One of the traditions of winning the NFL’s Super Bowl is to have the winning quarterback answer the question for a commercial of what he will do next: Go to Disney World.
Long-time Boston College assistant Mike Cavanaugh, who helped lead the Eagles to four NCAA Frozen Four Championships, said he was entering Disney World with his family as he was being offered the job as UConn’s head coach for men’s ice hockey by Director of Athletics Warde Manuel.
“When you’re negotiating your first head coaching job, doing it between Space Mountain and Splash Mountain is not the easiest way to do it,” he said Thursday afternoon, drawing laughter during a press conference at the Burton Family Football Complex.
Cavanaugh was formally introduced as the Huskies’ fourth men’s ice hockey coach to a crowd of media and athletics staff after meeting briefly with members of the ice hockey team.
“I told them we’re going to move forward. This is not going to be Boston College moving to Storrs,” he said. “This is going to be UConn hockey. It’s important we establish what UConn hockey stands for. It’s going to be a partnership. I have found in the best organizations, whether it’s college hockey teams or Fortune 500 companies, it’s got to be a partnership to succeed.”
Cavanaugh has helped lead the Eagles to four national titles (2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012) in addition to nine Hockey East Tournament championships, six league regular-season titles, and 10 Frozen Four appearances.
He began his coaching career in London serving as player/coach of the Richmond Ice Hockey Club. He returned to the United States and was the assistant hockey coach at the Belmont Hill School for the 1991-92 season. From there, he joined the staff at Bowling Green from 1992 to 1993. While there, Cavanaugh earned a master’s degree in sports management. He then spent two years as an assistant coach at Dartmouth College (1993-95), before heading to Boston College. He was promoted to associate head coach at BC prior to the 2004-05 season.
“What struck me was what he was able to help establish — one of the strongest programs in the nation. I think his resume speaks for itself,” Manuel said. “[Winning] four National Championships doesn’t happen by osmosis. That’s not just the head coach. It’s the assistant coaches contributing to it.”
The Huskies are in the process of moving from the Atlantic Hockey League to joining Hockey East – the nation’s most competitive conference – in 2014-15, which includes Boston College as a member. Cavanaugh described the atmosphere in Connecticut right now as “an exciting time for college hockey,” following the 2013 NCAA Championship game between two state teams, Yale and Quinnipiac.
“For years I’ve recruited in this area. The homegrown talent here is what attracted me to the job,” he said. “The passion that UConn has for its sports has always intrigued me and amazed me. It’s what brought me here. When we would play the women’s basketball team in Big East at BC, I would see the number of busses going into Conte Forum loaded with people to support UConn; it was terrific. The sense of pride the people of Connecticut have for the state university would attract any coach.”
Cavanaugh said he had spoken briefly with former men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun and is looking forward to meeting with his coaching colleagues.
“I’m looking forward to meeting Geno Auriemma,” he said. “I’m looking forward to watching his practice. I think it’s important to keep learning in life. I’m going to continually evolve and learn from everyone on this campus daily.”
Among the members of the men’s ice hockey team who attended the news conference were freshmen Kyle Huson and Tyler Helton, who met with Cavanaugh earlier in the day.
“Coach Cavanaugh brings good energy and good experience to this program,” says Huson. “We think he’s going to lead us a long way.”
Cavanaugh said his first priority is to prepare the Huskies for next year’s Atlantic Hockey League season.
“Let me be clear. Hockey East is two years away. There’s going to be seniors on this team right now that committed to winning the Atlantic Hockey League title because that’s the only thing they can play for,” he said. “It’s imperative that I set the tone for this program. That’s the goal this year. Hockey East will wait. We owe it as a program and as a university to win the Atlantic Hockey League title, and if you win the AHL title that gets you a berth into the NCAA Tournament. I’m not afraid to say it: I’m coming here to win national championships.”
Dave Ogrean ’74 (CLAS), executive director of USA Hockey, was a member of the advisory group to Manuel assisting in the search for a new men’s ice hockey coach. In a statement he said:
“Mike Cavanaugh has long been regarded as one of the outstanding coaches in college hockey, and he has been a vital part of the success the BC program has enjoyed for several years. He has honed his craft under a legendary mentor in Jerry York. UConn is fortunate to have him and I know Mike will be successful leading the program forward as members of Hockey East.”