By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – When the Reading Royals held a public press conference two years ago to announce their new coach, about 20 people showed up.
The guy introduced that day, Derek Clancey, led the Royals to a pair of Kelly Cup Playoff berths. The residue of his success was apparent Monday as about 60 fans turned out at the Sovereign Center to witness the naming of Clancey’s successor.
The club officially introduced Karl Taylor, 34, as its fourth head coach in five seasons. He will also control personnel as director of hockey operations. A five-year head coach at the collegiate level, Taylor is taking on his first head coaching gig in the pro ranks.
The job comes with plenty of pressure. When Clancey was introduced two years ago, the talk was about finally making the playoffs. Monday, the word “championship” was being tossed around.
Taylor, chosen from a pool of 26 applicants, never won a championship in head coaching stints at Red Deer (Alberta) College and the University of Waterloo (Ontario).
He did excel in two rebuilding projects, however, particularly at Waterloo, which twice reached the OUA playoffs after winning just four games in the previous two seasons. With the Royals, however, he’ll be running a team that’s already been well built.
“I don’t know if it’s easier,” Taylor said. “There’s higher expectations, and then there’s expectations we place on ourselves as well. It’s a different scenario for sure, but I grasp it full on.”
Taylor got on the parent Los Angeles Kings’ radar as a guest assistant at their rookie development camp the past two summers. He networked with several coaches there, including Clancey, who was promoted Aug. 8 to Manchester, the Kings’ AHL affiliate.
Clancey had some input on who would be hired as his successor in Reading. He’s also remained active in personnel decisions, though he plans to step back now that Taylor is officially on board.
“I think anybody coming in here from anywhere, it’s going to be an adjustment,” Clancey said. “This is a very unique situation in this league. I think even a coach coming in from (another team in) the league would have had an adjustment to deal with.
“We made great strides the past couple of years. I think Karl here is going to hopefully finish off what we started two years ago by winning a championship.”
Taylor said there will be some personnel announcements made in the coming days. Clancey told him he feels the team needs to add some more “grit” this season.
Gritty might be a good way to describe the energetic Taylor, who was a Junior ‘A’ left-winger in the OHL before playing five years at the University of New Brunswick.
“I’m a very honest, very straight-ahead guy,” he said. “Players always know where they stand with me. I don’t play head games. I tell them straight up, ‘This is what I see’. They don’t always like what you say, but they know exactly what I’m seeing and where I stand.”
As he made the rounds Monday at the Sovereign Center, Taylor said he was ready to end the meetings and get-to-know-you sessions and get to work. The Royals’ season begins Oct. 29 against Trenton.
“I’m pretty excited,” left-winger Larry Courville said. “I don’t know him all that well yet. I just met him, but he seems like a good guy. I checked out his resume on the Internet. He seems to know the game.
“I think he is going to be a good influence on the team. He would have never gotten the job if he wasn’t qualified. I’m hoping to have a good rapport with him, like I did with ‘Clance’”.