Condors

Thursday, Apr 11 2013 08:21 PM

Condors hire veteran coach Olver as GM

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The Bakersfield Condors new general manager John Olver talks with Condors President Matthew Riley, right, in April at Rabobank Arena minutes before he was introduced as the new GM.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Towards the end of Thursday's press conference the new Bakersfield Condors general manager, John Olver takes a pretend call from Wayne Gretzky seeking the Condors coaching position which they have yet to fill.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Bakersfield Condors fans welcomed the new general manager John Olver, Thursday upon his introduction at the Rabobank Arena.

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By MIKE GRIFFITH, Californian staff writer mgriffith@bakersfield.com

Back in February, with the Condors in the middle of a second straight woeful season, owner Johnathan Fleisig admitted that he had not put enough emphasis on the hockey operation side of the business and changes were going to have to be made.

Ten days ago team President Matthew Riley, addressing the media about not bringing back coach Matt O'Dette, said there would be sweeping changes to the hockey side of the operation in order to field a winning team.

On Thursday, the first of those changes took place as the team announced that longtime coach John Olver had been named General Manager.

Olver, 54, won a championship in the old West Coast Hockey League with Tacoma in 1998-99 and led the Idaho Steelheads to the ECHL championship in 2003-04. In addition, his teams made the championship finals five other times during his nine years as a coach at the AA hockey level.

He left the pro game after the 2004-05 season and spent two years as an assistant at Northern Michigan University to coach his son, Darin. He then served as president and GM of the Iowa (Des Moines) Stars in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 and has spent the past three seasons as coach and GM of the Idaho Jr. Steelheads at the junior level.

"We are reinventing the hockey side of our business ... today is the first step on following through on that commitment and creating a new model," Riley said in announcing Olver's hiring. "We are bringing someone on board who has done it. He has put together teams that year in and year out have competed for the championship.

"That is his sole mission here in Condorstown. He's charged with bringing a winner and will be given every resource to do so."

Olver said he is ready to do just that, in part due to an influx of money into hockey operations, which Olver said will see an increase of 30 to 40 percent from last season.

"I'm confident I can do that because of a change in the ownership philosophy. I talked to Jonathan Fleisig extensively in the last week about how he's done business here. Jonathan's statement to me was I've been doing the same thing over and over for 15 years now, why should I expect any different result.

"He said I want a new paradigm, I want a paradigm shift. I want to do things differently. What do we have to do to put a championship team on the ice?"

Olver said he believes he has the answers to get the Condors in the top echelon of the ECHL food chain.

"First and foremost we're going to raise the expectations," he said. "The expectations from this point forward aren't to make the playoffs. We want to compete for Kelly Cup championships. Specifically, some of the things we're gong to do we're going to have a new organizational structure.

"To my knowledge I'm the only full-time general manager in the ECHL. We will also hire a coaching staff. We will have the largest hockey staff in the ECHL. In doing so it will give us a competitive advantage in the area of scouting and recruiting, which is the most important element of the success of a team at this level."

Olver has seen first-hand the troubles the Condors have had the past two seasons as he played a minor role in recruiting and player evaluation and said O'Dette was in a difficult situation under previous guidelines, including cost-saving measures of not having married players and few, if any, veterans.

"I think Matt O'Dette is one of the finest young guys I've ever met," he said. "I think so highly of him. I watched him and saw a tremendous work ethic, dedication and loyalty to this organization but he was handicapped. Matt had some constraints. He did not have the financial commitment. He had limitations on what he could do. None of those are in place at this time.

"In fairness to Matt, it was unfortunate circumstances. He put himself in one of the most difficult positions anyone could put themselves in which is going to make him a better coach in the future. I have no doubt Matt will go on to be a very successful coach. No doubt."

But now it is Olver's job to hire a coach to lead the Condors to the success he is predicting.

"We've already received numerous resumes (but) to be honest with you, I really have not started that process yet," he said. "There's been a whirlwind of things in the last week leading up to this press conference. I have had a couple of conversations, a couple of people have called me but really I've asked everyone to wait until this weekend. That's when I'm really going to start the coaching search.

"I'd like to have a coach in place by next month. That would be ideal but I'm not going to have a deadline imposed that forces me to make a decisions before I'm absolutely sure we have the right guy but I'd like to think in the next month we'll be able to announce a head coach."

After that, the heavy lifting to rebuild the team will begin.

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