Wednesday, June 19, 2013
BOSTON -- Jack Parker had been at Boston University about three years when, unable to convince his bosses to give him a raise, he decided to drive down to Yale to interview for the opening there.
Before he could get to New Haven, he pulled off the road and canceled.
"I knew very early on that this was the job for me," Parker said on Monday, announcing his retirement after four decades on the Terriers bench in which he won almost 900 games and three NCAA titles.
"Forty-eight of the last 49 years I've been reporting for duty for BU hockey, and that's enough," said Parker, who also played for the Terriers and was an assistant coach for four years. "It's been a great run, and I had a great time doing it."
In a wood-paneled club room in a sparkling new arena he helped build, Parker finally said a sort of good bye to a hockey program that has been synonymous with his name. The third winningest coach in NCAA history -- his 894 wins, so far, are the most at a single school -- Parker will step down after the postseason and move into a fundraising job.
"I always thought of BU as a family," Parker said to a crowd that included his actual family along with dozens of current and former players, including NHL and Olympic stars. "I've got two daughters and 226 sons."
Michigan has a great hockey program, with nine NCAA titles, but no one in Ann Arbor doubts that the football team runs the show there. Down the Green Line in Chestnut Hill, Boston College is the reigning national champion in hockey but there, too, it skates in the shadow of the revenue sports.
BU has no football team and a mid-major basketball program that hasn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1959. It is here that Parker set up shop, establishing at this end of Commonwealth Avenue a powerhouse that has sent 66 players to the NHL in his tenure.
"It's a privilege to play at a place like this," said former Terrier Mike Grier, who played 14 seasons in the NHL. "I think Coach let everyone know that. That's why he made sure everyone conducted themselves the right way."
Despite a graduation rate and winning percentage any major football or basketball program would envy, BU hockey was tainted last season when two players were accused of sexual assault just two months apart. The ensuing university investigation pointed to a "culture of sexual entitlement" on the team; the players, both NHL draft picks, were suspended.
Parker said on Monday that he might have retired last season if not for desire to see the program through the scandal. "We had a lot of adversity to face, and I'm glad I had that experience as well," he said, adding that he didn't feel like it tarnished his legacy.
"The people I'm most concerned about know what BU hockey's all about," he said.
To Parker, it is about Travis Roy, who in 1995 was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first shift but remains friends with the coach and an active supporter of the program. Parker said the injury was the worst part of his career -- but the way the BU community responded was the highlight.
"That was a huge part of my life. I'm really close to him -- he's like family, and he always be," said Parker, who spoke with Roy by phone on Monday morning; the former player was in Florida on vacation and couldn't attend. "I'm closer to Travis than any of my players, and he played the least amount of moments for me."
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