Jim Montgomery, former head coach of Tier 1 junior ice hockey team the Dubuque Fighting Saints, was named DU’s head coach in April. Montgomery replaces George Gwozdecky, who had been behind the Pioneers bench since 1994. The 2013–14 season will mark the beginning of the Montgomery era, and the coach recently sat down to discuss his new post.
Q: When you were hired, you still had to finish your old job with the Fighting Saints. When did you first have an opportunity to start getting to know your new players?
A: My first day on campus was the Tuesday after Memorial Day. I got settled in that day, and then I had one-on-one meetings with the entire team. I had already met with them the day of the press conference, but I kind of laid down who I am, how I operate, and what they could expect as a team. It gave me an opportunity to get to know them on a one-on-one level. It was a great opportunity to meet the players. I’ve been getting to know a lot of people, and the support from everyone has blown me away. It’s been wonderful.
Q: What were your impressions of the players following those meetings?
A: I think it was three things. One was how much more mature they are than the level I’m coming from. Their maturity in setting personal goals and academic goals—it was very impressive. Their intelligence—it was like I was talking to peers, and I’ll have less of a mentor role than I had at the junior level. So their maturity, their intelligence, and finally what really struck me was their expectations of what Denver hockey should be. They expect excellence, and that’s what I’m hoping for.
Q: What are the challenges coming into a program with such a high profile?
A: The culture of excellence was already there, and George set that culture. The tools are already there for success. You don’t have to rebuild; you have to reload. I don’t see it as pressure. I see it as a wonderful opportunity. The opportunity for us to win right away is here in front of us.