Monday, April 25, 2011

Revolving Door

It's one of the items that we touched on in our last posting about a week and a half ago, but even then, we had no idea just how crazy and how fast the coaching carousel would spin... or just how much impact it would have on the ECAC.

Here's the rundown.

Michigan Tech: Still looking for a coach after alum and long-time Michigan assistant Mel Pearson left them at the altar at the very last minute. Much of the most recent talk has been about Nebraska-Omaha associate head coach Mike Hastings, who coached the USHL's Omaha Lancers from 1994 to 2008.

UMass-Lowell: Norm Bazin, the head coach at Division III Hamilton for the last three years, will be the new head coach in Lowell, and the first alum to ever coach the program. Prior to that, he spent eight seasons as an assistant at Colorado College. So the Lowell coach doesn't touch off another search elsewhere, at least not at the Division I level.

Clarkson: If you'd asked me two weeks ago which coach in the ECAC was most likely to lose his job, I'd have told you that it was Harvard's Ted Donato, with the qualifier that he wasn't likely to get the boot. Unfortunately for George Roll, he was the right answer, he lost his job last week without much in the way of an official explanation. We can presume that the three straight losing seasons were more than the alumni, who are used to winning all the time, were willing to tolerate. I'd thought Roll would get at least one more year to turn the team around, especially considering that he brought Clarkson within a goal of playing in the Frozen Four in 2008. A lot of what happened to the team in the last two years was hardly his fault - most notably, a rash of injuries last season and some legal problems for some important recruits.

It's Clarkson's loss, in my view. Roll is a proven winner - it's the ECAC and the college hockey landscape that has changed. It's not going to be easy for Clarkson to be as dominant in the ECAC as they were for decades, but Roll knew what he was doing. The only message this firing sends is to anyone who would have interest in the job. You get very little margin for error.

At any rate, the names that were immediately thrown around are a couple of guys who have been behind the bench in Potsdam before, US Under-18 Team coach Ron Rolston and Cornell associate head coach Casey Jones, but it's worth pointing out that those guys have had their names thrown around for every opening in college hockey since the Clinton administration, including the one at RPI in 2006, regardless of prior links.

And let this be a lesson to the tiny but whiny minority of RPI alums and townies who have been agitating for Seth Appert's head. We've said it about a million times, but it still needs to be said - it's a dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb idea. Uber-dumb.

Providence: Found their man in Union's Nate Leaman. Notably for RPI fans, Ben Barr will follow Leaman from Schenectady to Providence. That begot...

Union: The Dutch wasted no time whatsoever in promoting the associate head coach, Rick Bennett, as soon as the Leaman move became official. Bennett ironically is a Providence alum, who spent five years as an assistant with the Friars before joining Union in 2005 when Paul Pooley was let go. He was promoted to associate head coach in 2007. Hard to say right now what this means for Union but they were clearly comfortable with the idea even before Leaman left, so they must believe he will be able to carry on Leaman's work in Schenectady.

Penn State: All the buzz was on Minnesota-Duluth's Scott Sandelin and Wisconsin women's coach Mark Johnson, but instead, it'll be Guy Gadowsky, the man that brought Princeton hockey back into relevance. Word came out on Easter Sunday that Gadowsky was the choice to become the first varsity hockey coach at Happy Valley, and he was formally introduced today. Therefore...

Princeton: Still too early to tell who might be a candidate for the sudden opening at New Jersey's lone entry in Division I college hockey, and truth be told, the level of fan buzz at Princeton is so generally low that we may not find out much until the process is over unless there's a present coach who ends up in the mix for this one. Eh, why not. How about Ron Rolston or Casey Jones?

Elsewhere: For a short time late last week, there was concern that something was happening at Western Michigan. It was announced that WMU had a press conference ready to go regarding the future of the head coach, which lately has been code for "he's leaving" or "he's getting canned." For Jeff Blashill, however, it was merely a much deserved raise and extension, intriguing especially considering the question marks surrounding WMU and the rest of the CCHA in the light of the pending Big 10 conference, which will likely tear the league asunder.

Also, just to throw this in - interesting story out of Tucson, AZ. Yes, that's right. Leo Golembiewski, who has run a very successful semi-independent club team at the University of Arizona since 1979, may be on his way out. Few people realize that the U of A has a fairly noteworthy club program, known as the IceCats, that draw just as many fans as many ECAC teams do on a regular basis. Golembiewski has been running almost every element of that program for 32 years, but it appears that Arizona is ready to step in and wrest most, if not all, control away. Arizona, to me, has always been an interesting "what if" candidate for Division I expansion given the popularity of the IceCats, so this may bear keeping a semi-interested eye on.

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