Derek Schooley, RMU Hockey Coach
Derek Schooley, RMU Hockey Coach:
First, can you let readers know a bit about your coaching career – how you got started in coaching?
When I was playing my coach in junior hockey, Frank Serratore always mentioned to me that I would be a good coach as I had a good amount of hockey sense, so I started coaching in the NAHL junior hockey league in Chicago right after my playing career.
Later that year, I had an opportunity to go to Cornell as a third assistant coach and then the following year we moved to Colorado Springs where I worked at the Air Force Academy, where I was then able to work for my former junior coach in Frank Serratore. After five years there as the top assistant, I was fortunate to get the Head Coaching job at RMU.
What coaches and coaching lessons have influenced you most in your career so far, and how so?
As I mentioned before, the Head Coach at Air Force, Frank Serratore has been a major influence in my coaching career. I learned so much from him about how to treat your assistant coaches, how to be yourself and numerous life lessons that can be applied daily.
I was working with future leaders in our military and they also taught me so much about work ethic, sacrifice and how to conduct yourself as people away from the ice.
The program has continued to improve over the past few seasons – what do you attribute this to and where do you see the hockey program in the next few years?
We have very good people in our program and they have a tremendous work ethic. They have a desire to continue to improve this program and they have a vested interest in making the program better every year. We graduate ten seniors this year so our goal will be to continue getting better every year even with a young team.
We don’t ever want to rebuild. We want to reload.
You have have 10 seniors graduating this year. How difficult was the last-minute loss to Niagara in the playoffs for you and them especially?
This class is the all time winningest class in program over a four-year period. They are a great group that have experienced numerous highs and lows. They are great friends and get along so well. We will miss this group for what they bring in work ethic, determination and character.
We are very proud to call these ten alumni of the program and I know they will be successful in whatever they choose to do.
How do you replace that senior leadership and play next season?
It will be a challenge. We will need the returning players to step up and take over this team as leaders. The returners have been a group that has been behind a great group of leaders. We will be excited to see some of the younger guys step out of their shadow and embrace a leadership role.
We are expecting numerous players to take on the leadership of this team that haven’t had the opportunity to be “leaders.” Everyone who returns has leadership qualities and it is time for them to step up.
How difficult has it been recruiting players to play in the Pittsburgh area and how do you overcome those obstacles?
It isn’t that difficult to recruit players to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a wonderful city and a great area to live in. The city is growing in reputation, and there is so much to do. It is becoming a “Hockey Town” and Pittsburgh is a major selling point of our recruiting. It has the feel of a small town with numerous big city attractions.
We have had numerous Pittsburgh natives play for our program, and we would like to keep this “best” local players at home in Pittsburgh. The sport is growing here and Robert Morris lets good players have a Division I opportunity (only DI program in Pittsburgh area) while still staying close enough to home that family and supporters can continue to cheer for them.
Do the Pittsburgh Penguins get involved at all in the program? Either way, how has their success helped your program?
The Penguins have been great to our program. We play games at Consol Energy Center with their support. We are co-hosting the Frozen Four in 2013, and the staff has been great in dealing with this large event.
The Penguins are about growing hockey and having them on board with our program is a big benefit. I can’t thank the Pens enough for everything they have done for us and hockey in the area. The Lemieux and Crosby eras have had a big effect on local hockey and hopefully someday, we will have the first born and raised RMU alum playing for the Penguins or in the NHL.
Tell readers how important nationally-ranked goalie Brooks Ostergard has been to the program?
Brooks has been very good for our program. He came in as a third goalie walk on and took the starting job as freshman. He was national player of the week when we swept #1 Miami and has been an all-league goalie.
He leaves here as the best goalie in program history not only through his stats but through his accomplishments.
What’s the key to taking the next big step for the program?
Our goal every year is to get to the NCAA Tournament and we will not rest until we achieve that goal. We have been close twice (losing in overtime twice in our league championship game).
We have to continue to work to get then best players here. We have to get them bigger, stronger and faster. We have to improve every year. That goal drives our program, and we will continue to work until we get there.
What have been some of your best memories to date as Robert Morris’ head coach, and what makes them so?
We have had many big wins against ranked opponents. We beat #2 Notre Dame, #8 Boston University and swept #1 Miami. Those are all great memories and they are all signature program wins but my favorite memory was winning our first game as a program in 2004. We were a group of freshman and a first-year head coach that went on the road to beat an established program. Nobody was expecting us to win any games that year but to win our first was exciting and put us on the map in our first game.
Any last thoughts for readers?
College hockey is a great game. It is fast, exciting and competitive. The players “sell out” every game and nothing is left in their tank. Our sport is growing in popularity and attendance wise every year, but I am not sure everyone out there knows that future NHL players are playing at the Island Sports Center daily.
We have had numerous NHL players play on opposing teams and we have a few alumni that are close to making it on the big stage. Come out and watch us play–you will be hooked on college hockey and our product. Go Colonials!