There will be 20 veterans and 11 rookies behind ECHL benches when the league opens its 16th season on Friday.
The dean of the returning coaches is John Marks, who is in his sixth season with Greenville and 11th season overall in the ECHL. Marks, who coached five seasons in Charlotte, ranks second among ECHL coaches in career wins (368), games (702) and years coached (10), trailing only the legendary John Brophy. Marks and Brophy, for whom the ECHL has renamed its Coach of the Trophy, are the only coaches in ECHL history to win both the Jack C. Riley Cup, awarded to the postseason champion from 1988-96, and the Patrick J. Kelly Cup. Marks led Charlotte to the 1996 Riley Cup Championship and led Greenville to the 2002 Kelly Cup Championship, making him the only coach in ECHL history to lead two different teams to ECHL titles. Brophy won three ECHL titles while Marks and Chris McSorley, who led Toledo to the ECHL championship in 1993 and 1994, each won two titles.
Mike Haviland returns for his third season with Atlantic City, whom he led to the 2003 Kelly Cup Championship and the Northern Conference Finals in 2002. Scott White has led Columbia to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of his first two seasons, and in 2002-03 the Inferno won both the regular season and postseason Southern Conference Championships. Louisiana’s Dave Farrish, who was named the 2002 ECHL Coach of the Year, has more wins than any other ECHL coach the past three seasons while leading the IceGators to the 2002 regular season title and three straight Kelly Cup Playoffs appearances.
Rick Adduono returns for his second season in Greensboro after leading the Generals to their first-ever appearance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs while setting team records for wins (42) and points (93). Jason Christie has led Peoria to the postseason in each of his first three seasons, and ranks fourth among ECHL coaches in career winning percentage (.678). Don MacAdam is in his fourth season as head coach of Charlotte, which narrowly missed a third consecutive trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2002-03.
In his third season, Bob Woods has led Mississippi to the Southern Conference Finals in each of his first two seasons while Gerry Fleming has led Florida to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of his first two seasons as well. Todd Gordon has led Pensacola to the postseason in each of his first two years and in 2001-02 the Ice Pilots set team records for wins (38) and home wins (23) while tying the team record for most points (82).
Steve Martinson is in his ninth season behind the bench with San Diego, having led the Gulls to a 385-115-33 regular season record and five championships in eight seasons in the West Coast Hockey League. Blaine Moore is in his fifth season behind the bench with Fresno, having led the Falcons to the WCHL title in 2002, while John Olver is in his fourth season behind the bench with Idaho leading the Steelheads to a 146-54-16 regular season record. Paul Kelly is in his third season with Bakersfield, and led the Condors to their best season in history in 2002-03, setting more than 30 individual and team records.
Davis Payne is in his first season with Alaska after leading the Pee Dee Pride, now the Florence Pride, to the Kelly Cup Playoffs three straight seasons. Stan Drulia is in his first season with Augusta after leading Orlando to both the regular season and postseason championship for the Atlantic Coast Hockey League in 2002-03. Drulia played for Knoxville in 1990-91, leading the ECHL with 63 goals and 140 points while being voted the ECHL Most Valuable Player and All-ECHL. Perry Florio is the new head coach in Florence after finishing 2002-03 behind the bench with the Anchorage Aces of the WCHL, now the Alaska Aces. Florio was 100-73-17 and advanced to the Kelly Cup Playoffs twice with Roanoke.
Bill Armstrong, who coached four years in the AHL with Providence, led Trenton to the postseason in his first season in 2002-03 while Roanoke’s Tony MacAulay took over as head coach in January and helped the Express reach the postseason for the 10th time in the team’s 10-year history. Jason Fitzsimmons, who won an ECHL title as a player in 1997 and as an assistant coach in 2001, is in his second season with South Carolina, having led the Stingrays to the postseason in 2002-03.
Chris Cichocki returns to Cincinnati where he played and coached when the Cyclones competed in the International Hockey League. Cichocki spent the last three seasons in the ECHL, helping Arkansas to the third-best turnaround in ECHL history, improving 43 points from 1999-2000 to 2000-01. Brian Curran steps behind the bench in Columbus after earning Coach of the Year honors in the ACHL after leading Macon to the postseason in 2002-03. Curran began his professional coaching career in the ECHL, leading Jacksonville to a 35-33-2 record and a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Jeff Pyle is behind the bench of Gwinnett, which played seven seasons in Mobile, Alabama before moving to the Atlanta suburb. Pyle coached the Mysticks for four seasons, going 137-113-34 and leading the team to the Kelly Cup Playoffs three times. Toby O’Brien returns for his second season with Johnstown, after going 28-33-11 in his first season, while Kevin Kaminski returns for his second season with Long Beach, after going 22-46-4 in 2002-03.
Jamie Ling begins his coaching career with Dayton, a team for whom he was both a player/assistant coach and Captain from 1998-2003 setting team career records for goals (132), shorthand goals (17) and game-winning goals. Ling received the ECHL Sportsmanship Award three straight years from 1998-2001, making him the only multiple winner of the award. Also in his first year as a head coach is Las Vegas’ Glen Gulutzan, who spent the past four seasons as a player-assistant coach for Fresno. Texas’ Robert Dirk returns behind the bench after spending the 2002-03 season as Vice President of Hockey Operations for the WCHL.
Steve Harrison comes to Toledo from Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League where he was assistant coach, associate coach and head coach. Pat Bingham returns to Wheeling where he was an assistant coach in 2001-02. Bingham, who played four seasons in the ECHL and won an ECHL title with Hampton Roads in 1991, was head coach of Adirondack and Asheville in the United Hockey League the past two seasons. Derek Clancey is in his first season with Reading after leading Jackson to the Kelly Cup Playoffs each of the past three seasons. Reading relocated from Columbus, Ohio in 2001, and Clancey, who played for Columbus from 1993-97, holds the team season records for points (109) and assists (77), set in 1995-96.