Barry Schutte enters his third season as associate head coach at Miami after holding an assistant position at Bowling Green for the previous nine campaigns.
Obviously, recruiting is one of assistant coaches’ main jobs, and it’s been an area in which the RedHawks have struggled for a while.
Schutte helped rebuild Bowling Green under now MU head coach Chris Bergeron, and, along with fellow associate head coach Eric Rud, the staff feels it has landed a quality recruiting class.
View From the Glass recently talked to Schutte about RedHawks newcomers among other topics:
VFTG: So you get your dream job 2½ years ago at your al mater as an assistant coach, and your first season was canceled and everything has gone sideways since. Can you talk about your experience as a Division I assistant coach the past 18 months?
SCHUTTE: It’s been unreal – I don’t know how to put it into words, what we’ve been through. Just the recruiting alone. Personally, with the move (from Bowling Green to Oxford) and the family and everything else, I feel like it wasn’t until probably June that I felt like I could call Oxford home again, where life opened again, you could start reacquainting yourself with old friends and so on. From a personal standpoint, I felt like it took a full two years – which shouldn’t have taken that long – to settle in. And then professionally, it was crazy as we try and figure out internally what’s going on, you get the carpet pulled out from under you. We’re trying to rebuild a program, and recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. Then we get put on a 15-month dead period from a recruiting perspective, and then internally, we can’t have a spring after our first year in terms of training to help establish new standards, new expectations, new culture, and then we lose the fall last year to do the same type of thing. So there were no opportunities for building blocks internally, which was disappointing, and then obviously trying to recruit and add talent and improve the roster when you’re sitting in your office in Oxford, Ohio, had some great challenges to it.
And then you add the transfer rule into the conversation and the extra year of eligibility. I think we benefited from some of that, honestly, with the dead period. At least it opened up some other recruiting doors for us, even though we couldn’t leave campus or bring others to campus. Certainly, I don’t think anyone knows what the recruiting landscape is going to look like for the next few years while there’s still this extra year of COVID eligibility, with the transfer rule changing, with not having to sit out, I think that’s a huge unknown. I think that got misconstrued this year with the COVID transferring – I don’t know what the number is of undergrads transferring don’t have to sit out – I don’t think that list is massive, but being it’s fresh and new, it’s probably more than people anticipated. Is that going to continue next year? No one knows. And then internally, what (about) your guys? You hope everybody’s getting theirs and happy and enjoying their experience here, but in the end you don’t know until the season unfolds.
VFTG: If you had to out your finger on the toughest thing you’ve had to go through in the past 18 months, what would it be? Is it being handcuffed on the recruiting front, since that’s such an integral part of your job?
SCHUTTE: First, the empathy for our current players. For every day, you were excited and grateful they had an opportunity to play, and it gave us as their coach another opportunity to help and aid in their development as a young players. Those days, we don’t take those for granted. I value those – that’s what gets you excited is helping those young men grow and develop and accomplish the things they want to do in life. And when you see that get taken away from them, or disrupted, it’s hard to watch. And you’re frustrated for them. So you’re excited one day, and then the next day you’re frustrated, and what are we doing with the protocols and the testing, should we be playing, should we not be playing? Lots of kids didn’t get to participate at all, and it really hurt their development. In the end, our team and our players were able to invest in themselves and grow a little and develop bit along the way.
Certainly not normal.
But recruiting is such a huge part of the job, and in particular when you’re taking over a program and rebuild it, it is the job.
I can remember my first day in the Bubble, and the transfer portal had just filled up because the Ivy League had just canceled its season for the year and those kids knew they weren’t going back there, those older kids, the seniors. So my first night in the hotel in Omaha, I can vividly remember sitting there on the phone calling Ivy League kids out of the transfer portal. I’m in a hotel bubble in Omaha and that’s not normal, and now we’re recruiting over the phone and video. It just seemed crazy. But we made the most of it and here we are.
VFTG: Do you think the restrictions played on recruiting set a team like Miami back more since it’s in a rebuilding position than a North Dakota or Duluth which was already in the driver’s seat in terms of talent heading into COVID?
SCHUTTE: When it came to the transfer conversation, that seems to be more relevant with the younger recruit – the winning and losing. No one wants to be a part of a program that’s not winning, let’s be honest, right? But a grad transfer, a junior, a sophomore in college has perspective. What they’re looking forward is opportunity to earn themselves a pro contract. Does this school have everything in place for me to take the strides necessary over the next 12 months, 24 months, 36 months – whatever that might look like – to move in that direction. I think those are more the questions we were getting from those older transfers: What’s the opportunity like? What are the facilities like? What’s the daily routine like? Where’s the support and on what level?
We play in a league against best teams and the best players in the country, and that was enticing to some kids, along with the opportunity to play against them, so let me go show everybody at the next level that why not me? I’m going nose-to-nose with the first-line center at North Dakota or Denver or the second-line center because I get an opportunity at a school like Miami, vs., go to a bigger school and play a secondary role because they have their top guys.
That’s how it played out for us. I think our hockey opportunity, and our conference, and our ability to play against those guys in a more significant role helped us in some of the recruiting situations.
VFTG: I’ve been on the record as saying for years that I believe simply being in the NCHC, the best college hockey conference by far, is a major recruiting tool.
SCHUTTE: I can tell you it’s been mentioned more than I thought it would. Now I still think at the end of the day, that’s not what should be No. 1 on the list, but it’s definitely on the list. It comes down to the right fit and opportunity – there’s a lot of things on that list. With today’s kid, it’s become more of it as a thing. I heard there were schools from other conferences…that lost out on some of those seniors as grad transfers because those seniors felt like they didn’t earn a pro opportunity because of the conference. They felt like they needed to challenge themselves at a higher level in a harder conference.
VFTG: Because of COVID, Miami played 25 games last season and many other college and juniors played just a handful. Most kids in Ontario played none at all. Does that factor into your recruiting right now when considering offering a scholarship to a potential recruit after he just missed a crucial year of development?
SCHUTTE: It’s definitely playing a factor. I can tell you Michael Regush, the player we got from Cornell, he didn’t play a hockey game last year. Not only did he not play a hockey game, he didn’t do a college practice last year. He was at home training the entire year, so his first hockey game here in October will be his first since Cornell won the (conference) championship and got their season cut two years ago. Now, he’s a junior, he’s an older guy, he’s proven it at all levels. You’re not worried about where his game’s at. You know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when, how long will it take him to get up to speed again? Versus a younger kid in juniors: I think it plays more into the conversation when you’re not sold on the individual yet.
VFTG: Miami was historically bad offensively last year, so with four forward transfers coming in plus Red Savage, is it fair to say that beefing up that corps was the top priority?
SCHUTTE: Yes, 100 percent. Our assessment the first year was: We needed to defend better and we needed to keep more pucks out of our net, which started with the recruitment of Ludvig Persson. We knew we had to get a really good goalie, to start there, and we feel we wanted to improve our back end, and we feel like we did that after Year 1. Going into last year, we knew goals were going to be hard to come by, we just needed to keep more out of of our net and give ourselves a chance with special teams and so on. But the year before, Gordie Green, and Karch (Bachman) and Casey (Gilling) were as good of line as any in the league, at least we could lean on that on the power play and some nights to get you over the hump. We just didn’t have a line that was that dominant last year, up front, and/or a player that could honestly take over a game at times like Gordie did as a senior, and Karch has that impact with his skating. So our goal was to focus on the offensive side this year. We felt like we had competition on the back end, we’d improved the goaltending. We had (forwards) playing up a level on the roster where they shouldn’t be, we need to find a way to improve the competition up front and make guys earn it, and that was the focus. (Specifically), older guys who could make an impact right away and not act like a freshman. You have a pretty special, talented freshman (Red Savage) to have a significant impact in this league. So you get a two-year college guy, a three-year college guy, a one-year college guy and hope they come in and act like they’ve been there before. Not only have offensive skills and ability, but maturity, have the leadership qualities as well to help this program grow up faster, basically. And we feel like we’ve done that.
Red Savage is a part of that. He’s the young one in there but with his experience, where he’s coming from, he’s played against the best players, so we expect him to be able to translate that to college.
And we think we’ve added five top-nine forwards through our recruitment, then a guy like Will Cullen comes along and is going to play an extra year. He’s an offensive defenseman, but you can consider him a forward from our perspective. Our goal was to increase offense, and he had 25 points (last season), all league-type defenseman. Even though he’s playing a different position we feel like we’ve added a sixth forward – a sixth player at least – who we feel can contribute to the offense.
In Part II, we take a closer look at the newest RedHawks as the team prepares to hit the ice Oct. 2.