BELOIT—After 10 years as an assistant under four different hockey head coaches, James Hoey is excited about the opportunity to run his own show.
The 41-year-old Beloit Memorial Social Studies teacher was hired recently as head coach of the Purple Knights hockey program. He succeeds Kurt Buchs, who stepped down due to health issues.
The opportunity came as a huge surprise, said Hoey, who was vacationing over the weekend on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.
“This all happened less than a month ago,” Hoey said. “Kurt texted me and wanted to meet. I figured it was to talk about the coming season. Then he told me he was going to step down due to his health situation. It was a total surprise. He had put in a lot of time over the spring and summer to get ready for the coming season.”
While disappointed Buchs is stepping down, Hoey is excited about continuing to rebuild the program.
“Since the 2016-17 season, where we made it to the sectional finals, we have struggled,” Hoey said. “I hope we can keep the staff together and keep building on what Kurt started.”
He has Buchs’ full support.
“One of the most important things is that James is a guy of very high character who will represent the program well,” Buchs said. “He is highly respected by other coaches in the conference. That is just as important as the results on the ice sometimes. He has familiarity with all the players and they respect him, too.”
Hoey has been an assistant in the program since the 2009-10 season.
“My first season of coaching, none of the coaches on the hockey staff were teachers,” he said. “The AD, Steve Ferger, came to me because he knew I had a son involved with the BYHA and asked me if I would be an assistant. They wanted someone on the staff who worked in the schools. I agree to do it and I’ve been involved for 10 years now.”
Edwards was head coach in 2010-11 (when the Knights were 15-8-0), followed by Otis Johnson for a season, Witting for another and Buchs from 2013-14 on.
“The numbers thing has really hurt us,” Hoey said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m very excited about the coming year. We should have 31 to 35 skaters. We have a jayvee schedule set up for the first time in a few years. Kurt has really tried to focus on building up the youth program and getting more City of Beloit kids involved in youth hockey.”
Hoey said he has assistants with outstanding hockey backgrounds in mind for his staff, but nothing is official yet. He expects Buchs to be a valuable asset as well.
“Kurt said he won’t be a stranger,” Hoey said. “He has a strong connection with the team and we’ll continue to use his knowledge. I’m sure he’ll be around the rink.”
Hoey takes over with COVID-19 having already impacted the hockey season.
“It’s a strange time to be taking over a program,” Hoey said. “The WIAA just met Friday and released a new time frame for high school sports. They pushed us back and the season will also end a little sooner, although we can still play 24 games if we want. My goal will be to get the team prepared just like we were having a normal season.”