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FORMER GOLDEN EAGLE TO COACH THE BRUINS

Rick Bowness didn't need much time to decide whether to take the job as head coach of the Boston Bruins.

"He was a tough negotiator," joked former Bruins coach and current assistant general manager Mike Milbury. "It took us at least 31/2 minutes to work things out."Bowness, named the Bruins' new coach on Tuesday, said it really took him less time than Milbury's estimate to decide.

"The negotiations were tough only because he was having a tough time getting his daughter in the bathtub and I was doing my son's school project. That's why it went on for 31/2 minutes," Bowness said. "The actual negotiations took about 20 seconds."

Bowness replaces Milbury, who coached the Bruins for two seasons before moving into the front office last week.

Bowness, 36, coached the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate in Maine for the past two years, posting a 65-72-23 record.

Bowness was team captain of the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in 1979-80 (Salt Lake's second CHL Adams Cup championship season). He also played for Salt Lake in 1978-79.

Milbury and team president and general manager Harry Sinden introduced Bowness as the team's 19th coach at a news conference Tuesday.

"We're very excited about this situation," Sinden said.

Milbury said he chose Bowness partly because he had worked with many of the team's present players. Twenty-one of the 39 Bruins who played this past season played under Bowness in Maine.

"I know all of the young players coming up from Maine, and having worked with Mike in training camp and during the playoffs, I've gotten to know quite a few of the players," Bowness said. "I know their roles, I know their capabilities. That gives me a big step forward before the start of the season, knowing the personnel."

Milbury said Bowness' link to the Bruins and his previous experience were not the only considerations.

"He's got a tremendous background already," Milbury said. "But he also has a tremendous presence. The players look up to him."

Milbury led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup finals in 1989-90, when they lost in five games to Edmonton. This past season, the Bruins lost in the Wales Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bowness said he probably would follow Milbury's coaching style, but he didn't want to be labeled.

"I don't like labels. I'm not going to sit here and say I'm a defensive coach because those labels stick with you," Bowness said. "Like any other coach, you want your team to work hard, you have to play good defense in order to win and you have to be able to play offense."

Bowness said his focus this coming season likely would be on offense. He said the Bruins' defense was "one of the best in the league, and we're going to keep it that way."

Bowness had a nine-year pro career as a player after being selected by Atlanta in the second round of the 1975 amateur draft. He played for Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis and Winnipeg, accumulating 18 goals and 37 assists in 173 NHL games.

He began coaching as a player-assistant with Sherbrooke of the AHL in the 1982-83 season. In 1983 he retired as a player and became an assistant coach with Winnipeg.

"I knew my career was winding down so I started to pay a lot of attention to the coaches I played for. I was fortunate to play for a lot of good coaches and I learned a lot of things from them, both good and bad," he said.

In 1987, Bowness was named coach of the Moncton Hawks, Winnipeg's AHL affiliate, and posted a 55-65-13 record until leaving to become interim head coach for the Jets in February 1989. The next season he took the head post with the Mariners.

Milbury said the other candidates he considered were Bruins assistant coaches Ted Sator and Gordie Clark. He said Bowness was an attractive choice because of his enthusiasm.

"It became clear to me that he (Rick) was welcoming the challenge," Milbury said. "That's the kind of thing you look for when choosing a new coach."