For the second time in as many years, the Atlanta Gladiators are in search of a new head coach.
Chuck Weber, who led the franchise back to the playoffs after a four-year absence in his first season, has taken a job as an assistant at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in his home state of New York.
“Switching to the college ranks is something I’ve been looking at for a number of years and after talking to (RPI head coach) Dave Smith, the timing was right to make the change,” said Weber, who won two Kelly Cups earlier in his career with Cincinnati. “Not only will this be a new challenge for myself after 19 years in professional hockey, but it will add a stability for me and my family which is hard to get in the pro game.”
The Gladiators finished fourth in the South Division standings while weathering a significant number of injuries. At the end of the season, after being ousted by Kelly Cup finalist and Brabham Cup winner Florida, they has lost an estimated 300 man games to injury.
“We want to thank Chuck for all his hard work and dedication to success this past season,” Gladiators president Scott Henrichsen said. “He always did things the right way and with the upmost class and not only got us back to the playoffs, but planted the seed for further growth of the organization.
“Last year was a transition year for not only the team but front office as well and Chuck did an amazing job reestablishing this organization among the upper echelon of the ECHL. We are excited to expand on the precedent that was set and take the team to the next level of contention with our next coach along with new owner Dan Orlich.”
The coaching search is officially open, but as word leaked out, Henrichsen began getting inquiries.
“Since Chuck alerted us, we’ve already had several coaches reach out to us,” Henrichsen said. “So we’ve already had great interest and that has started us down the road of looking for our next coach, to guide this team along a path to the playoffs and, hopefully, the Kelly Cup.
“We anticipate having a new coach in here as soon as possible so he can put his stamp on the team, signing our core of players and any new players he might be able to attract.”
The team’s protected list, released Monday, was among the paperwork due to the league Weber completed before he left for RPI.
“It’s important that we have a full summer, really, to build with this new coach,” Henrichsen said. “Not only the team, but in the community.
“With the new ownership we maybe have the ability to do some things we haven’t done in the past.”
Orlich, the Virginia-based businessman who bought the franchise on March, has continued to invest in the organization’s future, green-lighting the front office on improvements as the Gladiators prepare for their 16th season as the county’s only pro hockey team.
“He hasn’t put any limitations on us,” Henrichsen said. “I think there’s a great opportunity for a coach to step into that and run with it.
“We’re going to give the new coach every opportunity to be successful.”
Assistant coach Brady Leisenring has accepted a position with a new sports facility in Springfield, Va.