This week’s interview is with Boston Badgers coach Kyle Barrow.
SHL Digest: We’re talking today with the newest member of the SHL coaching fraternity, Kyle Barrow! Kyle, thanks for talking with us.
Kyle Barrow: I’m excited! It’s a fun opportunity.
SHLD: For the last few years, you’ve earned a reputation in the SHL as the one hot assistant who wasn’t looking to move up. You were the assistant coach in Anchorage, and it seemed like your name came up every time there was a coaching vacancy, but every time, you pulled your name out of the search.
KB: (laughs) The international man of mystery!
SHLD: Obviously, this led to some theories. One was that you’d been promised you would succeed Sam Castor whenever he retired as coach of the Igloos. Another was that you were waiting for just the right opportunity to make your coaching debut. So tell us: What’s the true story?
KB: Honestly, you [reporters] and my mom have a lot in common. When I was single, she was always asking me when I was going to settle down and get married. And every time I got asked about head coaching, I heard my mom’s voice in my head. “When are you going to find a nice team and settle down? You know you can’t be an assistant forever! It’s not healthy.” For a while, I was getting it with both barrels!
SHLD: The cycle of nagging, basically.
KB: (laughs) Love you, Mom! But you know it’s true.
SHLD: Shout out to Kyle’s mom!
KB: The truth is, the answer was the same in both cases: I just wasn’t ready yet. I was still learning things from Sam, and I felt like if I left too soon to take a coaching job, I’d miss out on some good lessons.
SHLD: So you’ve decided that now you’ve learned enough.
KB: Really, Sam decided it. He’s been nudging me for a while now that it’s time. And when Boston came calling, I was going to turn it down. But Sam said, “I really think you should give this one a shot. You’re ready for this.” So I listened, and here I am!
SHLD: It’s interesting that you make the analogy between coaching and your romantic life, because as you announced this week, you’re a trailblazer in that area: you’re the first openly gay head coach in professional sports. Why did you choose to announce it now?
KB: I felt like it was the right time. For a long time, my attitude was that it was my own business. I didn’t go out of my way to hide that I was, but I didn’t go around talking about it.
SHLD: Did people on the Igloos know?
KB: Sure. Sam definitely knew; he’s met my husband! And some of the players knew. No one had a problem with it. But I didn’t see the need to talk about it publicly.
SHLD: What changed your mind?
KB: It was after my press conference introducing me as the Badgers’ coach. After it was over, Jim – my husband – came up and told me that he’d wanted to be there, but he hadn’t come because he didn’t want to cause me trouble. And that got me thinking; if my own husband didn’t feel like he could be there on the biggest night of my life, is that fair to him? And I thought about how much it would have meant to me as a young hockey player starting to understand who I was, to know that a leader in my sport was gay too, and it was okay.
SHLD: How has the reaction been?
KB: It’s been great. The players have told me that they’re behind me, and that it won’t be a problem in the locker room. And the public reaction has been supportive, too. I’m sure there will be some knuckle-draggers on the road who try to give me crap about it, but who cares about them?
SHLD: Oh yeah, before we forget, you’ve got this new team too! What do you think of them so far?
KB: Oh, right, them! (laughs) I’m really excited about the group we have. We’re still in the learning stages, but I can’t wait until we get rolling!
SHLD: Sounds good! Well, thanks for the time and a thought-provoking interview.
KB: I’m glad you asked!