On June 18, about a year after interviewing for the vacant head coaching job with the Washington Capitals, Mike Haviland was named head coach of the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.
Haviland, 45, has served as a head coach for the Trenton Titans and Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL, as well as the Norfolk Admirals and Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. He also spent four seasons as an assistant coach of Joel Quenneville with the Chicago Blackhawks, winning a Stanley Cup in 2010.
During the Capitals’ development camp last week Haviland sat down with CSNWashington’s Chuck Gormley for a quick Q and A.
It looks like the interview you had with the Capitals last summer served you well.
I think the interview I had with George and Mack [assistant general manager Brian MacLellan], I think we hit it off pretty good. Obviously, they went with Adam [Oates] and there were no hard feelings. It was a good process to go through. When the Hershey job became available [this summer] I got a chance to interview and Mack was in the interview process again so it was a lot more comfortable this time around than the first time around. I certainly think it helped knowing George and getting to go through the process again.
Do you look at this as a step toward becoming a head coach in the NHL?
I don’t think there is a clear path, I really don’t. I’ve done it both ways. I was a minor league coach years ago and had some success and moved up as an assistant [with the Chicago Blackhawks] thinking that may be the path to go. I got close on a couple [NHL] jobs and now I’ve got the opportunity to be a head guy. So, there’s really no clear path, I don’t think. I think a lot of it is timing and the network you start to build. I’ve worked now for three organizations. I met some real good people in Anaheim and Chicago and now Washington. I think as you build your network, your body of work will always speak for itself. It’s right place, right time. That’s all it will take for me to become a head coach someday. There’s no rush, no time frame. You just gotta continue to do what you’re doing.
Having done both, do you feel you’re better suited to be an assistant or a head coach?
I enjoy being a head, I really do. Some guys are cut out to be a head, some guys are cut out to be assistants. You gotta command respect in that room and your delivery on a daily basis matters. Some guys are really good at it and some guys are really good at Xs and Os and video. I feel very comfortable being the head guy. I’ve done both, but I prefer to be the head guy.
What is your personality as a head coach?
Well, I’m a big communicator. I like to talk to my players. I like to give guys roles and put them in those roles. My belief is teaching every day and communicating every day and being a detailed guy. I think you’ve got to understand players. Everybody’s got a different personality. You’ve got to know what buttons to push and when to push them. But I think they’ve got to see the human side of you, too. You can’t just keep your door shut. I think you want to be around your players and get to know them a little bit. There’s a fine line You’ve got to be the guy to put the hammer down and certainly I’ve done that over the years. But it’s gotta be a good balance
Are there some players you’ve helped develop that you take pride in?
Sure. I was very fortunate when I was in Chicago and Anaheim to have some young kids. Dustin Byfuglien’s one, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg. Emerson Etem in Anaheim. If you feel you did some little part in helping their careers, whether it was on or off the ice, it’s a good feeling. I was very fortunate in Chicago. Nine of those guys I had in the minors and we went up and won a Stanley Cup together. You feel kind of like a proud father. You’re happy for them. It’s a pride thing for sure.
As a head coach I’m sure you have a way you want your team to play. Adam Oates has his way he wants your team to play. Does there need to be a compromise on making it all work?
For sure. The main goal is for Washington and always will be. When you’re in the American League it’s about the NHL team. Our job is to get those kids ready for the Washington Capitals and develop them, not just their skill level, but also into winners. I believe you can develop and win at the same time. But the goal is to get them here and playing for the Washington Capitals. Adam will put his system in. He and I will talk about that and I’ll play anything he wants to play down there. I believe there should be a lot of similarities in the two systems. I’ll put my spin on it, but if a kid comes up there it shouldn’t be a huge transition. It’s hard enough for those kids to come up and play in a game. They’re nervous already. I’m still getting to know everyone, but I’m sure Adam and I will be on the same page. I understand both sides of it.