Just hours after firing head coach Jason Smith, Kelowna Rockets general manager Bruce Smith says he hopes to have a replacement behind the bench in the next few days.
Meeting with the media at Prospera Place Monday afternoon, Hamilton said relieving a coach of his duties is never easy but he felt for some time a change had to be made.
“Anytime you’re doing something like this, there’s never any fun attached to it all,” said Hamilton. “And yet, at the end of the day, how this hockey club does sit on my shoulders.
He said it was not a decision he made in haste, but rather was the result of concerns that were on his mind for the last few weeks.
He said he felt a decision needed to be made and it was better to make it early in the season while there is still a chance of a turn around for the team.
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The Rockets have stalled out of the gate, winning just four games of it’s first 14.
The team appeared to be coming together having won the three of the last five games and having brought in some players to help. But Hamilton said he made his mind up “a while ago,” and the difficulty has been finding a replacement.
He did not identify who he has been talking to to step in but said he has two people in mind.
“I have a couple of guys I’m zeroed in on and I’ll probably have a good idea by tomorrow,” he said Monday.
They do not appear to be either of the two current assistant coaches with the team, Kris Mallette or Travis Crickard. Hamilton said both assistants remain with the club but their long-term futures with the Rockets will depend on the new head coach.
They are likely, however, to be tasked with handling the coaching duties for Tuesday’s game against Swift Current, and possibly Saturday’s game against Prince George, both at Prospera Place. That will depend on how quickly a new head coach can start with the team.
The discussion with Smith, he said, was short, but he did not elaborate on what was said other than .
Hamilton said he talked to the players and did not feel that the head coach had lot their support.
“When you’re dealing with a bunch of young guys this has happened to, I think they’re probably disappointed. It’s just not a great part of the business.”
The GM said he has felt for the last few seasons the culture his team developed over the previous years that visitors to Prospera Place would, his words, “have their hands full” has not been there, and that was a concern.
But he did not place all the blame on Smith, saying he felt he had to shoulder a large part because it’s his job to bring in the right players for the team.
“And I have not done that,” Hamilton said.
He conceded there is a sense of urgency in not only getting a new head coach in place, but also in turning around the team given the Rockets will host the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament and, as the host, will have a berth in the four-team tournament.
He said he felt it’s particularly important this season that the team make the playoffs in preparation for 2020 as the new coach will likely be the man behind the bench when Kelowna hosts Memorial Cup in just 19 months time.
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