From Wildcat D-Man to P-Bruins Head Coach

Alumnus Kevin Dean named head coach of Providence Bruins

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
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Kevin Dean on the ice and in coaching box

Growing up as a hockey player in Madison, Wis., Kevin Dean pretty much figured there was one option when it came to playing college hockey.

"I don't know, but I might have thought the University of Wisconsin was the only team in the country when I was younger," said Dean, who earlier this week was named the new head coach of the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.

Then he went off to prep school at Culver Academy in Indiana where he played for a couple of guys - Allan Clark and Ryan Brandt - who had been standouts for and captains of the UNH hockey team during the 1969-70 season.

"I was starting to get recruited and they encouraged me to give UNH a look," Dean said. "I went out and liked it and liked the staff and got my eyes opened to the East Coast."

A defenseman, Dean was still interested in Wisconsin and looked hard at Harvard, but in the end chose to get his education and play his college hockey in Durham.

Thus started a hockey run that soon led to a long and fruitful professional career, first as a player and then as a coach.

Dean, 47, now takes over the P-Bruins after serving five years as an assistant coach with the team and he's charged with developing a stash of young prospects into successful NHL players.

He's long been tight with UNH head coach Dick Umile and his staff. He and associate head coach Mike Souza became close friends when both were working in Providence, Souza with Brown University.

Dean was in Durham earlier this summer to visit.

"He comes up here and spends time with us and talks hockey and shares his knowledge and experience, which is kind of fun. He'll show us clips and just talk hockey."

"He comes up here and spends time with us and talks hockey and shares his knowledge and experience, which is kind of fun," Umile said. "He'll show us clips and just talk hockey. I'm real excited for him that he got the job. He's a good UNH guy, a terrific guy and a very, very good coach."

Umile had been the associate head coach and was appointed head coach during Dean's senior season in December of 1990.

Dean had been recruited by head coach Bob Kullen and assistant Sean Coady. Kullen had heart problems that led to a heart transplant and passed away early in November of 1990.

"Coach Kullen was a real gentleman, a real solid guy," Dean said.

The Wildcats improved from year to year in each of Dean's seasons and were 22-11-2 when he was a senior.

"I think there were 10 or 12 of us as freshmen," Dean said. "We got more and more competitive every year, which was fun. It was fun to be part of a rebuild."

Dean had been drafted in the fifth round of the NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils and played professional hockey in the NHL and AHL for 11 years. His NHL stops included New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago.

He had a memorable 1994-95 season in particular when he played with not one, but two, Cup winners.

He won the Calder Cup in the AHL with the Albany River Rats where he was a captain and first-team All Star.

He also made his NHL debut that season with the New Jersey Devils. He played 17 regular season games with the Devils and then was called on for three games in the Eastern Conference finals.

Dean is one only four players to win the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup in the same season. He was able to because an NHL lockout that season pushed the playoffs back later and the Stanley Cup finals did not conflict as much as usual with the Calder Cup finals.

"It would be hard to say winning a Stanley Cup was not a highlight of your career, but I really wasn't a huge part of that Cup," Dean said. "I was a much bigger part of the Calder Cup and that was a lot of fun. We had a special bond among those players."

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The Stanley Cup run provided its share of memories.

"It was kind of a whirlwind and felt surreal," Dean said. "I knew I was a role player plugging a hole while guys got healthy. I did step into the conference finals and I thought I played pretty well. I had been in the organization for five years at that time and knew guys like Ken Daneyko and my whole focus was I wanted to play well and do my little part and not screw it up for those guys. It was special."

Dean spent five years coaching in the Devils' organization before joining the Providence Bruins and he's excited about his new role.

"The next couple of years the Bruins have a lot of draft picks and the last couple of years we've acquired some good, young players," Dean said. "Coming into this season and the following season, it's an important time for the Bruins. My job in Providence is to make sure the kids get the attention and teaching they need to become National League players down the road. Myself and our assistants will be paying close attention to their habits and the details and their overall games. It's exciting and a good challenge. We've got some real nice players who will be fun to work with."