Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Stirling promoted to Islanders

The New York Islanders have relieved Peter Laviolette of his duties as head coach and promoted former Bridgeport coach Steve Stirling to succeed him, the team announced on Tuesday.

Greg Cronin, an Islanders assistant coach the last five seasons, will succeed Stirling as head coach in Bridgeport.

Stirling was The Hockey News' Minor Pro Coach of the Year in 2001-02 after taking the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Last season Bridgeport advanced to the second round after a three-game sweep of Manchester. In his two seasons with the Sound Tigers, Stirling had a record of 83-51-19-7.

He is the fifth AHL head coach to be promoted to the NHL this season, joining Calgary assistant Jim Playfair (Jan. 3), Montreal head coach Claude Julien (Jan. 17), Florida assistant John Torchetti (Mar. 6) and Boston assistant Mike Sullivan (Mar. 19).

"This was a very difficult decision," said Islanders general manager Mike Milbury. "Peter is a very good young coach with an excellent future, and we wish him well.

"We felt a change was necessary for this team to move to the next level and compete for a Stanley Cup. Just making the playoffs is not good enough," continued Milbury. "In Steve Stirling, we are promoting a coach who has developed at the pro level with us during the last six years after an outstanding collegiate coaching career. Our entire organization believed strongly that Steve deserved this chance."

In his six years in the Islanders organization, Stirling spent two seasons as head coach in Bridgeport, three seasons as an assistant in Lowell (AHL) and one as a pro scout. When Lorne Henning served as interim head coach in the 2000-01 season, Stirling was his assistant.

He joined the Islanders after a successful career as a college coach. Under then-athletic director Lou Lamoriello, Stirling coached Providence to the 1985 NCAA Final. Surrounding his two seasons at Providence were two stints as head coach at Babson College where he was twice named Division II/III Coach of the year. His 15-year collegiate head coaching record is 290-129-28. As a player, Stirling was captain of the 1971 NBAA champion Boston University Terriers and played pro with the AHL's Boston Braves and Rochester Americans.

In two seasons with the Islanders, Laviolette led the team to consecutive postseason appearances.

Stirling will be introduced to the media at a press conference on Wednesday.