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Carolina Coach Signs Extension

June 22, 1999

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Is Paul Maurice the next Scotty Bowman?

The Carolina Hurricanes would like to think so, announcing a three-year contract extension Tuesday for Maurice that would put him second behind Bowman in current NHL coaching tenure with the same team.

``I would like to think that Paul can be Scotty Bowman someday, and that people still want him to coach when he’s in his 60s,″ Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said, referring to the Detroit coach. ``You can ask Scotty Bowman, he’s a better coach today than when he first started.″

Rutherford had a good comeback when informed that Bowman has won eight Stanley Cups, and Maurice none.

``We’re at least eight years away from that in Carolina,″ he said, joking.

All kidding aside, Rutherford believes Maurice, 32, is ``ahead of his time″ as an NHL coach.

Maurice, 128-143-45 in four seasons, has been a part of owner Peter Karmanos’ Compuware hockey organization for 14 years, joining the then-Hartford Whalers as an assistant coach in June 1995.

``Paul started coaching in his 20s. Most guys serve their apprenticeship in their 30s and 40s,″ Rutherford said. ``It’s not an age factor, it’s an experience factor, and he’s gained a lot of experience, maybe more experience than any other coach in professional sports in the last three years.″

The Associated Press reported a month ago that Maurice, one of the NHL’s lowest-paid coaches, would be offered an extension worth between $1.2 million and $1.5 million over three years. The death of defenseman Steve Chiasson set contract talks back several weeks.

Maurice and his coaching staff implemented a trapping system last season that allowed the team to capture the Southeast Division with a 34-30-18 record and the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1992.

Many in the Canadian media predicted Maurice would be the first NHL coach fired last season.

But Carolina was in first place for 175 days of the 192-day schedule, and Carolina’s 86 points were the second-most in the 20 years of the franchise. The Hurricanes lost the Boston series 4-2 in the opening round of the playoffs.

``I believe that professional sports is too quick to blame coaches, especially in our situation with the circumstances that we’ve had with leaving a city in one year, playing in an interim facility and city for two more years,″ Rutherford said. ``Paul did such an exceptional job to keep our team focused.″

One of Maurice’s failures this past season was a power-play unit that scored just 11 percent of the time _ last in the NHL.

``Obviously, the coach has to take some responsibility for the power play _ that’s his job,″ Rutherford said. ``But sometimes you get too many different opinions (from players), and we had too many different opinions on our power play. We’ve got to correct that.″

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