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Graham on Graham

Here’s what Fort Wayne-native Gary Graham, 34, had to tell me, after being hired as the 28th head coach in Komets history today.

He spent four years as an assistant coach with the Komets before leading Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League to a championship last season.

“I feel great. I’m just glad that this part is over. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and I’m eagerly awaiting being able to dive into it. I’m not naïve to the fact of what happened last season, and I’m looking forward to bringing in a faster tempo, younger, hungrier team.

“My four years here, I feel like I brought a lot to the table, and I feel like that opportunity is because of the work that I did and because I was able to go it on my own this past season and have some success. I feel like this was a tryout season for me in a sense. It’s a great organization in Pensacola and I owe them a lot for giving me that opportunity.

“You look back (at moving up from being a high school coach in 2002 to now), and I always never looked at the job and just tried to stay in the moment and move up and to keep improving. It’s something I’m proud of, I’m not going to lie to you, but it’s been a lot of hard work. And I think that’s why players respect me. It’s how hard the road has been for me to get to this point. But it’s a two-way street; I have to respect the players for the hard work they’re doing. We had that last year in Pensacola. We worked hard every day. I’d give them optional practices and they’d still show up.

“The mentality that needs to be here is a commitment to come to practice and get better every day. We will practice with a purpose. There’s nothing that we’ll do that won’t be a direct reflection of preparing for our opponent or working on a deficiency in our game.”

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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