This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy coach Peter James.
SHL Digest: We’re here today with the first-year coach of the Galaxy, Peter James. Coach James, thanks for speaking with us.
Peter James: Certainly. Speaking to the press is part of my job.
SHLD: When the Galaxy fired Rodney Reagle after last season, the Galaxy front office seemed to think a new coach would be able to lift the team back into playoff contention. Obviously, things haven’t unfolded that way. Do you consider this season a disappointment?
PJ: Well, there are a lot of assumptions in your question. Let me state for the record that when I was interviewed for this job, I was never told that I was expected to get this team back to the playoffs. Obviously, the organization would like to contend, but they understand that it’s a time of transition. Particularly when [G] Roger [Orion] chose not to resign, the goal has been to manage the transition to a younger roster.
SHLD: Well, how would you say that transition is going?
PJ: We’re still in the early stages, but I have a positive feeling about it. We’re looking for opportunities to give our young players more exposure. For instance, when Brooksy [LW Charlie Brooks] went down, we took the chance to promote Alan Youngman and see what he could do at this level. As we go, we’ll look for more such opportunities.
SHLD: For a locker room that was accustomed to the jokey, free-wheeling attitude of Reagle, it must have been an adjustment for them to have a more straitlaced coach like you. How has that transition gone?
PJ: Overall, I’ve been pleased. Obviously, it took some time for both sides to get familiar with each other, for me to understand them and for them to understand me and my expectations. I tried to ease in a bit, knowing that this is a room full of established professionals. But I made it clear that certain hijinks that might have been tolerated under the old regime wouldn’t be tolerated under me.
SHLD: Can you give an example of something that you don’t tolerate that might have been tolerated before?
PJ: One obvious example had to do with behavior on the road. Without naming names, some guys take that time as a license to run wild, to stay out all night in bars and clubs. Some of that is fine – again, these are grown men – but if you’re staying out late enough that it’s affecting you the next day, that’s a problem. I found that some well-timed morning skates helped get that under control, without having to call anyone out.
SHLD: And has the adjustment gone both ways? Have you learned things from your players?
PJ: Absolutely. I’ve definitely learned to be a little less strict than I had been in the minors. At that level, you’re primarily guiding and developing players. In the pros, you’re helping established players be their best. It’s a more collaborative relationship.
SHLD: Obviously, you aren’t going to make the postseason this year. So what are your goals for the rest of this season, and looking ahead to next year?
PJ: Well, for the rest of this season, we’re going to continue to look for chances to spotlight and evaluate our younger players, as I mentioned. In the offseason, we’ll probably be looking to move some of our veteran guys, to facilitate that transition to young players. We’re focused more on a reload than a rebuild, with an eye toward contending in the next couple of seasons.
SHLD: One more question. Last season, you made headlines around the league when you physically broke up a fight by throwing an opposing player off your bench. Any chance we’ll see a replay of that incident in DC?
PJ: (chuckles) I certainly hope not. I don’t go Incredible Hulk very often. But it doesn’t hurt for other people to know that I can do that if I need to. You won’t like me when I’m angry.
SHLD: Good to know! Well, that wraps it up for this interview. Thanks again, and good luck with the rest of the season!
PJ: You bet! I appreciate it.