Virginia Rhinos coach Jeffrey Marsh was widely hailed as a genius last season when he took his team to the Eastern Division title and an appearance in the CHL Finals. His reputation has taken a hit this season, as the Rhinos have stumbled to a sub-.500 record on the heels of a recent seven-game skid. Things went from bad to worse for Marsh this week after a surreal post-game press conference that left reporters baffled and had some wondering whether Marsh was drunk or stoned.
After Saturday’s 7-2 loss to the Maine Moose, Marsh addressed reporters as usual. But rather then offering the standard platitudes about effort and improving the team’s execution, the coach’s answers were a string of bizarre non-sequiturs. Asked what he had seen on the ice during the game, Marsh replied: “Dinosaurs and fire trucks, mostly.” When a reporter asked him to evaluate his team’s defensive effort, the coach said, “Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye.” Questioned about whether C Cyril Perignon seemed to be pushing too hard to overcome his recent scoring drought, Marsh stated: “Partly cloudy, with a 50% chance of rain later in the week.”
After a couple more questions and answers in this vein, reporters began asking Marsh if he was all right. The coach’s answer: “Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo.” At this point, a Rhinos staffer ended the interview and escorted Marsh from the podium.
The stories the next day focused less on the outcome of the game and more on Marsh’s mental state. One article focused on the coach’s “incoherent ranting and raving”; another described Marsh as “coming unglued in front of a live audience.” Still another piece claimed that the coach “appeared visibly drunk or high,” and described his press-conference performance as “a strange, sad, and embarrassing mess.”
At Virginia’s morning skate the next day, Marsh clarified the reason behind his apparent madness. He said that he had not been fueled by booze or drugs; rather, by boredom and frustration. “Let’s be honest,” the coach said. “These post-game pressers, it’s really just a dance. You need something to write in your stories, so I get up there and do a little soft-shoe and spout some blah-blah coach speak. Right? That’s the deal.
“Well, yesterday I didn’t feel like doing the dance. The game sucked, and I didn’t have anything interesting or meaningful to say about it. They told me I’d get fined if I just skipped the press conference. So instead I went up there and talked nonsense. Maybe not my finest hour, but hey, it made your stories more interesting, right?”
He added that the front office has talked to him about his behavior. “I’m sorry I was a bad boy and I promise not to do it again.”
Rhinos GM Ken Lindstrom, asked about Marsh’s antics, laughed and rolled his eyes. “Look, this is Swampy we’re talking about here,” Lindstrom said. “He’s an old goalie, and we know most goalies have a screw loose. He’s frustrated about how we’re doing this year, and I get that. I am too. But I reminded him that [reporters] have a job to do too, and when he gets up there and goes all Bob Dylan on us, he’s making it hard for you to do your job. He gets it.”
Lindstrom paused and added with a wry smile, “I thought about asking him to take a drug test, just to be sure. But this is just Swampy being Swampy.”