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Coaching prospects grow for Walleye as seasons end

05/04/2014, 12:30am EDT
By MARK MONROE BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Resumes continue to come in even as the interview process is well under way in the search for the next Toledo Walleye coach.

The list of prospective candidates that have expressed interest includes coaches with experience in the NHL, American Hockey League, ECHL, and at the junior level.

“Our fans would be very pleased to know that the amount of interest and experience level of the candidates is quite impressive,” said Joe Napoli, the Walleye's president and general manager. “The depth of their knowledge and success has been impressive.”

Team officials are conducting an initial round of interviews by phone.

Napoli said that by the time those interviews are done officials will have talked to between 15 and 20 candidates. He said the initial phase is about 25 percent complete.

The top candidates will move on for face-to-face interviews.

“The list tightens in a hurry because you get stellar candidates that stand out from the pack,” he said.

Napoli said the coaching pool continues to grow as the seasons for other teams come to an end.

“We don't feel we are under pressure or any stress because even over the last week or two there have been more candidates interested,” he said.

There also is no rush because ECHL teams cannot sign any players until June.

The position became open after Nick Vitucci, who was the franchise's only head coach in its five years, stepped down March 12. The team had struggled to a 16-31-14 record. Vitucci's longtime assistant coach Dan Watson took over as interim coach for the remaining 21 games of the season.

Under Watson, the team went 5-13-3 with a patchwork roster.

Watson had a phone interview with team officials April 15. He is scheduled to meet with them May 19.

“I'm looking for players just in case I get the job next year,” Watson said.

Napoli said Vitucci, who remains the team's director of hockey operations, is currently scouting for players.

“Nick Vitucci is still monitoring all of the player moves and has a list of the brightest prospects,” Napoli said. “He will share that with the head coach and the head coach will determine [the roster].”

Napoli declined to name any of the prospective coaching candidates. He also would not say how many or which team officials are actively involved in the process. But he did say representatives from the team's NHL parent club in Detroit also have had input.

“We welcome the support from the Red Wings,” said Napoli, who expects a decision to be made by the middle of June.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.

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