Tucson Roadrunners coach Jay Varady is a “one game at a time” kind of guy, always cautious of looking too far ahead.
With 10 games remaining and a spot in the playoffs on the line, the Roadrunners (28-23-5-2) are preparing for games against the San Jose Barracuda (32-19-2-4) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and 4:05 p.m. Sunday at Tucson Arena. Varady was asked to give a small peak into the future, while also looking back a bit at the first six months of his time in Tucson.
With 10 games left, what’s the approach you and your players plan to take this weekend and this final stretch run as you push for the playoffs?
A: “We don’t really get outside of looking outside what the next target is — and that’s San Jose. It’s the only way to answer it for me. I wish I could give you a better answer, but that’s just really the approach.”
You mentioned when you took this job that you were excited for a new life challenge and the learning experience that comes with that. How do you assess for yourself how the season has been?
A: “It was a chance to be a part of something bigger. If you look at junior hockey or other places I’ve coached, the organization is the depth of everything you have. You have a couple assistant coaches, a general manager, a couple scouts.
“But once you venture into the world of pro hockey, the depth of information and resources is massive. We have an (AHL) staff that’s extremely talented. We have our general manager, Steve Sullivan. We have our pro scouts, our amateur scouts and our (Arizona Coyotes) NHL coaching staff is extremely open and takes every call we make.”
What have you learned this season about yourself or your coaching style? Or is there anything about the sport itself at this level you may not have expected?
A: “Constant change. More than any place I’ve ever been in the previous 15 years, there’s been way more change in our roster. Just being able to read and react to that situation and make the most of it. … We’ll get a call: “Hey, so-and-so is coming up today.”
“You hang up the phone, make sure that individual is taken care of, and then it’s re-rack the rest of the deck and let’s go. What happens with your special teams? What happens with your line combinations? What happens with your defensive pairs?”
How has Tucson as a city lived up to your expectations? Is there anything you didn’t realize coming in — restaurants, scenery, activities — that you’ve taken to?
A: “You always hear about the southwest being an excellent place to live. And when you’re in hockey, you tend to find yourself in cold-weather regions where there’s still snow on the ground from a month ago. But being here through the course of the winter, you find a lot of energy with the sun and the weather that you can build on coming to the rink. My family loves the area. … I love to get on my bike.
“There are unbelievable trails. The weather, I thought would turn at some point in the winter and I wouldn’t be able to get on my bike, but I find my way to that bike in the afternoon most days we don’t play. The trail is basically right outside my condo. Usually every place I’ve ever been you’re kind of locked in where outside is not an option, but not here.”
This team has had a different coach all three of its seasons. But do you plan to be back with the Coyotes’ organization and the Roadrunners next year?
A: “Yeah, absolutely. My wish and desire is to be back next year. That’s probably more of a question for Steve Sullivan than for me (laughing).”