His coaching career was in limbo after 10 years at UMass-Lowell, the last five as head coach, where he felt he’d earned a longer contract extension than the administration wanted to offer.
But he didn’t stay out of coaching long. Shawn Walsh, his old boss who’d built Maine into a national power, was ill and asked Whitehead to join him at Maine shortly before the 2001-02 season. When Walsh lost his battle against kidney cancer, Whitehead was a head coach again.
His first Maine team came within a minute of winning a national championship, losing to Minnesota, 4-3, in overtime, in St. Paul, Minn. The Black Bears also reached the Frozen Four in three of the next five years, never missing the NCAA tournament in that span.
Though the second half of his 12-year tenure in Orono wasn’t as successful, leading to his firing in 2013, the New Jersey native proved he could coach with the best. He finished with a 250-171-54 record, including 10-7 in the NCAA tournament.
In four years under his successor, Red Gendron, the Black Bears are 49-71-17 and have not reached the NCAAs.