Even though he is relatively young, Brett Riley understands two things better than most: hockey and tradition.
The 23-year-old new hockey coach at Albany Academy is the nephew of current Army hockey coach Brian Riley, the president of the American Hockey Coaches Association who will begin his 11th season with the Black Knights in October.
But the tradition doesn’t stop there. Riley’s father, Rob, was the head coach at Army for the previous 18 years, and his grandfather, Jack, was the legendary Army hockey coach for 36 seasons before Rob took over the reins.
“I grew up in West Point and spent my first 15 years there,” said Riley, who takes over for Eric Cavosie. “It’s a very special place. I learned a lot about hockey when I was there.”
Riley, who becomes the youngest head coach in prep school hockey, was a standout prep school player himself at Governor’s Academy, where he earned first-team All-ISL honors as well as the league’s Flood Shield award, given to the most passionate player for the game.
Riley, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder in his playing days, competed on Needham High School’s Division 1 Massachusetts state championship squad and went on to become a playmaking forward on Hobart College’s Division III team.
Since then, he’s been on a lightning-quick mission to learn all facets of the game as coach, administrator and scout. He formed and then became the president/head coach, of Gen3 Hockey, a hockey development school where his father is also on staff.
With Gen3 Hockey’s offshoot Boston Generals Hockey Club, Riley helped 50 players earn college scholarships. He has also been a regional scout for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, as well as an American scout in the QMJHL for the Charlottetown Islanders.
“I played prep school hockey, and my organization dealt with prep school players all the time,” Riley said. “That’s how I heard about the [Albany Academy] job. It sounded like a great opportunity.
“I’ve got a lot of new ideas for the Albany Academy program. I know a lot about the New England Prep School League that they play in, and I’m very familiar with it. I think one of the challenges we will have is to recruit more Capital District players, as well as players from outside the area and in New England.”
“We’ve got to get the word out more about what Albany Academy is all about. We play in an extremely competitive league that sends many players on to colleges and to the pros.
“I plan on implementing some new things here, but I give a lot of credit to everyone who has guided this program over the years.”
Albany Academy athletic director Paul Gallucci said he was thrilled to get a young coach of Riley’s caliber, especially since Cavosie had to move on for family reasons.
“Eric did a great job for us, but he recently moved to Saratoga, and he has two young kids,” Gallucci said. “With all the time commitment we have here with travel, etc., it just got too tough for him. He also has his business to take care of, and it was just too much.
“As far as Brett Riley is concerned, he brings a lot of energy and passion to the job. We are very excited to have him here. Not only will he coach hockey, but he will also be a teacher in our leadership program, and he will help out with modified soccer and lacrosse. Although he’s young, he seems to be on the fast track, and we know he will do well for us here.”
Former Albany Academy hockey coach Dave Rider, who served as the Cadets’ head coach for 26 years and also was the athletic director for seven years, still works with the program at the JV and modified levels. He said he’s heard a lot about the Riley family, and knows Brett will do a good job.
“When we made the decision to move to the New England Prep League in 1996 or 1997, we knew it would be a hard one as far as a lack of publicity and all the travel,” said Rider. “But we also knew that it was a level of hockey that really fit us.
“One of our goals as a hockey program was to send some players to area college hockey programs, and we did that this year with Colin Stevens, who although he didn’t graduate with us did attend our school, and Jeff Taylor. They both had a chance to play for the national champions. Next year, Tyler Hynes will play for Union.
“We like where our hockey program is right now, and I’m sure Brett will do a great job, just like Eric Cavosie did before him.”