UAA hockey loses coach to Gophers

Posted: Sunday, June 12, 2005

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Anchorage hockey coach John Hill has resigned after four seasons and will return to Minnesota as an assistant coach.

Hill, 44, handed in his resignation Friday after failing to obtain a contract extension and a pay raise for his assistants.

Hill oversaw a dismal season in which the Seawolves finished 1-28-7 but in previous years led UAA to its first Western Collegiate Hockey Association postseason victories.

Hill, whose resignation is effective June 24, will return to his previous job as an assistant coach under his friend and mentor, Don Lucia, at national powerhouse Minnesota. The Gophers won Division I national championships in 2002 and 2003.

A former Bartlett High skater, Seawolves captain and assistant UAA coach, Hill called the UAA position his dream job when he was hired. It pained him to leave, he said.

''When you care as much and as deeply as I do about UAA, you don't just walk away and close the book,'' Hill said. ''I'm sure it will take awhile.''

Under Hill, UAA won four WCHA playoff games in the last two seasons and in 2004 advanced to the WCHA Final Five for the first time. Previously, the Seawolves were 0-22 in playoff games in the WCHA.

Hill said he believed that success warranted a guaranteed two-year contract extension and said he did not demand a raise. He had two years remaining on his current contract and was scheduled to make $94,000 in base salary next season. Hill's deal with Minnesota, which will include a bonus structure and ancillary earning opportunities, likely will be similar to his pay at UAA.

Hill also said he wanted pay raises for assistant coaches Jack Kowal and Keith Morris, former Seawolves skaters who make about $39,000 and $35,000, the lowest pay for WCHA assistant coaches. Hill also wanted Kowal and Morris, who work under 10-month contracts, to get contracts of at least 11 months.

UAA athletic director Steve Cobb, who hired Hill, said state guidelines prevented him from granting Hill a guarantee of more than six months severance on a contract extension.

He also said the athletic department does not have the resources to immediately give Kowal and Morris salary bumps.

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