Program starter Whitaker resigns, takes full-time job at Lindenwood University
The Grand Valley State University women’s hockey team will have a different look this season as Cory Whitaker, who started the program in 2006, steps down as head coach to take a full-time goaltenders coaching position and handle recruiting responsibilities at Lindenwood (Mo.) University.
Whitaker managed to qualify three teams for the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament in his tenure. In 2010 he was named Coach of the Year by the ACHA and he finished his career with a record of 64-63-7, despite a first season record of 1-20.
“When we first took the job, we had a majority of the players who never skated before, or had extremely limited experience,” he said. “So the teaching of the game was completely different as to later when the season progressed. It was a challenge for us to change the game and focus on the little things that we were good at. Then we began to develop the players and as we became more successful and we were able to get some players to commit to us and find players that worked with the system we were trying to implement.”
The players quickly responded to Whitaker’s coaching and his system. In the year following the 1-20 inaugural season, Whitaker led GVSU to the ACHA National Tournament.
“For us to have success, we needed to have players that really wanted to be a part of Grand Valley and really wanted to be a part of building the program,” Whitaker said. “I’ve been absolutely blessed to have five years of exactly that.”
He graduated from GVSU and played goaltender for the Lakers from 1996-2001. He said his deep roots to the hockey program and the university made it a difficult decision for him to make.
“Hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Whitaker said. “Not only did it involve moving my family, but when you put so much heart and soul like I did to that program, you don’t want anyone to touch it or mess it. That’s your baby. I trust (assistant coaches) Darrell (Gregorio) and Sean (McKerman) with all my heart, but it’s still something that when I leave a little piece of me is going to stay there because I can’t let it go.
One of the biggest factors for his departure are the education opportunities that Lindenwood can offer him – Whitaker is looking to make the switch from Orthopedics to attain a master’s degree in sports management.
“What it really came down to was I really wanted to change careers,” he said. “Putting everything down on paper and realizing that where I was now, one of the biggest things I was not able to do is continue my education. At Lindenwood, I will be coaching full time and I will have the ability to get my master’s degree, and being an employee of the university, I will get that of no charge.
That was really kind of the deciding factor. It’s something I really always wanted to do, but under my current situation with my wife and my kids, I didn’t have the time or the resources to make that happen.”
Whitaker’s assistant coaches, McKerman and Gregorio, will fill in as co-head coaches for the 2012-2013 season. Both played hockey with Whitaker at GVSU for two seasons.
“There’s no way to replace a coach like Coach Whitaker” McKerman said. “His desire to teach the game and compete at a high level is second to none. Cory was the starter of the program, and he developed the program into a national contender to where we are now. He’s the reason where the program is where it’s at today.”