Gladiators narrow field of coaching candidates

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

The Gwinnett Gladiators have narrowed their coaching search to three candidates, moving quickly to find a replacement for longtime head coach Jeff Pyle.

Former Atlanta Thrashers assistant Steve Weeks and experienced AHL/ECHL assistant coaches Leigh Mendelson and John Wroblewski made the Duluth-based ECHL hockey team's final three, emerging from a pool of more than 50 candidates.

The club conducted phone interviews with a dozen candidates and have progressed to face-to-face interviews with the finalists that will conclude Tuesday.

Team president Steve Chapman aims to have a head coach named next week to replace Pyle, the only head coach in Gladiators history.

"The sheer number and quality of the applicants was quite impressive," Chapman said. "It was very difficult to pare the applicants down to a workable number, but that is certainly a good problem to have. It's also a tribute to the solid reputation established by the Gladiators organization within the professional hockey community to see such a large number of qualified coaches express their interest in leading this team."

Weeks spent eight seasons (2001-2010) as an assistant coach with the Thrashers, following an eight-year stint as an assistant coach and scout with the Carolina Hurricanes (and previously the Hartford Whalers). He played 13 NHL seasons from 1980-93 with six teams.

Mendelson was an assistant last season with a Utah Grizzlies team that made the Western Conference semifinals. His experience includes serving as interim head coach of the AHL's Norfolk Admirals in 2009-10, when he posted a 7-7-2 record.

Wroblewski spent the 2010-11 season as an assistant with the Wheeling Nailers, who made the Eastern Conference finals. He also was an assistant with the U.S. National Development Team from 2007-10 after concluding his own ECHL playing career. He had 299 total points in four ECHL seasons (2003-07) with the Fresno Falcons.

"All three candidates bring quality coaching experience and significant leadership abilities to the table," Chapman said. "Honestly, any one of these three would be great choices."

The head coaching change is part of a busy offseason for the Gladiators, who also are working out a new NHL affiliation agreement. Chapman said his club is in discussions with three NHL teams, with a goal of finalizing a deal in the next two to four weeks.