AHS coach Maruk baffled by release | AspenTimes.com

AHS coach Maruk baffled by release

Aspen Times writer

By Steve Benson

Aspen Times Staff Writer

Next year, for the third consecutive year, Aspen High School’s hockey team will be playing under a different head coach.

Dennis Maruk, a former NHL All-Star who took over the head coaching duties from Mark LeRose who departed last season, said Aspen High athletic director Carol Sams informed him in a meeting in early May that the school would be seeking a new head coach.

Maruk said the news caught him off guard.

“When you come here for one year and have a good season, it’s kind of shocking,” Maruk said. “If I had done something real bad, then maybe I’d understand a little more.

“But that’s the way it is, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”

In his first and only season as head coach, Maruk led the Skiers to the semifinals of the high school state tournament and a 14-5 overall record.

Maruk said he did not receive any complaints during the season, but that Sams told him in early May that some parents had expressed concern over his communication skills since they weren’t able to reach him by e-mail.

“I don’t have a computer at home, but they all have my phone number,” Maruk said. “We had a couple parents meetings and nobody said anything. I didn’t see any problems – I thought everything was going great.

“I think I did an excellent job both on and off the ice. Maybe they just wanted to go a different route – I’m still shocked.”

Maruk said he hasn’t spoken with Sams since their meeting in early May.

Sams declined to comment on the issue Wednesday, saying only that the school is looking for a replacement.

Two of Maruk’s former players – rising senior Tyler Doremus and recent graduate Lincoln Neiley – said they weren’t surprised by the news.

“I kind of saw some reasons, but they were more political,” Doremus said. “He was a pretty quiet guy, he didn’t express his emotions very much. If he talked with the players a little more, maybe it would have been different.”

But both players said they feel Maruk was largely misunderstood and his release was unjust.

“I don’t think it was completely fair,” Doremus said. “But maybe they had some reasons they didn’t share.”

Said Neiley: “I liked him a lot, he’s a good coach and obviously really knowledgeable – he’s a former pro player. But you kind of have to get on the same page as him, and he can do great things for you.”

Making things tougher for Maruk, Neiley said, was replacing a wildly popular coach in LeRose.

“I think that a lot of the kids were hoping to get a guy like him,” he said. “But they’re just different people – one’s no better than the other.”

And as new coaches do, Maruk brought in a different style of coaching – the practices, drills, and strategies weren’t the same.

“Everything was different from how things used to be,” Neiley said. “We always had certain plays and then he came in and changed a lot of stuff – that didn’t go over very big in the beginning.”

Neiley laughed, adding, “But you can’t expect him to play another coaches style.”

And by the end of the season, Neiley said the team was beginning to adjust.

“I think he definitely should have gotten another season,” he said. “Everybody would have liked him more.”

Maruk and his wife, Kimberly, are staying in Aspen. Kimberly is opening a new store called Panache, and Maruk plans to do some coaching for Aspen Junior Hockey.

“I have nothing against the school, the kids or the parents,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with the younger kids, it will be a lot of fun.”

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com

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