WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have announced that Head Coach Mark French has resigned from his position with the organization. Derek Army has been named interim head coach.
“It’s never easy to have to make a move of this nature during the course of the season, but we support Mark’s decision to be with his family, and are thankful for everything he did for our organization,” said Nailers President Brian Komorowski. “We are excited to give Derek this opportunity, as he has a phenomenal work ethic and outstanding values on what it means to be a Wheeling Nailer.”
For the past six months, French has been unable to visit with his family, due to strict COVID protocols and border restrictions. After much consideration, he has determined that the best decision is to resign and return home to be with his family in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
“I appreciated my time in Wheeling and the relationships I was able to develop in a short amount of time, but right now, I felt like I needed to put my family first,” French said. “Getting to know Derek as a person and as a coach, I am confident that he will do a great job for the organization.”
Mark was named the 19th head coach in Wheeling history on June 8, 2020, and went on to coach 46 games, as the team compiled a 16-24-6 record, good for 38 points. The Nailers stumbled out of the gates by winning just two of their first 11 games, but have since rebounded to go 6-1-1 in their last eight, which includes a five-game point streak on home ice.
“We appreciate Mark’s contributions to the team, but understand the stress that the pandemic has had on so many,” said Pittsburgh Penguins Manager of Hockey Operations Erik Heasley. “The organization has confidence in Derek Army to fulfill the duties of interim head coach. We will begin to look to add to the coaching staff immediately.”
Army, 30, takes the role of interim head coach, after serving as French’s assistant for the opening 46 games of the season. Derek previously worked as an assistant coach for parts of two seasons with the Worcester Railers, following the end of his four-year professional playing career.
“I’m thankful for every second that I was able to spend with Mark, as I was able to learn about how he handles the players, systems, and situations. There is a reason he has won everywhere he has been. Family comes first, so I support his decision to be with them,” Army said. “I loved being a player here and an assistant coach here, and I especially enjoy being part of this community. I am extremely thankful to Don Rigby, Brian Komorowski, and the Pittsburgh Penguins for giving me this opportunity, and I am excited to take on this next challenge.”
Derek Army will make his debut as the team’s interim head coach on Friday night, when the Nailers play the first of back-to-back road games in Fort Wayne. Wheeling will then host the Komets on Sunday at 4:10.