By Cliff Mehrtens
© The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Derek Wilkinson became the winningest coach in Charlotte Checkers history last week, and set an unofficial team record for lack of fanfare.
The ECHL team didn’t promote Wilkinson’s feat. He never mentioned it. When informed Friday about his 193 victories being a record, Wilkinson laughed and said “It is? I didn’t know that.”
The unobtrusiveness reflects Wilkinson’s coaching style, which has produced playoff berths the past four seasons. He’s not flashy, loud, or prone to emotional jags.
Wilkinson, 34, passed John Marks, who was 191-120-35 as coach in the team’s first five ECHL seasons (1993-98). Wilkinson, a former NHL goaltender, was in his second season as Checkers assistant in 2003 when coach Don MacAdam was fired the morning of a midseason road game.
Wilkinson, who had designs of being a general manager, was promoted. He’s since taken on a dual role as general manager and coach.
“Having the record is pretty neat, and obviously longevity is a key to it,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve been able to put good teams on the ice. John (Marks) is one of the all-time leaders in victories, so it’s nice to have. But I’d like a championship instead.”
Wilkinson is 194-157-34. The record-setting 192nd victory was a 3-2 shoot-out at Florida on Mar. 17. He bumped it to 193 with a 4-2 home victory against Gwinnett on Thursday.
“He is a class act, and very underrated in his ability to assess talent,” Checkers owner Michael Kahn said. “Derek is low-key, but he’s not as unemotional as many people think. He doesn’t let emotion drive his decisions. Derek is always looking ahead. He is very analytical, too. Some interpret that as aloof and unemotional, but he’s not that.”
Said Wilkinson: “I understand coaching a lot more now, but my philosophy hasn’t changed. I try to be upfront and honest with the players. If you do that, a lot of times they’ll go the extra mile for you.”