After missing the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years, UND head coach Brad Berry decided to shake up the coaching staff by letting go of assistant Matt Shaw last week.
Shaw had been at UND for four years, helping UND to an NCAA national championship in his first year with the program. The Fighting Hawks lost in the first round of the NCAAs the following year and have missed the last two national tournaments.
Shaw worked primarily with UND's forwards and the power play. Last season, UND struggled offensively and the team's power play finished eighth in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and 52nd of 60 teams overall, converting at 14.2 percent.
Shaw, 53, came to UND from the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, but has experience at nearly every level. He's coached in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils, as well as in the AHL, ECHL, USHL and NCAA.
Shaw sat down with the Herald to discuss his time at UND, Berry's decision to let him go and what's next.
Q. How do you feel about what happened?
A. Whenever you have to make a change in a coaching staff, it's unfortunate, because it means the year didn't go the way you wanted it to go. I think everybody would admit that. From that standpoint, you're always regretful of how the year went and how the year ended up. With that being said, I really give our group credit for how they competed and battled night in and night out. It is rare to see a team that has the type of determination we did on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, we didn't get the results. We couldn't score enough. There were some nights where we did shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit, so that's on us. But I really give the group credit for their compete, their battle, their bringing it every day. That's why it was hard not to make it.
Obviously, through that stuff, that's why there's change. I don't think anybody in coaching is calloused to the fact that it's about wins and losses. And you've got to have the right amount of wins versus the right amount of losses. Ultimately, that's what the game is. That's it in a nutshell. This is a special place to work with great people. We moved here. We made it our full-time residence. The University of North Dakota is a special spot. Everything that goes into this hockey program is special. I have no regrets to be a part of that.
Certainly, the last two seasons, not making it was unfortunate. That's generally when change happens. But I have no regrets and I'm proud to say I'm part of this program and won a national championship with this program. I have nothing but positives on my experience. The way it ends, that's not how you want it to end, but generally, that's how it happens. There's change.
Q. Do you feel the move was unfair or that you were the scapegoat for the season?
A. I don't think there's any value in handicapping what this means. Ultimately, Brad had to make a change. I was that change. You can talk at length about why and fairness and not fairness and statistical review, but there's really no value or nourishment into publicly trying to make reasons why. Something had to change, because it didn't work the last couple of years, and I happened to be that guy.
Q. The power play struggled this season. In fairness, this team also struggled scoring no matter the situation. But do you feel that the power play numbers were a part of the reason why you were the change?
A. I think that's a fair comment. When you dig into the numbers, is that a reason? I'm sure it's one of the reasons. But to speculate on one thing or the other, it goes back to what I just said: We didn't get it done. We didn't get it done. There are a lot of little things you can look at, but the bottom line is that we didn't get it done.
Q. When you look back on your four years here, what do you think you'll remember?
A. I'll view it very favorably. I did everything I could do within my powers and my hockey knowledge and work ethic to bring everything I could to the program. I have nothing but good memories and thoughts of the program. I really enjoyed the group of guys we recruited. I enjoyed the battle to be on the road and recruit. I enjoyed the days with the guys in the locker room. There's nothing I'm going to look back upon with regret. You always like to use the review mirror to learn. You always want to have some self-reflection, whether there's change or not. So, I'm just really fortunate to work here for four years, just like the players who go through the program here, they'll all say this is a special place and I'm lucky to be able to come here.
Q. You probably have a good idea of what's going to happen in the next few years with all of the high-end players that UND is going to bring in. The team is probably going to be pretty good. Knowing you recruited many of those players here, what are your thoughts on knowing the team is on the verge of returning to prominence but knowing you won't be able to see it through?
A. Without question, one of the things I really enjoyed about this level is the recruiting, because we kind of get to be both coaches and general managers. As much as they're picking North Dakota, we get to pick them and the culture of the player. I will wish everyone coming in all of the success in the world when they get here. I'll look forward to watching their progress, because I do believe we have a really good group coming in over the next few years. I feel a lot more responsible or involved with the group coming in than when I got here and the group was already here. I'm going to watch, not with resentment, but with excitement for these guys that we worked hard on. I'm very excited about the group coming in.
People always ask, 'What's the best part about being a college coach?' It's that. You get to bring in the culture of your player. That's a neat thing. That's a real neat thing. But yeah, I'm not going to watch with resentment when these guys come here over the next 1, 2, 3, 4 years. That's how far it goes out now. I'm going to watch with excitement and I want to see them succeed, for sure.
Q. You've done a lot of things in hockey. Where will winning an NCAA national championship with your son, Hayden, on the team rank?
A. That's big. It's funny, when we were in Dubuque, Hayden said, if we win the championship, we're getting tattoos. We win the championship here. He goes out and gets a tattoo. The next Christmas, I got this funny gift. Clare (Matt's daughter) and Hayden took me to the tattoo shop, and I got the matching tattoo. I couldn't graduate from here. I wasn't an alum. But I got it tattooed on my body.
Q. You've coached at virtually every level of hockey. What's next for you? Is there a level you want to be at?
A. You always look forward to the next chapter, whatever it is. At this point, it's pretty fresh. I don't know what the next thing holds. I've been in coaching like 25, 26 years. I look forward to the next chapter, whatever it is. Do I have a target where I want to be? Nope. It's really about finding a spot that Carolyn and I and the kids feel is right. Where that is, right now I don't know.
Q. Is there anything you'd like to add in closing?
A. I think if you're in this business as long as I have been, you do understand it's about results. That's my only regret is that we didn't get the results-not for me, but for the program and the players. That's my only lament is that we didn't get it done and that happens in sports. I'd say that would be the only thing. It's not about what's going on with me, it's about the fact that we didn't get it done.