Pyle returns to Evansville to coach SPHL team

Jeff Pyle, who coached the Evansville IceMen to their only winning season in the ECHL during the 2013-14 season, is returning to coach the city’s new Southern Professional Hockey League team.
Team owner Mike Hall expects to announce the name of the hockey franchise within a week.
Pyle, who coached in the ECHL for 13 seasons and in the American Hockey League for one season, has more than 500 wins in minor league hockey. The IceMen finished his only season as head coach of the franchise with a 31-30-11 record but just missed out on earning a playoff berth. Overall, he has a 482-339-97 record in 13 seasons in the ECHL, including a 36-36 record in nine playoff appearances. He was 31-40-5 in his only season coaching the AHL’s Texas Stars in 20-11-12.
Pyle, 57, was dismissed by IceMen owner Geary after disagreements on how best to run the operations side of the franchise. He has been given assurances by Hall that he will have input in front office decisions but Hall intends to run the business side of the franchise.
Hall, who has been a season-ticket holder with the IceMen, became friends with Pyle during his previous stop in Evansville. When Hall began exploring the option of bringing another hockey team to town after lease negotiations for the Ford Center between the city and Geary broke down, Pyle was one of Hall’s primary consultants.
The more they talked, the more Pyle became interested in returning to Evansville.
“I just liked the idea of building a team and getting to work with people that you like,” said Pyle. “It’s a great market. A great building … I just wanted to help Mike keep a team in Evansville.
“I’d like to see if we can really tap this market. I think if we win and we work hard and put a product out there that is all about the players, the sponsors and the fans, it could really take off. It is a hockey town.”
Geary has announced he is moving the ECHL franchise to Owensboro, Kentucky, but the franchise will not operate next season because of the lack of a suitable facility. Geary’s plans to expand the Sportscenter to accommodate hockey, and then take ownership of the arena, will require more time and cost more than originally projected. Owensboro is now also exploring the option of building a new arena.
Hall said the thing he liked about Pyle from the start is how he allowed him and other fans to be around the team as much as possible.
“I believe I was one of the first people he met when he got here,” said Hall. “He was just kind of blue-collar; a lot like myself. When I started looking into this, he hooked me up with the right people to talk to … I’ve just been real impressed with him. We’ve been on the same page on everything … We just get along.”

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About Randy Beard

Randy Beard has been at the Courier & Press since 2007 and became the sports editor in 2012. He has previously been a sports editor at the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail and the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat. He began his professional sports journalist career in 1976 and has spent his career primarily covering college sports in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. He's also covered the NFL, the original North American Soccer League and professional tennis and golf. He's covered two Super Bowls, three college football national championship games, dozens of NCAA basketball tournament games, an Olympics, a World Cup and once hung out with soccer legend George Best for two days and sat in a golf cart with Jan Stephenson.

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