University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach Mike Eaves was busy Thursday addressing the mechanics and the emotions related to the abrupt departure of assistant coach Bill Butters.
A day after it was announced that Butters was stepping down immediately to pursue his passion in the ministry, Eaves said he received 12 to 15 inquiries about the opening and was preparing to call those parties back.
Because it constitutes a part-time position, Eaves said the job doesn't have to be posted, but applicants do need three years of general coaching experience, a college degree and will be subjected to a background check.
A major challenge for Eaves and assistant coach Gary Shuchuk is finding the right fit for their staff knowing the chosen one can't be guaranteed the job when a formal search is conducted in the spring.
"People that I will be talking to, and have talked to, that's brought up right away," Eaves said.
The decision by Butters, 61, caught most everyone by surprise, including Eaves, who spent Monday and Tuesday trying to persuade his defensive guru to stay on. The announcement took place Wednesday when the Badgers, in the midst of a bye week, didn't have practice, so there was an elephant in the room when the players came together Thursday.
Eaves described the first half of practice as a "mourning session" which prompted him to meet with his players and open up the floor for their thoughts on Butters.
"It was definitely lingering over everybody's head," UW junior defenseman and assistant captain Frankie Simonelli said.
While it's understandable why Butters stepped down, there's also a school of thought that he abandoned the program six games into the season when things are particularly chaotic. Not only are the Badgers 1-4-1 overall, 1-2-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, they're reeling a bit from two personnel blows.
Highly regarded freshman winger Nic Kerdiles is serving a 10-games NCAA suspension for violating its code of amateurism and won't play until Nov. 30. Meanwhile, junior center and top returning scorer Mark Zengerle is out four to six weeks with a broken finger.
But outside of questioning the curious timing of Butters' exit, Eaves said there have been no outward signs of anger from his players.
"There's nothing you can do about it really," senior defenseman and captain John Ramage said. "I asked (Butters) why he wanted to go and he said it's in his heart. … I don't think you can change a person's heart if it's not there with us."
Butters said his decision to leave six games into his third season as assistant was driven in part by his belief that his defensive charges needed a new voice. Simonelli said he never got that vibe, but acknowledged Butters "had some troubles communicating with certain guys, just getting his thought process through."
"We're sad coach Butters is gone, but we've still got a whole season left here," Simonelli said. "We've got to move on."