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Tavares Takes It Personally

Hockey: Mighty Ducks' president angered by attacks and says the decision to fire Wilson as coach was made by Ferreira.

May 23, 1997|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Saying he was angry about "personal attacks" and hoped to tell his side of the story, Mighty Duck President Tony Tavares still refused to explain precisely why Ron Wilson was let go as coach.

"You want to fix blame, OK fix it on me," Tavares said Thursday. "But personal attacks have no business here."

Of his absence from Tuesday's press conference announcing the Ducks' decision not to renew Wilson's contract, Tavares said:

"I was not hiding. I had a prior engagement. I was not eating Snickers bars and soaking my feet in Ron's blood."

Tavares also said he did not insist that Wilson's contract not be renewed. His was one voice among many that agreed Wilson was not the right man for the job. General Manager Jack Ferreira had the final say, according to Tavares.

"If I demand anything in this organization it will be carried out," Tavares said. "It was not a unilateral decision. I had an opinion and made it known to Jack. It was supported by Jack.

"I don't get involved in decisions on the ice. I have never called down or had a meeting after a game and said, 'You should or shouldn't have played this guy.' I have never done that.

"I am unqualified."

Turning to Ferreira, who also was present during an informal press conference at Anaheim Stadium, Tavares then asked:

"Did I come to you in November and demand that Ron be fired?"

Ferreira answered: "No."

Again asking Ferreira, Tavares said: "Did I ever come to you in four years here and demand that Ron be fired?"

Ferreira answered: "No."

However, that's merely a matter of semantics. At one point in the 1995-96 season, the Ducks gave serious consideration to firing Wilson and his staff after the team went 3-9-3 in December, 1995.

Ferreira changed his mind. Wilson later was told his contract would be extended beyond the 1996-97 season.

According to sources, Ferreira often acted as a buffer between Wilson and Tavares. It was widely known around the Pond that Tavares disliked Wilson and especially was angered by his outspoken comments about possibly coaching the Detroit Red Wings one day.

There were other issues, Tavares said, but wouldn't address them Thursday other than to repeat Ferreira's Tuesday statements that there were "philosophical differences."

"I had Jack speak to him twice," Tavares said. "I went to him once personally. He and I had one confrontation the first year. Since then there was nothing I would put into the category of a confrontation."

According to sources, Tavares entered the dressing room during the 1993-94 season and began to criticize players to Wilson, who was alone at the time. Wilson defended the players and the conversation became heated.

More recently, Tavares believed Wilson's involvement as coach of Team USA during the World Cup of Hockey last September hindered the Ducks' preparations for the 1996-97 season.

"I thought we had the worst training camp in four years here," Tavares said. "I still think we had the worst training camp in four years here. Did I begrudge Ron? No. It was wonderful for the United States hockey team.

"[But] the Ducks gave up their coach for a month. Is that a plus for our hockey team?"

Eventually, Tavares and Ferreira realized they couldn't work with Wilson beyond the 1996-97 season no matter how successful the Ducks were.

"We could have won the Stanley Cup and this decision still would have been made," Ferreira said. "Is that what you want to hear? This was going to blow up on us. It just wasn't going to work. It's like with a player. Can that guy help us? To me, it just wasn't going to work.

"It was not an emotional decision."

Said Tavares: "It's not an ego thing."

With roughly three weeks left in the regular season, Ferreira contacted Wilson's agent to make an offer for a new contract. At that point, Ferreira still wanted to retain Wilson.

Tavares apparently did not.

"If Jack asked my opinion with three weeks to go in the season, I would have said, 'No.' " Tavares said. "But Jack never asked me."

Thursday, Ferreira continued fine-tuning a list of candidates to replace Wilson.

"I'm trying to get permission to talk to several people right now," Ferreira said. "I'm hoping to set up a few interviews for next week. I'm not going to talk to anybody just for some political reasons.

"I'd like to have someone with some [NHL] experience, either as a head coach or an assistant. I'd like somebody who's going to work with our young players. I'm not going to consider any college coaches."

Ferreira is believed to be interested in Don Hay, fired by the Phoenix Coyotes after losing to the Ducks in Western Conference quarterfinals. The feeling is mutual, according to a source.

Asked about possibly promoting assistant Walt Kyle, Ferreira said: "Walt will be in our organization. I would think whoever comes in would want someone to help with the transition."

In addition to Phoenix and Pittsburgh, whose representatives called Ferreira on Wednesday, the Washington Capitals have asked for and received permission to speak to Wilson.

Washington recently fired longtime General Manager David Poile and could kick Coach Jim Schoenfeld upstairs in order to hire Wilson.

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