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Sports >  Spokane Chiefs

Spokane Chiefs coach Adam Maglio takes no shortcuts in leadership approach

UPDATED: Wed., March 24, 2021

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Like so many who played with or coached with Adam Maglio before, Jeff Lynch recognizes that the Spokane Chiefs’ new head coach knows hockey.

He’s played with him, and he’s seen him coach.

“He’s good on the ice,” said Lynch, who captained the Spokane Chiefs in 2005-06 and played with Maglio four years later at the University of British Columbia. “He commands the players. He’s vocal. He calls things out.”

Lynch also knows his friend’s golf game and skiing abilities. He said the way Maglio plays golf is a good indicator of the kind of person he is.

“His golf game, it’s similar to his life and coaching career,” Lynch said. “Consistent, makes the right putt, (shoots) a 79 or 80. No flash or big drive. Just very consistent, par, par, par.”

Same goes on the slopes.

“He’s a good skier, too,” Lynch said. “Doesn’t take any risks. Very calculated. Just works his way down the mountain.”

As a hockey player, Maglio was rarely relied on to score much. The year Lynch captained the Chiefs, for example, Maglio played a few hours’ drive north in the Kootenay International Junior B League and scored a career-high 17 goals for his hometown Nelson Leafs.

At every stop of his career – his stop in China notwithstanding – Maglio was a role player, filling in the fourth line up front or in one of the defensive pairings in back.

“I saw the passion and how badly he wanted to play,” said Milan Dragicevic, a former Chiefs player who coached Maglio at UBC. “He wasn’t the player that was in your first three lines, but what he did was he understood the roles that a player like him could (fill).

“Whether he played 5 minutes or 15 minutes a night, he was a key player for us.”

Now that key player has become the youngest head coach in the Western Hockey League. On Friday – nearly seven months after he was promoted from associate head coach – the 34-year-old Maglio will coach the Spokane Chiefs in their home opener at the Spokane Arena.

To those who’ve played with him and coached with him, it is no surprise that Maglio is in this spot at a relatively young age.

“He’s worked very hard and been very dedicated since he stopped playing himself. His attention to detail, the camps he’s (been to) and the courses he’s taken,” Lynch said. “He loves the game. I’m definitely not surprised he’s there.”

‘A student of the game’

Brian Grady was hired at Morrisville State in New York just as the program was making the jump from the junior college ranks to Division III, in 2007. It was then he met Maglio, a 5-foot-10 defenseman who could also play forward.

“He was an excellent student in the classroom,” said Grady, who spent five seasons at Morrisville and whose father coached college hockey for nearly 45 years. “(Maglio) always talked about wanting to get into hockey as a profession, either on the coaching or the management side. He was such a student of the game, very cerebral, and had a great mind and feel for it.”

At Morrisville, Maglio played in 34 games over two seasons and scored one goal while assisting on six others.

The following season, in 2009-10, he returned to western Canada and enrolled at the University of British Columbia, where he went on to earn a degree in economics with minors in business and kinesiology. He redshirted for a year and then played in nine games over the next two seasons, from 2010 to 2012.

“I start with his attitude. He works hard in practice, works hard in games, respectable, well-liked. He definitely fit in great with the team,” Lynch said. “He wasn’t our leading scorer by any means, but he was very versatile.”

Maglio admits that he was “an average player” at UBC, and that he was self-aware enough to realize where his strengths were.

“I put a lot of effort into trying to learn systems, tactics and also how to be a really good leader,” Maglio said. “I certainly think at that time I thought, ‘Yeah, (coaching) is something I wanna do down the road, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.’ ”

Dragicevic appreciated how Maglio, by then an older player, could see the bigger picture and how everyone could play a crucial role on a team.

“When you’re 22, 23, you can see things a little more clearly than you can as a 17-, 18-year-old,” Dragicevic said. “He understands the roles of hockey. He understood his role.”

Dragicevic saw, for example, that Maglio was good at helping first-year players adjust to life as a college student-athlete. Maglio’s ability to relate to others is something that has helped him as a coach, too.

“You try to help them not just as a hockey player, but more importantly you help them as people,” said Dragicevic, who is now the U-18 Prep Head Coach at Delta Academy in the Vancouver area. “That’s the biggest shift that I saw from being a player in juniors in Spokane or Regina. Everything was just about being the hockey player back then. Now you have to coach everything – on the ice, off the ice, their academics, everything.”

After playing two years in the China Ice Hockey League with the Hong Kong Tycoons – he led them in scoring one year and ranked third on the team the next – Maglio returned to UBC in 2014 as an assistant coach under Tyler Kuntz, who took over for Dragicevic that year.

On the strength of Kuntz’s recommendation the following year, Maglio was hired as an assistant with the Prince George Spruce Kings under head coach Chad van Diemen.

The Spruce Kings play in the British Columbia Hockey League, a Junior A league one step below the WHL. Prince George is a long way from its opponents: The Merritt Centennials are the closest, a 6½-hour drive south.

“Up in P.G., it’s a lot of long bus rides,” van Diemen said.

After bottoming out with a 14-38-6 record their first season there, in 2015-16, van Diemen and Maglio got the Spruce Kings going a bit more the following season, winning 11 more games.

“The first year was growing pains, change, and change takes time in hockey,” van Diemen said. “There were some long road trips, but you go through it, and the next year was a lot more enjoyable.”

When van Diemen left after the 2016-17 season, Maglio took over as head coach. The Spruce Kings went 33-17-8 his first season, and a year later won the 2019 BCHL championship for the first time in team history, largely with a corps of players who came in two seasons earlier.

“His two years there, pretty impressive,” van Diemen said of Maglio. “He did an outstanding job.”

The Chiefs hired Maglio as Manny Viveiros’ associate head coach before the 2019-20 season. Maglio said he learned a lot from Viveiros – who is now head coach of the Henderson Silver Knights in the American Hockey League – in their year together.

“He’s fantastic with the players, his patience, how he treats parents, how he motivates players is second to none,” Maglio said.

He also said he admires Viveiros’ mindset, and how he’s “never too high, never too low.”

Maglio is happy to be a head coach again, but he said his growth process isn’t over by any means.

“I think that’s a key to coaching, regardless, even last year being an assistant or a head coach, you wanna grow,” Maglio said. “We ask our players to grow and as a coach you’re always reflecting on past moments and times to get better.”

‘No shortcuts’

To Chiefs players who knew him last year, which is most of them, Maglio isn’t that different as head coach, Adam Beckman said, except perhaps that he is a bit more stern.

“As an assistant coach, it’s a little bit different, a little bit more of a buddy,” Beckman said. “Mags does a pretty good job of that, but also finding a good balance of being a leader and really leading by example and pushing us, and being someone we can relate to.”

In some ways, Beckman is exactly the type of player Maglio was not: the team’s leading scorer, an NHL prospect and someone the puck just seems to find.

But Maglio has some key strengths that his mentor coaches said have made him an effective coach, particularly at this time in the sport. He can talk to players. They trust him, and they see him working hard.

“If you’re gonna be demanding of your players, you’ve got to be demanding of yourself,” van Diemen said. “That’s how you gain their respect, and with Adam (Maglio), players respect him because he puts in the work.”

Maglio’s rise through the coaching ranks has been a relatively fast one, and he admitted that for players and coaches, the WHL is a development league. If Maglio is to follow the path of his two most recent predecessors, he might not be in Spokane long.

Lynch, for his part, looks at the job Maglio did in Prince George and predicts he’ll do a great job in Spokane, too. He expects Maglio will follow the same, consistent progression that helps him navigate a golf course or a ski mountain.

“He does things the right way,” Lynch said. “No shortcuts.”

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