MACON, Ga. — Like any coach in any sport, there’s a noticeable level of excitement for Kevin Kerr, the newly named head coach of the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits following three seasons in the same role with the Macon Mayhem as he moves up a level in the minor league hockey ranks.
During that time, Kerr built the franchise from the ground up, guiding the Mayhem to the President’s Cup title a year ago and an overtime loss stopping Macon from playing in the finals for the second year in a row.
Suffice to say, Kerr has a lot of fond memories of Macon, even as he departs with Leo Thomas now at the helm for the Mayhem.
“My dad always taught me to try to leave places better than I found it,” Kerr said. “We had a great run there, and now with Leo stepping in, it’s in good hands. He’ll do fine and will recruit a good team and continue pushing a good pace in Macon
As far as the wins and losses go, year one for Kerr with the Mayhem pales compared to the past year. Three years ago, Macon was 24-27-5 with 53 points as the Mayhem scraped into the playoffs as the eighth seed. A season ago, Macon was 37-13-6 with a league-best 80 points with this past season’s record being 33-16-7, a second place finish with 73 points.
For Kerr, however, he quickly points to the foundation laid within the franchise in that first year with the Mayhem. That included veteran experience from Curtis Megginson and goalie Garrett Bartus who was called up as high as the AHL last season.
“Obviously we had a lot of really good people come through the organization, even in the first year – Curtis Megginson, Lucas LaBelle, Shawn Skelly and MIke Montrose, guys who were good people. Jared Rush, even though he was only with us for a short time, we had a lot of really good people there,” Kerr said. “Obviously, Garrett Bartus was there in year one. We traded for Jake Trask, Nick Grosso… Jeff Sanders was there for three years. That first year, we struggled, but we had good people. You can’t be successful without surrounding yourself with good people. We tried to recruit good people and high character guys.”
There was also a level of satisfaction from Kerr on the additional players that were not only brought into Macon over his tenure, but the way in which he was able to mold them into a championship squad as they responded to the challenges laid out by the Mayhem coaching staff.
“Obviously, we won the championship and had guys like Matt Summers, the list goes on and on with guys like Matt Johnson and Mark Rivera. Just so many great people I’ve been fortunate to work with and recruit,” Kerr said. “Just being with them every day, me yelling at them and them responding. The fondest memory is probably, we had one game when we were down against Mississippi I think, 3-2 going in the third period. I wasn’t really happy with the way we were playing. Collin MacDonald sticks his head in my office is like, ‘Kerrsy, don’t worry. We’ve got this.’ And I was like, ‘you guys better have this.’ I think that night in the first five minutes of the third, I didn’t say a word on the bench and we scored something like five goals and beat them 7-3. It was just a special group of players, even this year and being that to going back to back.”