History will have to wait.
On Friday night, the Boston College men’s hockey team faced Providence College in Rhode Island. Eagles coach Jerry York was 10 seconds away from his record-breaking 925th career victory when the Friars tied the game at 3-3. The score held up through overtime and B.C. won’t play again until Dec. 29.
Get ‘A Real Job’
It’s hard for York to picture himself in any other profession. That’s understandable. He’s in his 41st season as a head hockey coach, his 19th at Boston College. But after taking his first head coaching job at Clarkson University in 1972, he wasn’t sure he’d make a career of it.
“My father-in-law kept on saying, ‘You gotta get a job now, a real job, coach,’ ” York said with a chuckle, sitting in his office at BC’s Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass. “But we battled through a couple of early losing seasons and started to understand that we really like this occupation and it’s taken us to a lot of different spots and we’re very excited about being still in it.”
York is much more comfortable using “we” than “I” and he says he hasn’t taken time to think about holding the record for most career victories.
“[You] can’t be above the club. At some point, maybe in the summer, we can look back [at the record], but right now we’re in a really good race here in Hockey East, so two points is what all of us are looking toward,” York said.
Records Run Through Bowling Green
York’s 924th win came on Dec. 1, tying the record set by the man he replaced as the head coach at Bowling Green in Ohio in 1979: Ron Mason.
“I’ve learned an awful lot from Ron in a different perspective because I was the successor to the throne there. The Pope had just left,” York recalled. “It was a situation though where I could look at, ‘Hey, how did Ronny get so successful here at Bowling Green beside just the X’s and O’s?’ ”
York would guide Bowling Green to a national title in 1984 while Mason became a legend at Michigan State before stepping down in 2002 to serve as the Spartans’ athletic director. Mason is impressed with York’s balance of longevity and consistency.
“That’s hard to do. You can be in there a long time, but can you continue to win? And right now, in Jerry’s case, he’s at the top of the mountain,” Mason said. “He’s winning championships and his teams are great and I’m really happy for him, really.”
Mason is retired now — and was on a fishing boat off the coast of Palm Beach, Fla., at the time of our interview — and says York’s approach has been good for his teams and the sport.
“He’s a very classy guy. You couldn’t ask for a better person representing college hockey around the country,” Mason said. “He’s smart and I know he wants the game to be good. And I think we need a lot of people like him.”
Next On The List, Right Down the Street
The second most successful active coach of all the time works a few miles down the road from York. In fact, Boston University’s Jack Parker and York were crosstown rivals in their days as players for the teams they now lead. In 2009 when he joined Mason and York as the only members of the 800-win club, Parker told Only A Game that York is one of the best at recognizing talent.
“The number one tip of the hat is that he’s always been able to work hard in recruiting, get his assistants to work hard in recruiting, identify the right players character-wise, the right players talent-wise that can make their program a winner,” Parker said.
York says despite changes in the college game and the increasing number of athletes who leave early — or skip college altogether — to go pro, he still looks for same the characteristics.
“You know, the players in the ‘70s right through where we are now, they all want to be part of a winning program. And they all want to have discipline because they know that discipline, attention to detail brings about winning. So, that part of it’s never changed,” York said. “The music might change and the hairstyles might change, but they want to be part of a team, they want to be disciplined, and so that type of player has not changed.”
And the formula’s working better than ever. In April, BC defeated Ferris State to win the 2012 national title. York has guided the Eagles to four championships, including three of the last five. And bringing more trophies back to BC is one reason the 67-year-old isn’t thinking about calling it quits.
“As long as I get up every morning like I am now really enthused about, ‘Hey, practice is coming soon’, or we’re going to get better today. That’s never waned. As long as that keeps going and my health is good I have no end in sight here.”
So, one of college hockey’s most illustrious careers continues. Just imagine if Jerry York followed his father-in-law’s advice and tried to get a real job.