Parent Magazine

Meet Coach David Quinn

Terriers’ first new hockey coach in 40 years talks about being back at BU and his vision for the program.

By Andrew Thurston
Above: David Quinn takes a slap shot against Maine in 1986. Photo by BU Photography

President Bob Brown, left, and Mike Lynch, assistant VP and Director of Athletics present a jersey to the newly appointed head coach for men's hockey at BU David Quinn (CAS'89), center March 26, 2013 at a press conference in SMG. Quinn's most recent coaching position was as assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche. Photo by Cydney Scott

President Brown, left, and Mike Lynch, assistant VP and director of Athletics, right, present a jersey to newly appointed BU men's hockey head coach David Quinn (CAS'89). Photo by Cydney Scott

There are many people to thank when you land a big job in sports. When David Quinn (CAS’89) was appointed BU’s first new men’s ice hockey head coach in 40 seasons, he added two more to the usual roster of influential coaches and former teammates: mom and dad. His mom, he says, would be at home in Cranston, Rhode Island, “crying, excited that I’m coming home.” He says his dad would be in heaven, “proud as a peacock,” but quipping, “What’d you hire him for? You could’ve done better than that!”

It’s unlikely. Former BU hockey co-captain Quinn was an All-Hockey East and All-New England defenseman when he represented the Terriers in the eighties. After BU, he played a couple of seasons of pro hockey before going into coaching. From the sidelines, he helped establish the University of Nebraska Omaha’s first Division I ice hockey program, helped BU win the 2009 national championship as an associate head coach, guided the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters to the playoffs, and served as the Colorado Avalanche’s assistant coach.

Quinn spoke with Parent about his on- and off-ice expectations for his players and the role his parents played in helping him establish a career in the big leagues.

Parent: What are you most looking forward to about being back at BU?
Coach Quinn:
I spent four years in pro hockey and I loved all four years, but it’s unique being a college coach because you’re able to form relationships that you can have for a lifetime. There may be more fans at a pro game, but there’s more passion from the crowd in a college game. The kids are more vocal; it means more to them. They go to school and they feel part of the team; there’s nothing like it. People come here because they love BU.

Not every player will turn pro. How much of your job is preparing players for life outside of the big time?
It’s a huge responsibility. Your number-one job is to make them the best person they can be and prepare them for what happens away from hockey. For the most part, you get all of their focus and effort athletically while they’re here—they’re elite athletes, they all aspire to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). Where they can slack is the academic side or the social side, so you certainly spend a lot of time as a college coach making sure they’re putting as much effort into those areas as they are their athletic side.

What role did your parents play in supporting you during your early years in hockey?
I was very fortunate to have parents who understood what their responsibilities were; they weren’t concerned with being my friend and understood what a parent needed to be. Later in life, they were great friends—and my mother still is. They gave me every opportunity to put myself in the position to come to BU—there wasn’t a lot of coddling, which certainly has helped me moving forward.

BU hockey has had some real highs and lows in recent years. Where do you think its image is today?
Obviously we took a hit a couple of years ago with some unfortunate incidents and it’s what people remember. I think if you look over the history of the program, we’ve had very few social issues; unfortunately, a couple were played out in the media. I think we’re getting through that and our guys understand their responsibilities socially, and we’re just moving forward.

What are your expectations for your players in the community and as mentors on campus?
That’s something we’re certainly working on. Coach Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) has been a huge proponent of that. Our guys aren’t just going to come here and play hockey—there are a lot of responsibilities that go with being a BU hockey player. Larry Cancro [CAS’77 and Red Sox senior vice president for Fenway affairs], who runs the New England chapter for Autism Speaks, is someone we do a lot of charity work for and we’ll continue to support that program. We’re going to be doing some mentoring and more things in the community, and I know our guys are eager to do that.

Is there a particular set of attributes you’re looking for when recruiting players?
It’s a three-part equation when you recruit a kid: what type of kid is he athletically, socially, and academically. When you go watch a kid play, you can’t have him have world-class, Division I athletic ability but not be serious about school or not be a good person away from the rink. You have to weigh them all equally—you can’t get blinded by their talent. I know Coach Parker and the staff here have done a great job with that for a long, long time.

You must have been known around campus when you played; how did you cope with that celebrity when you came here?
I didn’t look at it as celebrity. That goes back to parenting—I was lucky. My father and mother kept me pretty grounded. I wasn’t very impressed by the fact that I was a hockey player at BU. Maybe some other people were; I wasn’t. My father made sure of that. Not that he wasn’t proud of me, but it wasn’t a big deal. There were people doing a lot more important things than I was.

David Quinn, right #7, stands next to Boston University men's hockey head coach, Jack Parker, after a 4-1 victory over BC during the 1986 Beanpot tournament at the Boston Garden. Photo by Boston University Photography

David Quinn, right, stands next to BU head coach Jack Parker after victory in the 1986 Beanpot. Photo by BU Photography

Do you envisage your team playing with a particular style?
Fast and physical. I know we’re going to be fast and physical. I know we’re going to be in incredible shape. We’re going to play at a high pace and a high tempo; it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Do the players always remember that it’s fun? They must feel a lot of pressure.
They do, and it’s part of our responsibility to make sure they understand that, hey, this is fun, but also serious—a lot of these guys are getting scholarships to play at this level. The real athletes find fun in hard work and getting better. That’s one of the things I talk to these guys about a lot: we all want to have fun, but what’s your definition of fun? If you can’t find fun in improving every day, in hard work, in taking it upon yourself to do the extra things you’re going to need to do to be an elite athlete, then you’re going to have a problem at this level, no matter where you go to school.

What would you say to those parents who haven’t seen a game?
If anyone hasn’t been to the rink and hasn’t experienced a hockey game at Agganis, it’s incredible. It’s a great value—the ticket isn’t expensive—you’re going to see a team that works hard, a team that the University and the student body and the parents can be very proud of. We’ll be very competitive—it’ll be an experience they’ll never forget.

Tickets are available now to see Coach Quinn’s Terriers take on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Wisconsin over Parents Weekend. You can also watch the team face Maine on the ice at Fenway Park—yes, that Fenway Park—and skate against Cornell at Madison Square Garden.

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