"If (the players) can look in the mirror and say they did their best, then that's fine," said Holmgren, who held a brief news conference at a Cherry Hill hotel. "I can look in the mirror and say I did my best."
But there was no rancor in Holmgren's first public comments since his firing as the Flyers' coach Wednesday morning. What he said, he said without adornment, and without bitterness in his voice, although he said that, yes, he was bitter.
He quietly disagreed with management's assertion that the 24 games it had given him to make this new team a winner were enough.
"I don't think 24 games is enough time," he said. "Obviously, they do, and they call the shots."
"I was hurt," Holmgren said of his reaction to the firing. "There was bitterness, I guess. But I'm a big guy. I can handle it. We knew it was going to take some time. I sat and talked with Russ (Farwell, the general manager) about that it was going to take some time."
Regrets? Holmgren said he had none.
"If I had to do it over again, I'd do it exactly the way I did it," Holmgren said. "I think it's a young team that is only going to get better with time. Patience has to be part of the solution right now. There have been a lot of changes, and there are a lot of young kids there right now that are very good foundations to build on."
Farwell said Wednesday that he had offered Holmgren a job with the Flyers. Farwell wasn't specific, but the offer probably was for a job in the scouting department. Holmgren said it was too soon after the firing to consider his future, but he did say that he had never scouted before. He said his first inclination was to find work elsewhere as a coach, but his first priority was to spend time with his family.
"I don't know them very well," he said.
Word of Holmgren's firing traveled fast. Bob Clarke called Holmgren from Minnesota, where Clarke is the general manager of the North Stars. He did not offer a job, Holmgren said.
Several of the Flyers' players also called their former coach to express their regret. Ed Snider, the team's majority owner, called when Holmgren was not at home. Holmgren said he had not spoken with Jay Snider, the team's president.
Holmgren said Farwell called him at about 8 a.m. Wednesday to break the news, but Holmgren missed the call because he was jogging. He got the message when he returned home, then drove from his house in Laurel Springs to the Flyers' offices in Voorhees.
Holmgren's meeting with Farwell was brief, Holmgren said. According to Holmgren, Farwell explained that he didn't like the direction the team was heading in, and that he didn't see any hope of turning it around without a new coach.
Holmgren didn't put up much of an argument. He cleaned out his desk, then
went to the Spectrum to clean out his desk there and say some goodbyes. Then he went home for a while.
"Then I got lost," he said.
Holmgren said he didn't think the uneasy situation he was in during his last few games affected his coaching. He said he felt that he got the most out of his players during his three-plus seasons as the coach, but conceded that they had been playing poorly in the days before Farwell made his move.
Holmgren said he got an inkling that Farwell was considering a change before Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The Flyers had just lost to the Penguins, 9-3, the day before, and Farwell spoke of having to reverse the team's fortunes immediately.
After that, Farwell said nothing about changing coaches until the decision was announced. Holmgren yesterday endorsed his successor, Bill Dineen. "I think it's a good choice," Holmgren said.
And what did Holmgren plan to do last night, while his old team was playing its first game under a new coach?
"I'll probably watch the game," he said.
Then he walked out.