POTSDAM, N.Y. — In what became a badly-kept secret, Clarkson has named George Roll men’s hockey coach, replacing the fired Mark Morris. He was formally introduced at a news conference on Monday.
Roll, a former assistant at Clarkson under Morris, returns after seven years as head coach at Division III Oswego. Roll will begin his transition to Clarkson immediately.
“In many ways this is coming home I know for George and his family,” said Clarkson president Denny Brown, who had been at the center of controversy of his firing of Morris, “and I’m especially pleased that not only will we be seeing terrific teams in the future, but the sense of tradition at Clarkson, the sense of tradition and excellence is something that I know George will maintain and build on. That’s something that’s important to not only to all the hockey alums but to all Clarkson alums and to people here on campus.”
The Golden Knights struggled throughout last season, in part because of the controversy over the firing of Morris, and the program has tailed off in recent years after being perennial ECAC powers for so long.
“I think the biggest thing is just to move forward,” Roll said. “It’s a new era now and one thing I’ve learned is that if you get everybody pulling in the same direction you can accomplish alot, regardless of the talent level.
“I’m going to meet with the players after this today to touch on my philosophies as a coach. You know I’ve always been a person that’s open to communication. I like sitting down one on one with players and allowing them input into some of my decisions. That’s my style and that’s what’s worked for me. I’ve been awfully successful as an assistant and a head coach. I’ve never had a losing season in my career as a coach and I don’t expect that to be the case next year.
“But I think it’s a fresh start for everybody involved, myself included and the players. I don’t have any preconceptions of any of the individuals on the team and just look forward to moving forward and letting them know what my philosophy is as a coach and where I expect the program to go.”
Roll is coming off a run to the Division III national championship game with Oswego St., which ended in a 2-1 loss to Norwich this weekend. The run came amid all the rumors of his departure.
“It’s been an emotional ride for myself and my family,” Roll said. “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be standing here today. I had a great eight years as an assistant here and certainly would like to bring the program back to that level we were at during those eight seasons.
“It was hard [leaving Oswego], I’m not going to lie to you. After the [final] game, my wife will attest to it, I was a mess and that doesn’t happen to me too often. It was hard saying goodbye when I walked into the locker room and told them it was my last game as coach. And I think they had a feeling what was going on, but I just told them how much I was going to miss them.
“The experience I had this year, not that the eight years I was here we didn’t have that type of team because we did, but when you’re the head coach it means a little bit more to you than it does than when you’re an assistant. It was an emotional time but I got through it and today’s a new day.”
Roll said, the rumors over his imminent departure from Oswego were not a distraction during the Lakers’ NCAA run.
“I know they [the players] didn’t feel it was any type of nuisance or trying to take away what we were trying to accomplish,” Roll said. “I think they wanted to send me out on a winning note and unfortunately we came short. But that’s not to say the season wasn’t a success. I think we put Oswego on the map as a power that’s going to be recognized in Division III for a long time.”
During his eight-year stretch as Morris’ top assistant, Roll was part of some of the school’s most successful seasons. During his tenure, Clarkson compiled a 176-82-26 overall record, won 19 ECAC playoff games, earned two conference regular season titles (1991, 1995), claimed two ECAC Tournament titles (1991, 1993) and participated in six NCAA postseason tournaments, advancing all the way to the Frozen Four in 1991.
In seven years at Oswego, Roll amassed a 119-74-16 overall record and guided the Lakers to two NCAA tournament appearances, two SUNYAC regular-season championships, and this year’s SUNYAC tournament championship. This season, Roll brought Oswego to the NCAA Division III Tournament Frozen Four for only the second time in the program’s history and first time since 1987.
“I’d be remiss in not thanking the people back home in Oswego,” Roll said. “The university, President Stanley, for the opportunity they gave me not only as a coach but as a person. I look back on the years I was there with pride. In addition to my assistant, the players there that I’m leaving behind, you know, there’s a special bond there, with this group especially, and without them I don’t think I’d be standing here today. I’m very proud of what we accomplished in the years I was there.
“Looking ahead to the future here at Clarkson, I can’t tell you what it means to me to be standing here today. I know as a player at Bowling Green we played against Clarkson and I know the amount of pride that goes in and the great tradition that Clarkson has when that sweater is put on. I look forward to the opportunity to get us back into not only one of the elite teams in the ECAC but one of the elite teams in the country.”
Some of the players that Roll helped recruit to Clarkson include current NHL players Erik Cole, Craig Conroy, Steve Dubinsky and Todd Marchant. Two of Roll’s recruits, Brian Mueller and Conroy, were Hobey Baker Award finalists.
“I think it’s imperative right now with what we have to offer that we would attract not only good athletes but good people,” Roll said, “One thing I learned in my experience at Oswego is that it’s just as important to recruit quality individuals as it is to recruit quality athletes, and that’s what we’re going to be looking for.
“I’ve been kind of inundated with the question, ‘Is it too late to bring in a class?’ I don’t think so.
“A lot of the players we had here when I was here were guys we got late. Patrice Robitaille, Todd Marchant, the list goes on and on. So I think there is still time to get a list and get a quality class.”
A native of the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, Ill., Roll played four years at Bowling Green under former Clarkson, and current Boston College, head coach Jerry York. As a junior, Roll made significant contributions to the 1983-84 Falcon squad, which won the national championship. He served as Bowling Green’s captain in his senior season.
Roll becomes the 10th head coach in Clarkson’s history, replacing interim head coach Fred Parker, who was not a candidate for the job. Other finalists were believed to be Boston College assistant Ron Rolston, Lake Superior assistant Jim Roque, and Greg Dreschel of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, all former Clarkson assistants.