The Tech Hockey Guide staff brainstormed potential candidates and settled on our top picks. Through the next few weeks we will break down potential candidates while discussing pedigree as a player and coach as well as likelihood of being Coach Pearson’s replacement. Yesterday, we broke down "The Protégé," Bill Muckalt. Today we take a look at an alum that has been in coaching since 1990, just two years after he left Michigan Tech as a player.
Ron Rolston is probably the most recognizable name on the list of alumni THG considers a legitimate candidate. He's been a college assistant at four different programs before shifting to the National Team Development Program in the early 2000s and since 2011 the professional ranks in the AHL or NHL. This year he took a step back after the Springfield Falcons were relocated and is the current Academy Advisor for the Rolston Hockey Academy where he works alongside his brother Brian.
Birthplace: Fenton, Michigan
Current Position: Rolston Hockey Academy Advisor, currently still under contract with Arizona (NHL)
College: Michigan Tech
Rolston spent time 13 of his first 15 years post-graduation as a college assistant coach for four different universities, first at Lake Superior State where his team earned a birth in the NCAA tournament all five seasons culminating in two national championships and a runner-up finish. From there he moved to Clarkson for three seasons and saw similar results as the team made the tournament each season while winning two conference titles. Harvard was his next stop where the team struggled initially, but ultimately made the tournament in his final season before a two year stint with Boston College. During his tenure at BC the Eagles made the tournament both y ears and finished third nationally in 2004. The list of college coaches he learned under during this stretch is quite spectacular:
- Jeff Jackson, former Lake Superior State and current Notre Dame Head Coach
- Mark Morris, former Clarkson and current St. Lawrence Head Coach
- Mark Mazzoleni, former Miami and Harvard Head Coach
- Jerry York, former Clarkson, Bowling Green and Boston College Head Coach
All four coaches are among the top 100 all-time in winning percentage and total wins, and Jerry York is the all-time leader in wins among college hockey coaches. If Ron Rolston had spent all 13 collegiate assistant coaching seasons under the same head coach, that hypothetical coach would rank 73rd all-time in wins and 25th all-time in winning percentage. It's pretty easy to see why Rolston was given the chance to lead the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) between 2004 and 2011, alternating between the U-17 and U-18 teams. Rolston led those teams to three gold and one silver medal at the IIHF U-18 Championships in 2005, 2007 (silver), 2009, and 2011. In 2007, he also lead the World Junior Team to a bronze medal, one of only two medals won by Team USA from 1998 through 2009. A team lead by Rolston has never missed a championship game in either of the major USNTDP tournaments, the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, likely the most decorated tenure in USNTDP history.
In 2011 Rolston decided to take a chance at professional hockey and became the Head Coach of the Rochester Americans (AHL). In his only full season with the Americans he turned a 7th place team the year prior into a playoff team finishing second in the North Division. Before he could even finish his second year with Rochester, their NHL affiliate, the Buffalo Sabres came calling after firing Lindy Ruff after only 17 games. Over the rest of that season, Rolston went 15-11-5. The following season, he received a slightly longer leash than Ruff, but was released after only 20 games. After year as a scout, Rolston returned to the AHL with the Springfield Falcons. They finished last in the league and he did not make the move as the team relocated to Tucson.
Rolston has the pedigree and experience to be an excellent coach at any level, the list of players that he helped develop during his time with the USNTDP is a who's who of college's brightest stars over the last decade, including:
- Jason Zucker (Denver)
- Jerry D'Amigo (RPI)
- Kevin Lynch (Michigan)
- Rocco Grimaldi (North Dakota)
- Blake Pietila (Michigan Tech)
- Nick Kerdiles (Wisconsin)
- Jacob Trouba (Michigan)
- Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston University)
- Jordan Schmaltz (North Dakota)
- Phil Kessel (Minnesota)
- Nathan Gerbe (Boston College)
- Jack Skille (Wisconsin)
- Ryan Stoa (Minnesota)
- Chad Rau (Colorado College)
- Taylor Chorney (North Dakota)
- James Van Riesmdyk (New Hampshire)
- Ryan McDonagh (Wisconsin)
- Erik Johnson (Minnesota)
While some might say the job as USNTDP Head Coach is easy because it is full of talent, few did more with what they had than Rolston. That experience, along with his coaching pedigree, and a knowledge of Michigan Tech are all reasons while he should be the near the top of Suzanne's list, especially considering that he is currently not a professional coach.
Ron Rolston ascended the professional coaching ranks quickly after a long stint as a college assistant and USNTDP coach. That rise also led to a pretty hard fall and he may not be ready to return to college at this time. It's also true that a lot has changed in the college hockey landscape since the last time he attempted to recruit a player to a college in 2004. That could be a concern for both Rolston and Michigan Tech.
Ron Rolston seems like an experienced leader that has done some pretty spectacular things as a head coach and learned from some of the best coaches college hockey has ever had throughout his 13 years. His experience as an assistant and head coach at multiple levels is unmatched among the coaches that made our initial list on Monday. Michigan Tech would be lucky to have a coach of with his background as a coach and a respect for the history and tradition that is Michigan Tech hockey and the Copper Country.
Feature image courtesy of United States National Team Development Program