Clark accepts move as part of coaching world
Dean Clark’s tenure with the Prince George Cougars will be remembered as an unsuccessful period.
While he stayed with the organization longer than most coaches they’ve had – three and a half years – the results weren’t what the Cougars were hoping for when they signed him to a five-year contract in April 2009.
Interested in going a different direction behind the bench, the Cougars relieved Clark of his head coaching duties on Tuesday morning. In a press conference on Wednesday morning, they named former Kootenay Ice bench boss Mark Holick their head coach.
“When (general manager Dallas Thompson) told me, I was obviously a little bit dismayed, but hey, that’s part of that game,” Clark said. “I’ve been in this game long enough to know that you’re in it to be fired. I was grateful for the opportunity to get back in this great league that we play in and have a chance to work with some good players and that’s kind of how it is.”
Clark noted that Thompson informed him at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday that they relieved him of his duties.
“Like I said, you don’t like to get fired and some of the things that we talked about (Tuesday), I think I would tend to disagree with some of the things,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I still have a contract for another year and a half that will leave me some time to find something new.”
With Clark behind the bench, the Cougars recorded 83 wins, 163 losses, five overtime setbacks and 11 shootout defeats (83-163-5-11).
The Cougars’ Clark experiment ends with only one playoff appearance, in the 2010-11 campaign. That season, the Cats finished seventh in the Western Conference with a 33-35-2-2 mark. Their postseason was short lived, as they were swept by the Kelowna Rockets in the best-of-seven opening round.
Clark’s first season with the Cougars saw an injury-plagued team finish last in the WHL, their 12-56-1-3 record the lowest for the franchise since relocating to Prince George from Victoria in 1994. Last season, the Cats finished second-last in the WHL with a 24-46-0-2 mark. They continued to struggle this season, ninth in the 10-team Western Conference at 14-26-2-4 entering Wednesday evening’s home game against the Prince Albert Raiders.
The timing took some people by surprise, the Cougars now into an easier stretch with a lot of home games. But as pointed out by the general manager, Clark wasn’t just recently put on the hot seat.
“I wasn’t happy before Christmas and after Christmas, not much came so it’s been going on for a while,” Thompson said. “But certainly, things kind of accelerated here a little bit this week, and I managed to meet with Mark this weekend and kind of get all of the details in place and it was just a matter of making the final decision on when we were going to move forward.”
Clark had been spending his offseasons in Kelowna, where his family resides. He planned to return to the Okanagan on Wednesday.
A veteran of coaching with more than 15 seasons of WHL duty, Clark hasn’t ruled out a return to the junior coaching ranks. He wished the players luck the rest of the way.
“This is part of the game that they have to realize too, that sometimes when the efforts aren’t there on a consistent basis, this is the result and that’s what happens. I’d like to say more. I appreciate the fans that did come. I think there’s a very, very loyal group that does support the team, and I’d like to thank them for their support while I was here.”