Jason Tapp, someday, wants to be a college hockey head coach.
That someday may not be that far away.
Tapp, the former Union associate head coach and current Dartmouth associate head coach, has expressed interest in applying for the Union College men’s hockey head coaching position. The college is searching for a new head coach following Rick Bennett’s resignation on Jan. 28 after an allegation about his coaching style and practices was substantiated through an investigation by the college. John Ronan is serving as the interim head coach through the remainder of the season.
Tapp will be back at Union on Saturday when the Big Green face the Dutchmen in the ECAC Hockey regular-season finale for both teams at Messa Rink.
In an interview this week with The Daily Gazette, Tapp said he has yet to apply for the head-coaching job at Union.
“…And it’s not for lack of interest,” Tapp said. “Obviously, Union’s a great place and I have fond memories, and it’s a great academic institution and you work with good people. And, now, with scholarships coming up and the possibility of a new rink, obviously it’s a very attractive job. There will be a ton of qualified applicants. It’s a really good job.”
Tapp spent nine years as an assistant coach/associate head coach under Bennett. The team went to the Frozen Four in 2012 and 2014, winning the NCAA title in 2014. Tapp was a volunteer assistant coach at Union under head coach Nate Leaman from 2009 to 2011. Tapp left Union shortly after the end of the 2019-20 season to join new Dartmouth head coach Reid Cashman’s coaching staff.
“I just haven’t [applied] just because we’re trying to build something here [at Dartmouth], and our seniors have been invested in our team and invested in what we’re trying to build, and I didn’t think it was fair,” Tapp said. “I certainly do have interest and obviously would love the opportunity to interview for the job, but I didn’t think it was fair to our group for all they sacrificed, and it’s been a challenging year for us. To be half in, half out while [Dartmouth’s] season is going on and with everything that [the Big Green players] have done for us and for our group [that wouldn’t be OK with me]. That might put me behind the eight ball for the Union job, and I’m OK with that.”
Cashman, a former standout defenseman at Quinnipiac from 2003 to 2007 and later an assistant coach there, has been impressed with Tapp. Although they have been together for two years, this is the first season they’ve had a chance to coach the Big Green, as Dartmouth was one of eight ECACH teams that sat out last season due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Not playing last season gave Cashman an opportunity to get to know Tapp better, and Tapp helped reintroduce Cashman to college hockey after spending four seasons as an assistant coach in the Washington Capitals organization.
“It was huge for us, for him and I in particular, because not only that not having the season, but we couldn’t recruit,” Cashman said. “Normally, like this year, he’s on the road all the time; he’s just a tireless recruiter. But because we couldn’t go on the road, we were in the office a lot together. And we’re talking recruiting, and talking coaching and talking how do we want Dartmouth hockey to play.”
Tapp is looking forward to his first visit back to Union. He will watch the senior-night festivities after the game.
“I’ll probably [have] mixed emotions, to be honest with you,” Tapp said. “I’m excited because it’s senior night for those guys, and I have relationships with those seniors [after] knowing them for four, five or six years during the recruiting process and [during] their times at Union, so I’m really excited to be back to see that and I’m going to stick around after and watch senior night.”
Not seeing Bennett behind the Union bench will be strange for Tapp.
“It’s sad, to be honest,” Tapp said. “I know how much he gave to that program and how much he cared about the program and all he sacrificed for the years that we were together and not see him there coaching, it’s going to be difficult for sure. Rick’s been a great friend and a mentor.”