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. This morning we profiled assistant coach Gary Shuchuk and this afternoon we stay in the midwest to profile a Copper Country native: Green Bay Gamblers Coach Pat Mikesch.
The name Mikesch is well-connected with Copper Country hockey history. Look at the picture of the first national championship team in 1962 and you’ll see Robert Mikesch in the back row. Following the Huskies in the early nineties meant watching his sons Pat and Jeff put on Huskies sweaters. Pat would continue on for 8 years as a player in the AHL, ECHL and German leagues. His coaching career started with returning home to the MacInnes and serving for seven years under Jamie Russel before moving on to his current team in Green Bay. After three years as an assistant he was promoted to head coach where he’s lead the Gamblers to a 89-72 record over the last years.
College: Michigan Tech
Birthplace: Hancock, Michigan
Current Position: Head Coach, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Mikesch was a member of the Hancock High School team before going to the Midget AAA Electricians in Marquette. He then spent two years in the USHL as a member of the Des Moines Bucaneers, winning the Clack cup in 1992 before moving home to the Keweenaw to play for the Huskies.
His freshman year of 1992-1993 saw Tech in the top half of the WCHA standings for first time in five years and he was named to the all rookie team. While Tech didn’t finish that high again while Mikesch was playing, they did go to the Final Five in three of the four years, losing to Minnesota in the final with him as the caption in his senior year. A prolific playmaker, he is number six all-time in assists with 112 and seventh in points with 169.
After a bit of a journeyman career as professional player that took him from Kentucky to Germany, he settled into coaching as he returned home to be an assistant coach back in Houghton. With results on the ice leaving a bit to be desired while Mikesch was a member of the staff at Tech, there were a few bright spots. Following the head coaching change, his next stop was with the Green Bay Gamblers as Associate Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel. Now, with him as the Head Coach and General Manager, the Gamblers organization he leads has proved to be a good developmental step for players with two first-round NHL draft picks in the Schultz brothers and many college commits.
Mikesch has recently shown that he is capable of leading a team in Green Bay with an over-fifty percent winning record as head coach. An NCAA-level job would be a step up from the USHL, and a chance to continue the upward trend for the Huskies has to be appealing for the Hancock native. He is well connected to the USHL after spending the last six years there, so he wouldn’t need to make new recruiting contacts in that league. He knows the area well, knows what it takes to succeed academically and athletically at MTU, and has the family history that makes him an attractive choice to keep the Huskies moving forward with a look toward a long-term coach.
It’s not his first opportunity to coach in the MacInnes and the standings speak for themselves; there’s no need to dwell on those. The style of play recently has changed from a heavily defensive approach under Russell to the more attractive, more entertaining, and frankly more successful offensive flowing style under Pearson. Would a return to Houghton from Mikesch mean move back to a defensive-heavy game?
Second chances don’t come often in the coaching world. And while Mikesch would most likely bring stability to the coaching position—if his performance warrants it—compared to others profiled it’s tough to move past the on-ice performance of teams during his time as an assistant. Can he rise above that past and carry the Huskies forward? It’s certainly an option worth exploring.
Feature image courtesy of Michigan Tech Athletics