The Nanaimo Clippers’ coach was fired because of a lack of a working relationship with ownership and management, says the team’s owner.
Mike Vandekamp was fired Thursday as coach and general manager of the Clippers, replaced with Darren Naylor, the BCHL club’s head of hockey operations.
Wes Mussio, Clippers owner, said efforts by himself and Naylor “to improve the team [were] met with great resistance” from Vandekamp. He said Vandekamp often didn’t return phone calls and text messages.
“The previous owner gave Mike a carte-blanche ability to do anything he wants and I wanted some input and I wanted Darren Naylor to have some input and sadly that didn’t seem like something Mr. Vandekamp was prepared to accept,” Mussio said.
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The owner said the coaching change needed to happen now because he and Naylor felt that waiting until next season would negatively impact their ability to recruit and build for 2018-19.
“We brought in a few key players and they were hit with resistance and we also tried to bring on some [affiliate players] and that was hit with resistance. So in order to move forward to the next year, we need to have a look at players and recruit,” Mussio said. “Without any support from the coach, it’s pretty hard to do.”
Mussio said Vandekamp was asked to commit to a new working relationship by today, Dec. 22.
“He didn’t think it was in his personality … to do so, so that’s the end of it,” the owner said.
The Clippers have an 18-13-2-3 record and sit one point out of first place in their division. Mussio stressed that the coaching change was a management-based decision, not a performance-based decision.
“I would have to say whole-heartedly that Mike was a great coach, but me and him and Darren Naylor do not fit together,” Mussio said.
Naylor is expected to resign as coach of the junior B Delta Ice Hawks, but remain with that organization in some capacity.
Mussio said he had reached out to Dustin Donaghy, the Clippers’ current assistant coach, but hadn’t heard back.
“It’s definitely up to him; if he wants to stay on, then we’re more than pleased to have him continue,” Mussio said.
The owner added that there are “several candidates” being considered as additions to the coaching staff, one of whom “has quite a bit of experience with the Clippers in the past.”
Vandekamp could not be reached for comment.