Head Coach of Men’s Ice Hockey Terry Meagher will step down from his position after the 2015-2016 season, the College announced Tuesday. The upcoming campaign will be Meagher’s 33rd at the helm of one of Bowdoin’s most storied athletic programs.

Meagher first broke the news to the team in a meeting early Tuesday morning.

“You could tell that he had been thinking about it for a while,” said Chris Fenwick ’16. “He mentioned that he hasn’t had a lot of sleep lately. He threw it right at us—he cuts right to the chase.”

“He had some really powerful things to say, reflecting on the first team he coached at Bowdoin and then the group of young men in the room yesterday,” said Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan.

“When I was offered the program and took over, I looked at the quality of individuals, the skillset level, the commitment and enthusiasm. More importantly, just as citizens and people, I could see why Bowdoin Hockey had success,” Meagher said in an interview with the Orient.

“Fast-forward 33 years and the group in that room was no different. It’s wonderful that my last year coaching at Bowdoin will be with a group like them.”

For Meagher, the decision to step down after this season was the result of a careful thought process that had been ongoing for several seasons.

“You start to take a comprehensive view of where the program is—where the skillset is, where your life’s at at that point, a lot of different things—and ultimately it just felt right,” he said. “A goal is to turn the program over in as good of shape as you can leave it.”

“As with anyone in the later stages of their career, you start to have some conversations about when may be the right time to move on,” said Ryan. “Terry and I have had those conversations off and on for a number of years, and it just seemed like the time was right for him to step down and to be able to take advantage of some of the other things going on in his life, such as spending time with his family. Certainly he has done his part to put our program in a great position moving forward.”

While whoever succeeds Meagher as head coach will have large shoes to fill, he himself replaced a legend, taking over for his mentor Sidney Watson in 1983 after Watson’s 24-year tenure. Refusing to be overshadowed, Meagher carved out one of the greatest coaching resumes in all of college hockey. His 529 career wins rank him sixth all-time in the D-III ranks. He has two NESCAC titles to his name as well as two championships in the ECAC—the conference that hosted the Polar Bears prior to the inception of the NESCAC. His teams have made six NCAA Tournament appearances and he won the American Hockey Coaches Association National Coach of the Year honor in both 1986 and 1989.

“He’s a very rare hockey mind. He sees the game very well—he was a very successful player,” said team captain Matt Rubinoff ’16, alluding to Meagher’s illustrious playing career at Boston University. “He brings out the most in his players and he expects the most. He runs a very competitive team, and he builds it on character and grit. Whether or not he really has the talent to do so, he builds a successful team.”

When asked about his success as coach, Meagher was quick to give credit to those he’s worked with over the years.

“All the assistant coaches over the years have been incredibly talented, recently in particular Coach [Jamie] Dumont,” said Meagher. “Both on the ice and in recruiting, he’s played a significant role in getting the program to where we feel ready to turn it over.”

“The sports medicine staff goes under the radar, especially with the number of students we have… Student managers and faculty liaisons were always very important in developing teams and ensuring that students have a really good experience. And then there’s the athletic services, which is equipment and support. They’ve been wonderful,” he added.

Looking back on his over-three decade tenure as head coach, Meagher commented on some of the things that he believes make D-III hockey special.

“The great things about (D-III) having that strong educational component is I think coaches are more willing to try different concepts and ideas,” he said. “The coaching and teaching techniques are really diverse at our level. We were on the cutting edge of that, and now you see it at Division I and in the NHL. The game used to be so linear, now it has an advanced geometry.”

He also reflected on changes in collegiate athletics at-large, including the proliferation of women’s sports.

“It’s been incredibly rewarding in athletics to see the growth of women’s sports,” he added. “It was frustrating in the early going, because we wanted to be where we are currently a long time ago, but it’s great to be where we are now.”

After the season, the athletic department will form a committee to launch a national search for Meagher’s replacement. The committee will likely consist of Ryan, head coaches of other sports teams, members of the hockey team and other members of campus. According to Ryan, he hopes to name the team’s next coach before Commencement.

“We’ll want to identify a candidate who understands and values the approach to athletics in Division III within the NESCAC, which places a great emphasis on the academic experience of students and also the role athletics can play in developing important life skills, such as communication, leadership and problem-solving,” said Ryan. “Then there are the technical aspects, as well—identifying a candidate who has the technical knowledge and leadership abilities to lead a group of 30 young men throughout the course of their experience here on campus.”

“Personally I think it should be someone who knows the school well—or at least knows the history of it—and knows the NESCAC,” said Rubinoff.

While cautious of giving advice to a yet-to-be-named future Bowdoin coach, Meagher did have one lighthearted suggestion for his successor.

“If I had one piece of advice for the next coach, it would be buy some waterfront property that appreciates, because if history repeats itself you’ll be here for a while,” he said.

With a young core, this year’s squad hopes to establish team chemistry in Meagher’s last year that it will be able to carry forward.

“As seniors, it doesn’t affect us as much because we’ll have him for our final year,” said Fenwick. “It’s going to be a big adjustment for the underclassmen. Coach Meagher has been very supportive of players and always built strong programs that have done really well.”

Nonetheless, the upperclassmen will play an important role in facilitating the team’s transition to a new era.

“It does change how we as seniors are approaching the season,” said Rubinoff. “Near the end and into the spring, our job will be to ease the guys into whatever’s next. We’ll support them going forward. Knowing the history of the program, it will be in fine hands.”

When the team begins their practices on Sunday, their focus will have shifted to exclusively on-ice matters.

“Come November 1, talk about Coach’s last year is going to be put on hold,” said Fenwick. “We’re going to carry on our business, and there will be time to celebrate when the season’s over.”

“Our league’s always very competitive,” he added. “Coach always tells us that our first goal is to finish the season with a spot in the conference tournament, and anything can happen from there. That goal hasn’t changed.”

On May 7, the College will hold a ceremony to honor Meagher and his countless contributions to the institution, both on the ice and off.

“If there’s a legacy I’m most proud of, it’s that I was able to follow Coach Watson, who had been here for 24 years, and I was allowed to have the majority of my career at Bowdoin,” said Meagher. “I don’t know if that’s a legacy, but that should receive a little bit of attention. For that to happen at Bowdoin speaks volumes of the institution. It means it’s a great place to live, to raise a family, to coach and teach. It means that the support is there and the tradition is there.”

“I think Terry’s legacy will be that of a coach who excelled at both attracting and supporting high-achieving students to campus while also being incredibly competitive in our conference and on a national level,” said Ryan. “When you can put those two things together, it leads to a special experience for those students in the program and also for those in our campus community.”