The more that David Quinn discussed the Rangers’ head coaching job with Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury, men he’s known for more than 20 years, he felt as if he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“Everything just aligned,” Quinn said Thursday at the Garden, where he was introduced as the Rangers’ 35th head coach. He is the man for this new chapter in franchise history, with a focus on developing young players and playing with speed and possession without sacrificing toughness. Details and discipline are what the Blueshirts need now, and that is what Quinn wants to bring.
“We all seem to be on the same page,” Quinn said. “Every time they said, ‘This is what we’re looking to do,’ instinctively I’d say to myself, ‘I do that. That’s kind of my coaching DNA.’ As time went on it just seemed like more of a natural fit every time we spoke.”
Quinn wasn’t shy about the fact he was conflicted, having been the head coach at his alma mater Boston University, a place he loves and felt comfortable at. He said the Rangers job with the current organizational direction is the only situation for which he would’ve left.
His relationships with Gorton, who met Quinn when Quinn was an assistant at Northeastern in the late 1990s, and Drury, a BU alum who met Quinn when he was 15, give Quinn a level of comfort in New York to come in and be himself.
“His communication skills I think will be important moving forward,” Gorton said. “His feel for the game, the way he wants to play just meshed well with what we want to do here.”
Quinn said he considers himself fair and demanding with no gray area, but that he doesn’t use a tough-guy routine. His demands are for the players’ best interest, he says, and trust forms when the players see that a coach genuinely has his best interest in mind.
Kevin Shattenkirk can attest to that, having played at BU when Quinn was an associate coach under Jack Parker, plus 10 games at AHL Lake Erie.
“Like he said, he’s fair and demanding. I think that’s very accurate,” Shattenkirk says. “He treats players with a lot of respect but he expects you to show up to work every day. He wants to work on something every day. It’s constantly growing, it’s constantly developing as a player, and I think that’s something we need here.”
Shattenkirk said Quinn scratched him once with Lake Erie. “I can tell you it doesn’t matter who you are, he holds you to a certain standard,” he said.
He also said his practices will be hard and detail-oriented. That stood out Thursday, the organization clearly feeling that’s part of the culture it wants to have for younger players to reach their potential.
“Practice is gonna be important. You’ve got to come to the rink every day with a game-like mentality and work on getting better,” Quinn said. “We’re gonna do that. We’re gonna be in great shape, our practice will be fast and there will be a lot of attention to detail.”
Gorton and Drury knew a lot about Quinn, felt he’d be perfect for their vision, but also solicited plenty of opinions to make sure others felt the same. Ultimately, their talks with others in the hockey community only reinforced their belief that Quinn is their man of the moment.
“We made countless amounts of calls — I knew what I thought of him as a person and a coach — but we tried really, really hard to find someone that didn’t like him, didn’t like him as a coach, didn’t like him as a person,” Drury said.