Brown’s two-month search for a new men’s ice hockey coach is finally over.
Roger Grillo, a highly-regarded seven-year assistant at Vermont, was introduced Monday as the team’s next coach. He replaces Bob Gaudet, who left two months ago to take over the head coaching position at his alma mater, Dartmouth.
“I’m excited to move from an assistant’s position to a head coaching job with the opportunity to run my own show,” said Grillo. “I was extremely impressed by the people at Brown, and I’m excited to be given the opportunity to be head coach at one of the nation’s top universities.”
Grillo was the second person to be offered the position. Brown athletic director Dave Roach offered the job to Brown graduate and former NHL defenseman Tim Bothwell about a month ago. After two weeks of consideration, Bothwell decided to stay at his current position as head coach of the University of Calgary.
Grillo wasn’t interviewed in person during the first go around. Right after Gaudet left, Roach interviewed only Bothwell, current assistant Jamie Rice, and Boston University assistant Brian Durocher. It seemed certain that the position would go to someone with and Ivy League background — Durocher had been an assistant at Brown for a couple of years under Gaudet.
But after Bothwell turned down the offer, Roach revitalized the search, and he began to look more seriously at Grillo, a native of Apple Valley, Minn.
“Roger is recognized as one of the outstanding young assistant coaches in the country,” said Roach. “He had a tremendous impact on the Vermont program where he was known as a tireless worker and an exceptional recruiter.”
In his time at Vermont under head coach Mike Gilligan, Grillo helped lead a team that became national contenders, culminating in the Catamounts’ Final Four appearance in 1996. Vermont was also in the NCAA Tournament this past season.
Grillo played defense for the University of Maine from 1982-84 and was a 1983 draft choice of the Vancouver Canucks. After graduating from Maine in 1986, Grillo went on to coach Yarmouth High School, where his teams won three straight Maine state championships. He was named Maine’s High School Coach of the Year after all three seasons. After leaving Yarmouth, Grillo was an assistant at Norwich (Ver.) University for one season, before landing at the University of Vermont in 1990.
Durocher, meanwhile, was disappointed he wasn’t given more consideration, though he says there are worse places to be an assistant than at BU.
“I was never offered the job,” Durocher said. “I’ll leave the rest be. I don’t have any comment.”
As for Bothwell, he said the decision to turn down the job was a difficult one. His indecision was part of the reason why it took Brown so long to name a new coach.
One of the factors was his consideration for girlfriend Barbara, and what the move would mean to her. But mostly, it came down to the coaching situation itself.
“It was very attractive in a lot of ways,” Bothwell said. “But I have a more realistic chance of winning a national champ here (at the University of Calgary).”
“I was very close to taking it after I left after the interview. It was very tough to let go. You could win a national championship at Brown, but even if you do a good job after two to three years of recruiting, you’re still never going to be a favorite,” explained Bothwell.
Bothwell said that he wouldn’t rule out such a move in the future.
“Dave [Roach] did a great job making it attractive,” Bothwell said. “I can’t even say I wouldn’t be interested at some point and time. But now didn’t feel quite right. I enjoy living here, it’s a great spot.”
Grillo takes over a program that has fallen back to the bottom of the ECAC, after years of revitalization under Gaudet. Brown made the NCAA Tournament in 1993, and was a second-place finisher in the league in 1995, before fading to seventh and then last over the past two seasons.
But, just after Gaudet left, he said he believed the program was left with its second-best recruiting class in the last 10 years.