Porter, Portland perfect match; Johnston would be worth wait for Winterhawks
KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS
Big sports news Friday in the city of Portland, and thats no foolin.
The University of Portland hired former Trail Blazers great Terry Porter as its mens basketball coach, while the Winterhawks fired Jamie Kompon after two years as the Western Hockey League clubs general manager and coach.
Some thoughts on both subjects
How often does a mid-major get the opportunity to hire as basketball coach a legend in its city who has twice been a head coach in the NBA?
Im not sure its ever happened.
But the fit was perfect for Porter, who with wife Susie have made Portland their home for some time now and wanted to stay.
And the fit is going to be right for the Pilots, as well. They got a man of integrity, savvy and temperament along with plenty of basketball knowledge from 26 years in the NBA as a player and coach. Hell adapt quickly to coaching the college game, and maybe bring some innovations that havent been seen on The Bluff since the grand old years of Jack Avina.
UP powers-that-be were initially concerned about Porters lack of experience coaching at the college level the administrative part, recruiting, etc. Poppycock. Hell have aides to help with administrative duties. Recruiting?
Youre telling me Terry Porter visiting with a kid and his parents in their living room wouldnt be effective? asked Erik Spoelstra, the UP grad who serves as head coach of the Miami Heat.
Porter already has the inside track on a pair of prospects offspring Malcolm, a 6-3 senior at Jesuit High, and Franklin, a 6-4 freshman at West Coast Conference rival Saint Marys. Franklin Porter, who played only 65 minutes in 21 games for the Gaels, is a likely transfer and would have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out next season.
Terry Porter and his agents, Steve Kauffman and Spencer Breecker, have agreed in principal to a five-year deal with UP through what is called a term sheet. Details of the contract will be worked out, and in the meantime, he can hire a staff, dig into recruiting and organize a roster. A press conference introducing Porter as coach will be held Tuesday at Chiles Center.
Im very excited about it, Porter said. I feel like I have a lot to offer. Im excited about being part of the Pilot Nation. Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Marys are the league standards. Our goal is to climb up that mountain.
Kompon came to Portland with 17 years experience as an NHL assistant coach and a pair of Stanley Cup rings. He leaves having never really made the kind of mark on the organization or the city as did his predecessor, Mike Johnston, who left in 2014 to become coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With Johnstons players, Kompon coached Portland to the WHL West finals his first season. The Hawks dipped to about a .500 regular-season record in 2015-16 and were swept by Everett in the first round of the playoffs.
To be fair, Kompon was handicapped by heavy-handed WHL sanctions in 2012 that left the Hawks without first-round picks for four seasons running through this year. That thinned the talent base, for sure. But it appeared Kompon didnt make the same kind of connection with Portlands players as did Johnston, and there wasnt the kind of development of those players necessary to win big at the major junior level.
I spoke with Johnston twice this week from his home in Blaine, Wash., 35 miles south of Vancouver, B.C., where he has lived since shortly after being fired by Pittsburgh last December. He and Kompon are friends, and Johnston intends to reach out to him soon.
Ive been through (a firing), too, Johnston told me. Its not a fun situation to be in. I was surprised to hear it.
Johnston would be an ideal choice to replace the man who replaced him, but odds are it wont happen. He greatly enjoyed his wildly successful six seasons as the Hawks GM and coach, and he talked to officials representing a couple of WHL teams shortly after his dismissal by the Penguins the Vancouver Giants were one. But coaching in the juniors again is not at the top of Johnstons list.
I want to get coaching and working again, he said, but my plan all along has been to wait until May when the NHL season is done, to see what movement there is and what opportunities are out there. Hopefully, Ill have some good options, and I can pick one of them.
Landing an NHL head job would be his first choice.
An assistant or associate coaching job at the NHL level with a good organization would interest me, too, he said. Im open to a lot of possibilities the NHL, Europe, juniors. I want to see what excites me.
Johnston, 59, doesnt have to rush into anything. He is still being paid by Pittsburgh through the end of this season and next.
If I were Hawks owner Bill Gallacher and President Doug Piper, Id hold off on a replacement for Kompon for now and see if Johnston is available a month from now. Assistant GM Matt Bardsley and long-time assistant coach Kyle Gustafson can run the operation until then. Id show patience and offer top dollar to get Johnston back in the saddle.