By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
TRENTON, N.J. – Doug McKay admits his motivation for wanting to become the sixth coach in Titans history might have been a little different 10 years ago.
The 52-year-old McKay, who officially was named head coach and director of hockey operations yesterday replacing Mike Haviland, comes to the Titans with a little different perspective than his five predecessors.
McKay is the first Titans coach with a resume that includes NHL and American Hockey League experience. His time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New Jersey Devils and the Binghamton Whalers in the AHL, along with his age, give the Hamilton, Ontario, native a perspective not shared by his predecessors.
McKay is coming to the Titans after 10 years of coaching in Europe, not to launch his career to the next level, but for a great opportunity to coach and teach.
“I love getting up every morning and coaching and doing the best job I can,” said McKay. “Where that leads, who knows. I want to focus on the day-to-day here. Good things happen when you are focused on doing the best you can.”
McKay was an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs from 1981-83 and the Devils from 1987-89, which included the Devils’ run to the conference finals in 1988.
He coached the Binghamton Whalers in the AHL for one season where he coached future NHL players Jody Hull, Jim McKenzie, Todd Krygier and a player who didn’t quite make it to the NHL in Haviland (for four games).
McKay coached in Europe from 1990 until last season, in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
He said he wasn’t really thinking about leaving Europe until he talked to his good friend and former bench boss with the Devils, Jim Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld had just been named coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL when the two friends talked about McKay coaching in North America again.
“Everything felt comfortable and it fit right,” said McKay of the Titans job. “It is common knowledge they are financially stable and it is a good organization. It is something I was looking for.”
Titans general manager Jim Leahy was impressed with McKay’s background, and he got some strong recommendations from some of the top people in hockey, including Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello.
“I was looking for somebody who can recruit,” Leahy said of McKay. “It (his European experience) opens a totally new facet for us. The head coaching experience, the NHL experience, he is someone who has pretty strong contacts within the hockey world. During the whole process I only heard great things about Doug McKay. He is like a hidden gem.”
McKay used several players with ECHL experience last season while coaching Ritten Renon in the Italian `A’ league and does his homework when it comes to a player’s background.
“I recruited in this league and the AHL extensively,” said McKay. “To be competitive in Europe you have to know the players here. I am comfortable with the level of play, the league, the teams and the play. I am very comfortable with it.”
McKay is anxious to start putting his team together and knows the type of player he is looking for.
“I am so focused on recruiting and building this team and trying to get the best possible player,” said McKay. “It is full-time driving me mental. I don’t leave a stone unturned. The research I do on every player is so time consuming. I look at character first and then I look at their ability. I like speed and I like skill. Speed and skill wins no matter what league you are playing in.”