History says Chris Baudo knows a little bit about building a hockey program from down-and-out to outstanding.
When he took over as boys hockey coach at The Gunnery prep school in Washington, Connecticut, the team was coming off a 1-21 season. By his third year, the team finished over .500.
When he left the post following the 2014-15 season, the Highlanders were coming off their seventh consecutive 20-win season and they had reached the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council’s elite 8 five times in six years.
Now it’s on to the next challenge, only this time he starts from scratch.
The 36-year-old Baudo, who grew up in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, has been hired as head coach of the girls prep-school program, Selects Academy, at Bishop Kearney.
The Under-16 team, with a target roster of 20 players, will begin play in September. The Under-18 team will start the following school year.
Baudo isn’t looking to merely be competitive, either. When girls from across the country choose to attend the Kearney boarding school in Irondequoit, they’ll be coming to win.
“We are expecting to be an elite option right away,” he said.
Selects Academy is a joint venture between Kearney and Legacy Global Sports, an events and player-management company based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Baudo is still at The Gunnery. He will serve as assistant head of school, dean of students until the end of the current academic year. But he also is on the recruiting trail, looking for freshmen and sophomores to fill the Selects Academy roster.
The program will be about hockey and academics, he says.
“In our world (of boarding-school hockey), it’s sometimes hockey-heavy or academics-heavy,” Baudo said. “This is the best of both worlds. What appealed to me were the values, the holistic point of view as students, as people, as leaders. No family wants to sacrifice academics.
“But then from the hockey end, this will help the girls achieve their goals. They will have prime exposure and the program will mirror the lifestyle of NCAA student athletes.”
In accepting the job at Kearney, Baudo and his wife, Shannon, get closer to their families. Shannon, an Oswego native, is already in Rochester, working as director of enrollment management and financial aid at Allendale Columbia.
“We have 4 ½-year-old twins and we want them to grow up around their grandparents, and aunts and uncles, and cousins,” Chris Baudo said. “We will always love The Gunnery but family means everything.”
For Kearney, it’s quite a score for the upstart program.
“Somebody’s looking out for us,” said school president Steve Salluzzo. “He gives us instant credibility.”
Legacy Global Sports will lead the recruiting efforts. Baudo said there has been interest from players in California, Arizona and Florida, “and I’m really excited about the population in the upstate New York area.”
The Kearney schedule will have about 60 games and will include other prep schools, high-level club teams and showcase events, Baudo said. The team will be at their home rink (Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex in Brighton) about eight or nine weekends between the season that will run from September to March.
The unused third floor at Kearney is being remodeled to house the players. The space was once a home for teachers.
The cost of tuition hasn’t been finalized, Salluzzo said. “It will be in line with other boarding schools.”