As new Augusta Lynx coach Bob Ferguson says, there are two ways to coach:
You can coach not to lose, or you can coach to win.
Ferguson chooses the latter approach for every game he coaches, and he expects his players to mimic that philosophy. So that's the type of player he's pursuing this off-season.
"I don't think you can wait until you're two weeks into the season and see what type of personnel you have and then try to build a character," Ferguson said Tuesday morning. "I think the personality and character of the team needs to start now in the off-season, putting the pieces together."
Ferguson was named the Lynx's sixth coach May 16. On Tuesday, he was finally introduced to a contingent of about 70 Lynx fans at a news conference at Wild Wing Cafe. He spent the week between those two events evaluating last year's Lynx team, contacting players from that team and looking for players who are willing to buy into his philosophy.
It shouldn't be a hard sell given Ferguson's successful 23-year coaching career, which spans three leagues. The two-time ECHL Coach of the Year didn't miss the playoffs with any of those teams and holds a 780-461-90 record. He's the only coach in ECHL history to earn the coaching award twice; he won it in his first two seasons with the expansion Florida Everblades.
Ferguson, 50, consistently mentions character and personality when he talks about his previous successes and his plans for the Lynx. His recipe includes consistency, aggressiveness, sound defense, a mixture of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance and desire to win every night - at home or on the road.
"There's two ways you can contribute to a team - that's offensively and defensively," he said. "Sometimes offense goes into a slump, but your defensive game, there's no excuse for that going into a slump. That will definitely be a huge point of emphasis in the off-season and in the recruiting process - looking for players who are committed to playing at both ends of the ice equally hard."
The Lynx hope - and believe - Ferguson's style will translate into the team's first playoff appearance since the 2000-01 season.
"Don't let that teddy bear demeanor fool you," general manager Paul Gamsby said after the news conference, "he's got a little fire in there somewhere and I like that. ... When he wants to let the players know he means business, they know he means business. He just has that way about him."
The Lynx expect to keep their unofficial affiliation with the NHL's New Jersey Devils and the AHL's Albany River Rats, which brought the Lynx their only all-star last year in rookie forward Ken Magowan, and they might gain one or two more unofficial affiliations through the new coach's connections.
Ferguson will spend the next two months shuttling between his home in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Augusta and hopes to move his wife, Lisa, and 13-year-old daughter Kaylee here by early August. But don't expect the travel to interfere with his new job.
"Every day is going to be spent pursuing players," he said. "... As long as you have a fax machine and a telephone, the hockey world doesn't sleep."
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.