DULUTH, Ga. – The Atlanta Gladiators have announced that Jeff Pyle has been named Head Coach and General Manager of Hockey Operations effective immediately.
“To get a coach that has the tremendous resume that Jeff does is very exciting for our organization,” said Gladiators Owner Dan Orlich. “His winning pedigree, coupled with his familiarity to the area and organization, fits perfectly into our plans of getting this team back to being an ECHL powerhouse year in and year out.”
Pyle, 59, returns to the Gladiators organization after spending the last six seasons in various leagues, including a one-year stint as the Head Coach of the Texas Stars of the AHL. The Fort Leonard Wood, MO native spent 13 seasons with the Mobile/Gwinnett franchise, accumulating 436 wins. His 477 overall victories in the ECHL with Mobile, Gwinnett, and Evansville rank him as fourth all-time winningest coach in the league’s 30-year history.
The returning Gladiator’s bench boss replaces Chuck Weber, who recently left the Gladiators upon accepting a position as Assistant Coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. In his only season in Atlanta, Weber returned the Gladiators to the playoffs for the first time in 5 years. The Gladiators are going back to their beginnings with Pyle’s return. His proven leadership as a man who knows how to develop players bodes well for the Gladiators returning to their winning roots.
“Our organization conducted a national search for a new head coach, and received credentials from many qualified candidates,” stated Orlich. “Ultimately it came down to hiring an individual who is a proven leader, with a track record of success in the ECHL.”
Pyle’s best season with the Gladiators was in 2005-06, when he led the team to a franchise best 107 points and a record of 50-15-7. The Gladiators went on to win the American Conference Championship en route to their first, and only, Kelly Cup Finals appearance, eventually losing to the top seeded Alaska Aces in five games. Expectations are high that Pyle’s return to Atlanta will produce these types of winning results again.
“I feel very fortunate to be coming back to the team that I have so much history with, and want to thank Mr. Orlich and Scott Henrichsen for giving me this opportunity,” said Pyle. “I hit it off with Daniel (Orlich) right away as we shared the same vision of reestablishing a culture of success. I am really motivated to make a legit run at a championship, and I feel strongly this is where I belong.”
“We took our time in the hiring process to ensure that we would find a guy to build upon the mission of success we’ve been striving for since Daniel took over as owner,” said Team President Scott Henrichsen. “The plan we envisioned, and put in place, just took a huge step forward by landing one of the best coaches in ECHL history, and one of the men responsible for creating the legacy that we are trying to advance in our 16th season and beyond.”
Most recently, Pyle spent two seasons in Evansville with the SPHL’s Thunderbolts. The veteran coach led the young franchise to their first ever playoffs appearance. The 17-year head coach spent one season with the Evansville IceMen of the ECHL in 2013-14, after his one season stop with the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate in Austin, TX. Pyle started his coaching career in 1998-99 with the Mobile Mysticks, and spent four seasons in southern Alabama before relocating with the franchise to Duluth, GA as they became the Gwinnett Gladiators in 2002.
“I feel as comfortable as I have in a while with in my current situation moving back to Georgia,” added Pyle. “This is a great market with an incredible fan base. They deserve the best, and we as an organization, from not just the hockey side, but the business side as well, are going to work together to do everything we possibly can to produce a championship caliber team that the community can truly be proud of.”
The 16th season of Atlanta Gladiators hockey begins at the Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, October 19th against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:35 PM. For ticket information, visit the official team website at www.atlantagladiators.com or call the main office line at 770-497-5100.
The Gladiators are members of the ECHL, the nation’s premier "AA" hockey league. All home games are played at the 10,867-seat Infinite Energy Arena, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth – where parking is always free. The Gladiators have established an unrivaled commitment to excellence, maintaining a distinctive reputation for affordable and family-friendly sports entertainment and consistently ranked as one of the top “Things To Do” in the Atlanta area and across the North Georgia region.For all the latest team news, contests, and more visit AtlantaGladiators.com, or “like” the Gladiators on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AtlantaGladiators), follow the team on Twitter (www.twitter.com/ATLGladiators), Instagram (www.instagram.com/atlgladiators) or Snapchat (www.snapchat.com) at "gladshockey".