach Frank Serratore said he is not interested in the vacant Colorado College coaching position.
"I'm going to get fired someday, but I'm going to let Air Force fire me," Serratore said Sunday night. "I like where I'm working."
Serratore just completed his 17th season at Air Force.