Three longtime assistant coaches have taken over Division 1 programs in New England. Ben Barr, Jerry Keefe and Bill Riga have paid their dues and now get a chance to be head coaches for the first time at the collegiate level.
Barr took over at Maine after the tragic passing of Red Gendron in April. Keefe was promoted from associate head coach to head coach once Jim Madigan took over as athletic director at Northeastern. When David Berard left Holy Cross to pursue an administrative role at his alma mater, Providence, Riga was appointed to take his place.
All three have a wealth of experience as assistant coaches in Division 1. Barr’s handprints are all over national championships at Union, Providence and UMass. Keefe helped elevate Northeastern’s program to unprecedented levels of success, including Beanpot and Hockey East championships. Riga helped guide Quinnipiac to two appearances in the Frozen Four.
Besides being successful assistants at the college level, all three bring recruiting expertise to their new positions. While the trio of new head coaches all face more administrative tasks than they have previously been used to, the recruiting part of the job hasn’t changed as much as some might think.
A condensed version of this article appeared in the print edition of the September/October 2021 New England Hockey Journal magazine.