The Rangers hope David Quinn's mix of modern strategy and traditional values will work as well in the NHL as it did at BU
LIKE A teenager harboring an incipient crush, David Quinn is giddy about the prospect of a closer relationship. "I actually just got his phone number," the rookie Rangers coach says with a bashful smirk. "We're going to talk, for sure."
The owner of the coveted digits? Brad Stevens, the 41-year-old wunderkind on the Celtics' bench and one of the few coaches who can appreciate Quinn's challenge. Five years ago Stevens swapped his gig at Butler for the TD Garden parquet. Now Quinn is making a similar jump, leaving Boston University after five successful seasons to take on the neon glare and back pages of the Big Apple. Only four other coaches have gone straight from the NCAA to the NHL before Quinn was hired in late May ... and two of them arrived within the past four years.
"Canada prides itself on saying that hockey is Canada's game," says Quinn. "And I think it's taken a while to have this influx, or this push toward understanding that college hockey has been great for a long time. But that seems to be changing."
Along with Flyers fourth-year coach Dave Hakstol (North Dakota) and recent Stars hire Jim Montgomery (University of Denver), the 52-year-old Quinn espouses a modern philosophy: team speed, individual skill and puck possession. "Five guys have to be involved," he says. "The NBA's gone to that too. And when the D gets involved, I want them staying involved. Don't get panicky, don't get back. I want to score a goal." He embraces data; he had a full-time director of analytics at BU. And, perhaps most important, he knows how to communicate with players.
"Almost like a second dad," says Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who played for Quinn from 2015 to '17. "He loves his players, loves to be more than just a hockey coach." So far, Quinn hasn't altered his approach. This summer he visited Sweden for one-on-one, get-to-know-you meetings with forwards Jesper Fast and Mika Zibanejad and goalie Henrik Lundqvist; the King hosted a three-hour dinner, serving "shellfish, corn, big desserts, good wine ... a heck of a meal," the coach recalls. Quinn also felt no compunction about attending the wedding of New York defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who played at Boston when Quinn was an assistant.
"That's an old-school mentality, that I wouldn't have gone," he says. "Just because I'm the coach for the Rangers, I'm not coming? What am I going to do, play him more because I went to his wedding?"
It's not that Quinn lacks traditional techniques: The son of an Irish beat cop, he possesses a booming Boston accent that can mute entire rinks. But the Rangers believe that his patience in developing young players—McAvoy, Sabres center Jack Eichel and Coyotes center Clayton Keller are all Quinn protégés with superstar potential—is well-suited for their on-the-fly rebuild. "I'm excited about getting on the ice with the players and...," he says, his voice trailing off. "I don't mean to be old-fashioned—but just coaching."