The Prince George Cougars are sticking with a familiar face behind the bench and he's looking to provide some 'stability.'
Mark Lamb officially had the 'interim' label removed this morning (July 4) at the CN Centre and will assume the dual roles as General Manager and Head Coach starting this fall for the 2019-20 season.
The 1990 Stanley Cup champion with the Edmonton Oilers becomes the 13th head coach in Cats' history since moving to B.C.’s northern capital in 1994.
“When I took the job, my vision was to realign things, which was very exciting, but the ultimate goal was to try to put a team in place to give yourself a chance to hopefully win a championship someday," said Lamb. “I’ve put myself through that in getting the right people to work together [...] I’m a very patient guy, which is probably why this [decision] took so long too. I’m going to use my people inside and outside the organization, those that I trust in the hockey world, and even some people who are not even in the hockey world.”
“I’m a hockey nut!” @PGCougars Head Coach & GM Mark Lamb says he’s embraced Prince George & wanted nothing more than to continue to be on the bench | #CityOfPG @TheWHL @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/zhXOlyBjJp— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) July 4, 2019
When asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters about the hiring process, the 54-year-old replied roughly 35 to 40 resumes came in for the head coaching job and there were 10 legitimate interviews.
However, Lamb knew for a while the decision to pull double-duty had already been made.
“That was always in the back of my head right from after the interviews,” he said. “We got a lot of resumes, you get a lot of good people, and then you also get a lot of good people just looking for a break. When you start talking to these guys, a lot of them are in the NHL already, they’re looking for NHL jobs, they’re looking for anything and that’s just the hockey business. Everything is timing, so to put in a timeline on anything like that, everyone’s got one foot there, one foot anywhere, but I did talk to a lot of people.”
Lamb, who has 18 years of coaching experience, took over after former bench boss Richard Matvichuk was fired on Feb. 7, 2019 after the Cougars lost an 11th straight game the night before that eventually led to a franchise-record 17-game skid.
The Cougars ended last season fifth place in the B.C. Division with a record of 19-41-5-3 and in the remaining 16 games when Lamb was at the helm, Prince George went 3-13.
Lamb explains he wants to stay behind the bench based on the direction Prince George is heading.
“What I really wanted to do is try to create stability within this organization. We made a lot of good trades the year before, a lot of draft picks in the cupboards, including a really good draft this year, and we have lots of good assets from the draft next year. So how can we keep everything going forward in a positive way? Well, we decided to make the coaching change; what I wasn’t comfortable with was downstairs, and the best way to get to know them [the players] is to get in the fight with them; get into battle with them.”
Mark Lamb’s last head coaching job in @TheWHL was with the @SCBroncos for 7 seasons before moving on to the AHL; he says he’s committed to improving the @PGCougars’ on-ice performance, adding “our attitudes started to change” near the end of 2018-19 | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/EnnwJpjWzK— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) July 4, 2019
Before the new head coach took the podium, Vice-President of Business Andy Beesley said Lamb was somebody the players approached the team insisting they keep him behind the bench, adding they're very comfortable with his coaching style.
“You build relationships with different players and some aren’t going to say much, but it’s nice to hear. I haven’t been around that long and this season might change, but I want to be honest with them. You’ve got to give them the guidance and you’ve got to give them the leadership to get there, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The search for a new associate head coach is in full force as Lamb announced Steve O’Rourke will not be returning to the organization after three seasons.
Lamb also told the media he turned down a coaching job with the Edmonton Oilers alongside his good friend Dave Tippett to stay in Prince George, explaining he wants to ‘finish the job.’
The Cougars’ 2019-20 season starts on Sept. 6 at the CN Centre against the Vancouver Giants.