Bill Dennehy was an excellent baseball player growing up, helping Springfield College reach the Division 2 College World Series in 1970.
But it was after he arrived at Phillips Exeter Academy shortly thereafter that he began building the career that has landed him in the Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame in the coaches category.
Dennehy coached and taught at Exeter Academy for 42 years, and remains an assistant coach with the boys hockey team. He has coached more than 1,000 games in each of three different sports: soccer, hockey and baseball, and helped advance the careers of scores of young men and women, including Oakland A’s outfielder Sam Fuld of Durham and Division 1 hockey player Russ Bartlett of Windham, among others.
He was a coach first, but one whose door was always open.
“He was very, very approachable,” said Scott Borek, who played hockey for Dennehy at Exeter and is the associate head coach at the University of New Hampshire. “Playing for him was like playing for your older brother. He’s always listened to you. He tried to put people in good situation in the rink and outside the rink.”
Dennehy’s hockey teams went 616-506 before he essentially traded head coach-assistant coach roles with current head coach Dana Barbin in the mid-1990s. They coached Exeter to a New England Division 1 championship in 1999.
“He said to me, ‘You’re younger than me. You have the hockey background. You have to take this now,” said Barbin. “That’s the way he is. He always made me feel, even when I was an assistant, that we were coaching the team together.”
Dennehy arrived in Exeter in the fall of 1971 and, by the 1972-73 season, he began coaching under George Crowe and continued for three seasons. He took over as the head coach for the 1975-76 season and held that position for the next 22 years.
Dennehy coached 14 players who were drafted by NHL teams, including three from New Hampshire: Brian Larouchelle from Manchester, Bartlett and Geoff Koch from Exeter.
He was a demanding coach, who could raise his voice when the situation called for it, but also someone they could look up to. Among the players he guided was his son, Pat who is now the head coach at Choate.
“He’s a tough coach,” said Barbin. “He’s honest and fair and demanding, and the kids love him. He’s got an arm around them when he’s kicking them in the butt.’