Head on for DeBoer

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

KITCHENER -- The only way Pete DeBoer leaves the Kitchener Rangers this summer is to become the main man behind an NHL bench.

At this point in his life, there's no in between for junior hockey's top coaching prospect.

"I'm a head coach, and if someone is willing to give me an opportunity to do that, I'd love to do it," the soon-to-be 40-year old DeBoer, who holds both the GM and coach title with the Rangers, told Sun Media yesterday. "For me, (being an NHL bench boss) is next. I played in the American Hockey League. I don't think it's a necessary step. I think (Devils coach) Brent Sutter has opened some doors for a lot of people.

"I have a lot of respect for the coaches in the American Hockey League. I've never felt it's been a necessary step for me."

DeBoer has been running OHL teams since the 1995-96 season, when he took over the dual role of coach/GM of the Detroit Whalers from his former junior teammate Paul Maurice. In 13 seasons, which also included stints in Plymouth and the past seven terms with the Rangers, his record has been phenomenal. Only once (1996-97) has a DeBoer-guided team finished below .500, and his overall regular-season record is a mind-numbing 539-248-60-31.

COACHED NHLERS

Along the way, the list of players he has pointed toward the NHL include Bryan Berard, Derek Roy and Mike Richards.

With coaching jobs available in Ottawa, Toronto, Florida, Atlanta, Colorado and San Jose, DeBoer's name is regularly included in the mix of candidates.

"I'm obviously flattered, but I haven't heard from any of the teams I've been rumoured to be interviewing with," DeBoer said. "You know, it's a step everybody at this level wants to make.

"But we're concentrating on winning the Memorial Cup here ... I hope that's why they haven't called," he added with a laugh.

After he stopped playing, DeBoer attended law school at the University of Windsor and was a roomate of Maurice, the recently fired Leafs coach who was coaching the Detroit juniors. Maurice asked DeBoer to be his assistant.

"Really, I did it with no intentions of becoming a head coach," he said. "It was just to kind of get away from the books for a few hours a day. A lot of things fell into place after that."

DeBoer graduated from law school and had a job lined up at a law firm in Windsor. But then Maurice took the assistant coaching job with the NHL's Hartford Whalers that summer, and Maurice was offered his friend's old job.

"I kind of put the law career on hold," said DeBoer, "and here I am, 12 years later."

As an NHL coach, Maurice asked DeBoer to join his staff several times.

"It's never been a fit because I think we're both head coaches," DeBoer said. "I'm a good assistant coach for short-term events, like the world juniors, for Brent Sutter and stuff like that, but I think my strengths lie in the head coaching department."

DeBoer interviewed to be the Canadian coach at the next world junior championship in Ottawa. He said he has not been offered the job, but was told a decision would be made after the Memorial Cup.

"I would love the opportunity to coach that team, especially in Ontario," said DeBoer, who could wind up saying thanks and then, weeks later, no thanks, if he gets his shot in the NHL.


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