From Comcast SportsNetSOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- After two seasons as Notre Dame coach, Brian Kelly decided he wasn't spending enough time doing the best part of his job: coaching players.Kelly changed that in 2012, and he shuffled his staff. Then, with Kelly more in tune to his team and the assistants in sync with the head coach, Notre Dame went from unranked to top-ranked.For leading the Fighting Irish to the BCS championship for the first time, Kelly was voted Associated Press college football coach of the year."When you're talking about the coach of the year, there's so many things that go into it," Kelly said. "I know it's an individual award and it goes to one guy, but the feelings that I get from it is you're building the right staff, that you've got the right players and to me that is a validation of the program. That you put together the right business plan."Kelly received 25 votes from the AP college football poll panel. Penn State's Bill O'Brien was second with 14 votes. Stanford's David Shaw (four), Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin (three), Kansas State's Bill Snyder (two) and Alabama's Nick Saban (one) also received votes.Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to win the AP award, which started in 1998.Of course, the Irish haven't played for a national championship since 1988 and spent much of the past two decades trying to find a coach who could restore a program that was becoming a relic of its proud past.It turns out Kelly was the answer.He arrived in 2010 after two decades spent climbing the coaching ladder and winning big everywhere he worked. But in the world of college football, Notre Dame is a long way from Grand Valley State -- where Kelly won Division II national titles -- and Cincinnati, his previous stop, for that matter."I think the job tends to distract you," Kelly said earlier this week. "There are a lot of things that pull you away from the primary reason why you want to be head coach of Notre Dame, and that is graduate your players and play for a national championship."Now, to do that you have to have the pulse of your football team and you've got to have relationships with your players. If you're already going around the country doing other things other than working with your football team, it's hard to have the pulse of your team."Kelly said he made a point of spending more time with the team this year."That's why I got into this. I want to develop 18 to 21 year olds. My development as the head coach at Notre Dame this year has been about getting back to why you would want to coach college players. You want to learn about them; you want to know their strengths and weaknesses; you want to help them with leadership skills; you want to help them when they're not feeling confident in their ability."For me, that is why it's been the most enjoyable year as the head coach at Notre Dame, is that I got a chance to spend more time with my team."The first step, though, toward a successful 2012 season for Notre Dame can be traced to Feb. 10. On that day Kelly announced his coaching staff. The most notable change was moving Chuck Martin from defensive backs coach to offensive coordinator to fill the hole left when Charley Molnar became the coach of Massachusetts.Martin was defensive coordinator for Kelly at Grand Valley State, then replaced his boss as head coach of the Division II power when Kelly was hired by Central Michigan after the 2003 season.The move might have seemed odd to some, but Kelly, who built his reputation on offensive acumen, wanted a right-hand man who understood exactly what he wanted.To replace Martin on the defensive side, Bob Elliot was hired from Iowa State to coach safeties. Harry Hiestand was hired away from Tennessee to replace offensive line coach Ed Warinner, and co-defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who had been with Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, was promoted to assistant head coach."The voice of your coordinators has got to be in lock step with the head coach," Kelly said. "Now both of these guys have been with me a long time."Chuck Martin on offense, I wanted a voice that went back with me to Grand Valley State. And with Bob Diaco someone that goes back to Central Michigan with me. So yeah, it was important to get that voice right."The last change Kelly needed to make involved Xs and Os. Kelly wanted to win now, but with a first-year starter and redshirt freshmen at quarterback. He had to adjust his style.Out went the push-the-pace offense that had helped him reach two BCS games at Cincinnati. In came a more deliberate approach."We conduct the game differently," Martin said. "We set out how we thought this team could win with the personnel we had and with the young quarterback. Most people say OK, you're going to play the young guy, you're playing for the future.' We just went 12-0 with the young guy and he got yanked four times."The rest of the world wants 12-0 with no warts. We have plenty of warts. Somehow we're 12-0. Just goes to show the job (Kelly) did that we made it work week in and week out with what we have."Kelly's ability and willingness to adapt have been his greatest strengths."He made some of his biggest changes ever in the last year. Going away from some things that really were his bread and butter, and 12-0 later, the guy did it again," Martin said."He saw what Notre Dame football needed in 2012 and he got to know this university."
0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.
6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.
11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox.
15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players.
CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.
“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.
“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”
While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.
So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.
The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.
Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.
“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.
“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”
So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.
The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.