By Matt Malinowski
READING, Pa. – Admittedly he wished the conversation would have been about line matchups and whatnot as his team prepared for the opening game of the Kelly Cup finals.
Instead, Derek Clancey sat alone in his office Wednesday, tucked in the back of a deserted Reading Royals locker room. Still, his face was the perfect depiction of satisfaction and content.
This Royals season might be long gone, but Clancey now knows he’s not going anywhere.
SMG, owner of the Royals, announced Wednesday that Clancey has been re-signed as the team’s coach and also has been named director of hockey operations.
As per club policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Clancey’s contract was set to expire May 31. He said he had his eyes and ears open for opportunities with other teams, but he is happy things worked out in Reading.
“It’s nice to finally have it over with and get back to work officially,” the 36-year-old Clancey said. “They (SMG) told me not to worry about it back in March and April, but over time you start to worry about it because the season is over and you aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen.
“They have been really good to me and they made me feel really appreciated. Now it’s back to the drawing board and trying to put the team back together again.”
Reading’s coaching situation hardly was anything to brag about until Clancey took over in 2003. The Royals went through two coaches Al Sims and Dave Lohrei in their first two seasons.
But Clancey not only has provided stability behind the bench, he has guided the Royals to two terrific seasons.
Clancey has compiled a 80-47-17 regular season record. He led the Royals to their first postseason appearance in 2004, when they qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and advanced to the ECHL’s Eastern Conference finals.
This past season, through a plethora of roster changes and call-ups, the Royals won the North Division regular season title with a 43-22-7 record. Reading defeated Toledo in the division semifinals before losing to Trenton in the division finals.
“We feel that the team has performed well the last two seasons under Derek’s leadership and we are excited to have him continue with the Royals,” said Harry Cann, SMG’s vice president of operations. “By expanding his responsibilities, we are looking to build upon the success of the team on the ice with the ultimate goal of winning the Kelly Cup for the Royals fans and the community.”
As director of hockey operations, Clancey will be in charge of “everything hockey related,” from recruiting to signing players to working with the Royals’ hockey affiliates.
Reading still is searching for a general manager to replace Ray Delia, who left after the season to take a job as the chief operating officer of the Phoenix Roadrunners of the ECHL.
“Deep down I didn’t want to leave here,” Clancey said. “I have really grown to like it here and, unless it’s a promotional situation like going to the AHL, I want to stay here.
“Over the last couple years and where we’ve gone from the time I’ve gotten here until now, you really feel like you are building towards something. I think any coach would want to stay and keep that going.”