VANCOUVER — After playing for the UBC Thunderbirds, and helping to coach them, Tyler Kuntz will now run the men's hockey program on the Point Grey campus.
Kuntz, a defenceman for the T-Birds from 1999 to 2004, was named the team's new head coach Wednesday. He succeeds Milan Dragicevic, who was fired in March after 12 seasons at the helm. Kuntz is bullish on the team's prospects.
"I think maybe what's different from other programs where they let their coach go is I think we're really close," he said. "I don't think we have to start all over. I think we have a good core and that the mix is there. I believe that we have good players, really good people, smart students and we're maybe a couple of pieces from getting to the next level.
"Where I think we need to improve is in our work habits and our expectations. Our expectations need to be a little bit higher."
Kuntz, a 35-year-old native of Lumsden, Sask., played one season in the BCHL for the Burnaby Bulldogs before joining the T-Birds. Following his five years with UBC, he played a season in Germany and half a season in the Central League —17 games in total — for the Oklahoma City Blazers and Wichita Thunder. He spent the second half of that season in Japan.
He then spent two seasons as Dragicevic's assistant at UBC from 2006 to ’08 and returned as an assistant in 2010, a position he held the last four years.
Kuntz takes over a program that hasn't captured a Canada West title since 1971. This past season, the T-Birds reached the second round of playoffs before running into, and being eliminated by, the eventual CIS champion Alberta Golden Bears.
Kuntz also takes over a program that survived the controversial UBC athletic review.
"There's that whole side of the program, too," he noted. "We need alumni engagement, community partnerships and more exposure. So it's a big job."
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