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Coyotes replace Gretzky with former Dallas Stars coach Tippett

GLENDALE, Ariz. - With a four-year contract, new Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett might be the most stable piece in the organization.

The Coyotes are waiting for a judge to decide their next owner. They don't know where they'll play after this season. Ticket sales are so slow that the team slashed prices in a desperate effort to sell out the upcoming home opener.

Despite all that, Tippett agreed on Thursday to coach the downtrodden team. He replaces Wayne Gretzky, who resigned earlier in the day amid the financial turmoil surrounding the club.

"You have to weigh the situation," Tippett said. "But in the end, the intrigue of building a good hockey team outweighs all the off-ice stuff.

"What happens off the ice, we have no control over. We have control over what happens on the ice."

The 48-year-old Tippett spent the last six seasons as coach of the Dallas Stars, compiling a 271-162-59 record.

The Stars made the playoffs each of his first five seasons. But the team missed the post-season last spring, and Tippett was fired in June.

That's right about the time Coyotes general manager Don Maloney had his first inkling that Gretzky might not return for a fifth season behind the bench. Maloney immediately began pursuing Tippett.

"Dave knows the division, he knows the conference, he knows the league," Maloney said. "We're very, very fortunate to be in a situation where we needed a coach and, in my opinion, to get one of the best."

Coyotes players were surprised by Gretzky's departure, but they endorsed Tippett's hiring.

"I'm one of his biggest fans," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said.

Maloney noted that Tippett didn't have to take a job because the Stars were still paying him.

"He had some time left on his contract in Dallas," Maloney said. "He could have been sitting at home, watching Oprah right now."

Instead, Tippett decided he'd rather take over a team with an uninspired past and an uncertain future.

"I've got to say, right when (Maloney) called, I was very intrigued," Tippett said. "I know the team very well from playing against them in the (Pacific) division for so many years. I really like some of their young players. I really think there's some great upside to this group."

Gretzky was nowhere to be found when Tippett, decked out in a brick-red Coyotes warmup suit, was introduced at a Jobing.com Arena news conference shortly after conducting his first practice. The Coyotes open the regular season on Oct. 3 at Los Angeles.

In a departure from team policy, Tippett's first practice was closed to media and fans. He has a lot of work to do to turn around a team that hasn't made the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2002, and whose fan base has dwindled in a crowded desert sports market.

"The chance to come and build something was very exciting to me," Tippett said.

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