The search for the Fort Wayne Komets coach to follow Al Sims has not started quickly, but it could end quickly. General Manager David Franke said he'll start interviews late this week or early next at the latest, and he wants a coach in place by June 1.
Franke said he's received a half-dozen resumes from potential candidates and thinks he'll get more by the end of the week. The candidates have to sell themselves, and Franke thinks the Komets have to sell what they have to offer as well.
"We didn't make the playoffs, and we were coming into the league last year as champions of the (Central Hockey League) and now we didn't even make the playoffs this year," Franke said. "That's a situation where we're not as lofty as we were before, plus we're in a league with 20-some other teams. We're not the only game in town. There are a lot of places that are more interesting geographically than us. Maybe guys want to play on the West Coast or maybe the East Coast because that's where there are more AHL teams. There are a lot of good places to play in this league.
"I think Fort Wayne is still a strong selling point, but we're in competition with other cities that have nice arenas, good followings and some are closer to AHL teams than we are."
There are also high expectations from local management, media and fans. The Komets are used to winning and competing for championships, and the scrutiny could be similar to coaching an Original Six franchise in the National Hockey League.
"Like Al told me yesterday, this job in Fort Wayne has a lot of pressure behind it," Franke said. "That's something that will be explained. We like to win and our fans like a certain type of game. That's going to be huge in determining who we bring in based on how we view our team and being a success for our fans."
That said, coaching in Fort Wayne can be a strong steppingstone to higher levels as Sims, Bruce Boudreau, John Torchetti and Rob Laird have proved.
"There is a lot of pressure in this job," Franke said. "I feel it every day. I feel I'm under the microscope more than anybody because we don't have a coach on staff, we didn't make the playoffs and we have to get this going."
Franke said the basic requirements for applicants to be considered include professional head coaching experience and a proven ability to recruit players. A strong ability to teach players would also help. ECHL experience would be a bonus but not a requirement, and a coach must also be comfortable working with the Franke family.
"We want somebody who has been through the wars and has recruited, is organized and knows what they're doing,'' Franke said. "We'll know it when we see it. That's usually how it works."
As for specific candidates, Franke said the Komets will talk with former assistant coach Gary Graham, who led Pensacola to the Southern Professional Hockey League title this year. The team is not looking at Fort Wayne native Brian Gratz, who coached Bloomington of the Central Hockey League this year, or at former Komet Kevin Kaminski, who coaches Louisiana in the SPHL.
Franke said it's unlikely recently retired captain Colin Chaulk will get to interview for the head coaching spot, but the Komets are still looking at him for an assistant coaching position. However, the new coach will have a say on whom he wants as an assistant coach or if there will even be one.
The Komets are also not interested in former Rockford coach Steve Martinson, who remains under contract after leading Allen to the Central Hockey League title, or former Komets coach Greg Puhalski, who is coaching in Canadian college hockey.