It’s been only one week since the University of Michigan formally introduced Mel Pearson as their new head coach. That same day WCHA meetings began in Florida, followed later that week with the AHCA meetings. That was a great opportunity for Michigan Tech Athletic Director, Suzanne Sanregret to chat with some potential candidates in a low key way and gauge interest from assistants and head coaches throughout the country.
While we have no idea who Sanregret or anyone else attached to the coaching search spoke with, we’ve tried to profile some of the big names with school connections (for the most part) over this fist week.
We started with Bill Muckalt, who’s currently the Head Coach of the Tri-City Storm (USHL) and was Mel Pearson’s first phone call after his hire. Bill spent 4 years as Mel’s top assistant before leaving for Tri-City and immediately leading them to a championship. For more info check out our Muckalt profile, The Protégé.
We followed that up with Ron Rolston, who currently has 1 year left on his contract with the Arizona Coyotes after not making the move with their AHL affiliate to Tucson. There is an unsubstantiated rumor that Rolston is the frontrunner, and it’s his job if he wants it. According to a THG source, Rolston had no contact with Michigan Tech as of last Wednesday. For more info check out our Rolston profile, The Thoroughbred.
Last Thursday we discussed Cam Ellsworth, who is currently the top assistant at UMass Lowell, where he’s been a part of Norm Bazin’s extreme makeover of the River Hawks. While Cam doesn’t have the head coaching experience, the fact that he’s an alum and has been part of such a successful program bodes well for him. CHN’s Joe Meloni even mentioned him as a top candidate. For more info check out our Ellsworth profile, The Young Gun.
Last Friday we discussed Joe Shawhan, the most likely of the two internal candidates. He is currently the longest tenured assistant on the staff with one more year than Gary Shuchuk. Shawhan has had a very decorated career so he certainly should be considered. He did however send out an interesting tweet over the weekend that THG thinks might mean that Shawhan doesn’t really think he’s got a chance to get the job, judge for yourself:
Too late. It was fun my friend. The only thing we left on the table was a National title. Proud we left our mark on the copper country. https://t.co/KAX7sMgT62
— Joe Shawhan (@jrshawha) April 30, 2017
For more info check out our Shawhan profile, The Yooper.
Over the weekend, we profiled our first complete outsider, Seth Appert. While he was recently fired as head coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Appert has Head Coaching experience at the Division 1 level and with an institution with rigorous academic expectations for its athletes. Not many of other coaches have that background. For more info check out our Appert profile, The Veteran.
Update: on May 16th, 2017, Appert accepted the role of head coach at the USNTDP.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) May 16, 2017
Yesterday, we profiled another former Husky player, Davis Payne. While Payne has zero experience coaching either Tier 1 junior hockey or college, his resume is extremely impressive. He managed to play his way into over a dozen NHL games and won the Kelly Cup (ECHL) and lift Lord Stanley’s Cup as an assistant coach for the LA Kings. He currently has two years left on his deal with the Kings who recently cleared house, but sources say he would be willing to listen to Michigan Tech but hasn’t been contacted as of yesterday. For more info check out our Payne profile, The Professional.
Earlier today, we profiled former assistant coach, Damon Whitten. The current head coach of Lake Superior State, Damon has both experience with MTU, many of the players that will be on the team next year, but also as a Head Coach in the WCHA. While his record at LSSU has not been an improvement the replaced Jim Roque, he’s attempted to make major changes in the program and done an outstanding job on the recruiting trail. For more info check out our Whitten profile, The Spartan
Six years when the Huskies went through this process and ended up hiring Coach Pearson, it took 51 days from Russell’s resignation to Pearson’s hiring. As part of that search a committee was formed which included the athletic director, one of the assistant athletic director and two former players. During that process, Michigan Tech interviewed Eric Rud (current SCSU women’s head coach) and Mike Hastings (current Minnesota State head coach) plus they had serious discussion with Dean Blais (former UND and UNO head coach) before circling back to Pearson at the AHCA meetings that just occurred last week. Jim Montgomery (current Denver head coach) was also rumored to have at least spoken with Michigan Tech about the opening.
Those names should give you an indication of what kind of job Suzanne can do when given the financial support of the university and alumni to hire who she feels is best for the job. If she can find someone that compares well to three quarters of the names attached to the last round, the team will be in good hands.
As part of all this process, THG will keep you to date on any news we hear, as well as some of the rumors coming from all over college hockey. While Michigan took only 14 days, NMU took 38 days to make their decision and it seems likely that this will take about a month for the whole process to play out. It is possible that something could be announced this week but with the plethora of potentially viable candidates, Michigan Tech should takes their time and make sure they are informed on who is and is not interested before making a decision.
We’ll continue to provide as much information as we can in our profiles, on twitter, and by updating Where to Begin with any new potential candidates (we just added Keith Fisher, current assistant at Penn State) and links to all the profiles we’ve published so far. We’re doing the best we can but if you think we’re missing someone either as a candidate in general or someone we should profile sooner rather than later, please don’t hesitate to contact our lead writer, Tim Braun at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature image courtesy of Bob Gilreath