Thursday, December 5, 2013

Unassuming, Unsurpassed: Bob Deraney Sets PC Women’s Hockey Wins Record

Bob Deraney is not channeling Monty Python’s merchant banker when he proclaims, “I am very rich.”

Rather, the head coach of the Providence College women’s hockey team explains, “I’m very rich, not because of the money I make, but because of the friendships I have.”

And unlike John Cleese’s clueless corporate caricature, Deraney does not display a graph to gauge his acquaintances or accomplishments. He does, though, have a collection of career victories, which many will argue are the children of his friendships.

Last Saturday, he and his squad put a symbolic stamp on his unremitting amiability and aptitude. In the latest installment of a crosstown rivalry, and the 19th edition of the Mayor’s Cup, the Friars nabbed a 3-2 overtime decision to give Deraney a program-record 265 wins.

With that, Deraney surpassed John Marchetti, the PC women’s skipper from 1980 to 1994, on two fronts in as many months. First, the start of the 2013-14 schedule equaled 15 seasons behind the Friars bench, one more than Marchetti’s 14. Now, at the halfway mark of the regular season, he bears an additional testament to his staying power.

Not that the delectable data has ever been prominent in his mind, let alone his office. In fact, he was unaware that he had even tied Marchetti the week prior until he learned as much through a text message from Steve Maurano, the school’s assistant vice president of public affairs.

“If I had started out to beat this record, it never would have happened,” he said. “John Marchetti’s a legend and I never would have thought it would be attainable.”

For Melanie Ruzzi, a second-year assistant coach who as a player arrived on campus simultaneously with Deraney in 1999, the unmatched tenure and win count is a fitting reward for the long-established player’s coach.

“Every day is kind of a special day with him,” Ruzzi said. “Who you see at a dinner party and who you see on the weekends is the same guy. He is always about the players.”

Ruzzi, originally from Burnsville, Minn., elaborated that Deraney’s perpetually open door was a critical factor in curing her homesickness as a freshman. She was floored even further to later learn that her coach made weekly contact with her father to intertwine her two families.

“Coach has always been a caring guy, a teacher, and has a strong belief system,” said Meredith Roth, the other player-turned-coach on Deraney’s staff. “That has not changed, which I think is why he is so successful.”

Roth enrolled a year after Ruzzi as a member of Deraney’s first true recruiting class in 2000. She eventually succeeded Ruzzi as the Friars captain and followed her act in leading the team to a Hockey East postseason championship in 2003-04. Since then, she has twice returned for a pair of coaching stints, first from 2006 to 2010 and now from 2012 to the present.

The fact that neither could stay away from Providence for long after graduation has allotted Deraney a living legacy from the tone-setting stages of his tenure. Although the Friars are still searching for their first conference playoff crown since their four-year dynasty of 2002-2005, there are nuggets of continuity to go with the past players helping to bring in and foster the rosters of the present.

“If you do a good job and you put your heart and effort into the players and their goals and dreams, you’re probably going to have some success yourself,” he said. “I’m the beneficiary of all those things.”

Through his use of those resources, one of the most striking benefits has been a rarely matched longevity both on PC’s athletic scene and within Hockey East. Since 1999, Providence has undergone at least two coaching changes apiece in men’s hockey, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. Among active instructors, only swimming and diving’s John O’Neill and track/cross country’s Ray Treacy have enjoyed longer reigns with the Friars.

Meanwhile, when Connecticut parted with Heather Linstad―a former player of Marchetti’s at Providence―last March, Deraney became the lone Women’s Hockey East coach whose tenure predates the league’s inception in 2002-03. New Hampshire’s Brian McCloskey also partook in the inaugural season, but never tutored the Wildcats when they were still members of the ECAC.

In the 11 seasons since, only one program has participated in the semifinals of every WHEA tournament. The Friars outlasted UNH in that distinction as well, reaching the 2011 semis while the Cats missed that year’s postseason altogether.

Not unlike the 265 wins, Deraney insists that “It’s a players’ accomplishment. I’m not out there scoring goals, backchecking, blocking shots and getting injured for the cause of the team. What makes great coaches is great players and great staffs.”

Deraney did, however, allow that he took pleasure in sharing his milestone moment in the middle of the program’s 40th anniversary in the aftermath of a particularly dramatic rivalry renewal. In a newly renovated Schneider Arena, the host Friars twice trailed the Brown Bears―coached by another former Marchetti student in Amy Carlson Borbeau―before forcing overtime with 5:45 to spare in regulation.

At the 87-second mark of the bonus round, forward Janine Weber buried her own rebound after a partial breakaway, instantly clinching civic bragging rights for the program and an unshared throne for her head coach.

“I am into symbolism,” Deraney allows. “I said to the girls, ‘It had to happen this way. On this special day, it was for the Mayor’s Cup in overtime in the new building.’ It had to happen that way.”

The record-setter was an act of making history while honoring it. Furthermore, Roth said, it was a prototypical Deraney-built victory.

“(Deraney) has such a fine appreciation for competition, the preparation for what our players do on a daily basis to compete as hockey players, that to have the 265th win come in such an exciting fashion is icing on the cake,” she said.

No one, however, savored the confection for too long.

“It’s next game up. That’s the way I’m wired,” said Deraney, adding that he will push off any deep reflection until no earlier than after the Vernal Equinox.

“For right now, there are still a lot of things we want to accomplish.”

Six days separate the Brown bout from PC’s next outing versus Yale, which will entertain the team’s last extramural engagement before a protracted Christmas respite. Afterwards, the Friars will be bent on recompensing a rough autumn, which is nothing new.

Strong finishes have become customary for Providence as the Deraney era has progressed, hence the string of 11 straight Hockey East semifinals. His most seasoned ice-level allies trust that a comparable stretch will brew in 2014 as surely as Rhode Island’s share of wintry nor’easters.

“He is continually learning new coaching techniques, thinking about the game and thinking about our personnel,” said Roth. “He will always try to evolve with the people in our program and the game of hockey without losing sight of what has made him and our program successful over his 15 seasons, and our 40-year history.”

Added Ruzzi, “It’s not about staying in the game this long, it’s about being successful this long. And that comes with passion. He enjoys every aspect of his career.”