Bob Prier, the former associate men's hockey head coach at St. Lawrence University, was formally introduced as the new head coach at Princeton University in an emotional press conference on Tuesday.
Watch the press conference:
Prier choked back tears several times during his opening statements in thanking Princeton and its athletic department, while also acknowledging the friendship and tutelage of SLU head coach Joe Marsh, under whom Prier was an assistant for nine seasons.
"It was emotional because of the friendships that my family and I are leaving behind," Prier said of the press conference in a phone interview. "Certainly the relationships with the Marshes and the Hurlbuts. I'm going to miss that terribly."
Marsh and Prier shared a close bond outside of the coach's office. Prier visited Marsh daily, sometimes even bringing him dinner, while the 26-year head coach recovered from a medical procedure that sidelined him for four games last season. Prier called Marsh before and after practices the coach couldn't make, they'd golf together in the summer and each cherished the relationship.
"It was extremely hard," Prier said of his decision to leave St. Lawrence. "It's not an easy thing to do. I've been there a long time. (My family) has a lot of great, great friends in town. I know (Marsh) is going to find a fantastic replacement for me. Whoever that person ends up being is extremely lucky."
Marsh trusted Prier with the development of St. Lawrence's lauded freshmen and as a top recruiter. That experience made Prier an attractive head coaching pick to Princeton, where Prier once served as an assistant. His decision to leave SLU despite the likelihood of one time taking over the St. Lawrence program came only because he was ready to be a head coach and did not want to wait for Marsh's retirement.
"It was strictly that," Prier said. "The timing was perfect for me. I have an understanding of how Princeton University hockey works. I was fortunate that I was prepared. (Marsh) has had a lot of assistants move on. I'm fortunate to be one of those and I think that's a testament to what people think of Joe Marsh."
Prier is now the second current ECAC head coach, joining Don Vaughn at Colgate, as one of Marsh's former assistants. He succeeds Guy Gadowsky at Princeton after Gadowsky left to head Penn State's new hockey program just two weeks ago. Gadowsky, still in good standing with Princeton, left three Princeton-colored ties, a watch and a note of congratulations written on a whiteboard to welcome Prier.
"It made (my wife) Lorenda cry," Prier said of the gesture. "It was incredible. It shows what type of person he is."
This is Prier's first head coaching opportunity. He has been a volunteer assistant at Denver, a full-time assistant at Princeton and an associate head coach at St. Lawrence.
Prier will return to Canton this week to prepare for his family's move Princeton and, of course, visit with his friend and mentor, Joe Marsh.
"Joe and I have talked an absolute ton in the last few days," Prier said. "I think that our relationship will certainly still be strong. We'll continue to remain very, very close friends."