Since Red Berenson announced his retirement on two weeks ago today, Michigan Tech fans have been on pins and needles waiting to see what would happen. Mel Pearson spent over two decades under Berenson as an assistant or associate head coach before taking over the Huskies program in the summer of 2011. A lot has changed for the Michigan Tech program in those 6 seasons, but it's still difficult to see a great coach leave your program.
It's ok to be upset, or even mad but it's now time to turn our focus on the future and the future looks bright. The Huskies rival in Marquette managed to hire an up and coming assistant from Minnesota in Grant Potulny. When you compare the status and support of Northern Michigan to Michigan Tech, there is currently little comparison and leads me to believe that quality candidates will be lining up to take over a program that has set the standard, along with Minnesota State, for how to succeed in the WCHA.
We wanted to take a first look at who people in the college hockey sphere have mentioned and who the Tech Hockey Guide staff see as potential candidates. For now we'll keep it simple and dig in deeper over the next week or two as the process unfolds.
The list is long because let's remember that NMU received over 70 applications. Here is the list of potential candidates broken out into some categories.
Former Pearson Assistants:
- Bill Muckalt, current Head Coach at Tri-City (USHL)
- Damon Whitten, current Head Coach at LSSU
- Joe Shawhan, former Head Coach in NAHL
- Gary Shuchuk, former Wisconsin assistant
Former MTU players:
- Cam Ellsworth, former USHL assistant and current assistant coach at UMass-Lowell
- Ron Rolston, former USNTDP, AHL, and NHL Head Coach
- Davis Payne, former ECHL, AHL, and NHL Head Coach
- Pat Mikesch, former assistant at MTU, current Head Coach at Green Bay (USHL)
- Brad Patterson, current Head Coach at Youngstown (USHL)
- Jason McKee, former AJHL Head Coach and current Head Coach at Vancouver (WHL)
- Chris Cichocki, former ECHL Head Coach and current scout at Edmonton (NHL)
- Glenn Merkosky, former OHL and AHL Head Coach and current scout at Detroit (NHL)
Current/former NCAA Assistant Coaches:
- Dane Jackson, current assistant coach at North Dakota
- Keith Fisher, current assistant coach at Penn State
- Ben Barr, current assistant coach at Massachusetts
- Brett Larson, current assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth
- Todd Knott, current assistant coach at Minnesota State
- Jason Herter, current assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth
- Luke Strand, former assistant coach at Wisconsin
- Mike Guentzel, current associate head coach at Minnesota
- Travis Winter, current assistant coach at Bemidji State
- Josh Hauge, current assistant coach at Clarkson
Current/Former NCAA Head Coaches:
- Seth Appert, former RPI Head Coach
- Chris Bergeron, current Head Coach at Bowling Green State
- Mark Osiecki, current assistant coach at Wisconsin and former OSU Head Coach
- Dean Blais, former North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha Head Coach
- Derek Schooley, current head coach at Robert Morris
- Dave Shyiak, current assistant coach at Western Michigan and former UAA Head Coach
- Mike Eaves, current St. Olaf (DIII) Head Coach and former Wisconsin Head Coach
Current Tier 1 Junior Coaches:
- John LaFontaine, head coach at Muskegon
- Jay Varady, head coach at Sioux City and former player/assistant at Union
- Cary Eades, head coach at Fargo and former player/assistant at North Dakota
- Dave Allison, head coach at Des Moines
- Chris Hartsburg, head coach at Lincoln and former player at Colorado College
- Fred Harbinson, head coach at Penticton and former Saint Cloud State assistant
That's a pretty long list all together and some of those names don't seem likely at first pass since they haven't been in coaching for quite awhile (Merkosky and Cichocki), but in the same breath it also seems likely that at least a couple of the NCAA coaches mentioned with no direct connection to MTU would apply. There is one other name to keep an eye on, Dan Bylsma was recently relieved of his duties as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. He was born in Michigan and played college at Bowling Green State.
Beyond a few obvious choices that appear to be front runners. Then again, there seems to be just as much chance that Michigan Tech's next coach could be someone not on this list. Stay tuned to Tech Hockey Guide as we attempt to break down those that we see as the leading candidates while the process plays out into May.
Feature image courtesy of Bob Gilreath
Last Updated: May 19, 2017 11:15 AM Eastern
Special Note: A previous version of this article stated that Dan Bylsma played college hockey at Western Michigan which was incorrect and since has been corrected.