The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 14, 2013

Coaching searches don't always go smoothly; MSU's did


The Mankato Free Press

---- — It's nearly the middle of May, some colleges, including Minnesota State, are done for the spring.

Could you imagine how things would have been a year ago if MSU hadn't hired Mike Hastings before the returning players and other students left town for the summer?

Minnesota State went about its coaching search covertly and quickly. Just two weeks after dismissing Troy Jutting, Hastings was hired and preparing for his first season with the Mavericks.

Coaching searches don't always go so smoothly.

Minnesota State was fortunate. It appeared to have a short list of candidates at the ready, it targeted a quality coach and it made things happen in less than fortnight. The only real hiccup came when some I's and T's remained to be dotted and crossed on the contract, and an event that appeared to be a hiring celebration in front of boosters and fans turned out to be a candidate Q&A instead. That event was forgotten just 24 hours later when the hiring at last could be finalized.

We recall this now because there remains a couple of college hockey programs without coaches.

Maine is still in the search process, while MSU's fellow Western Collegiate Hockey Association member Alaska Anchorage interviewed four candidates before scrapping its search and starting all over again.

Connecticut filled its open position a week ago, while the oddest openings — shocking firings of George Gwozdecky at Denver and Mark Osiecki at Ohio State — have been taken care of as well.

At Anchorage, Dave Shyiak was fired on March 29 — 47 days ago. The school suspended its coaching search on May 2, after interviewing four coaches but also hearing concerns about the process from UAA alumni and others in the hockey community there.

Last week, the search was reopened with a revamped committee and new screening criteria. According to reports, the school is accepting applications through Friday and plans to have its new coach in place by June 15 — 79 days after Shyiak was let go.

The whole point of the firing was to turn around a struggling program. The Seawolves won just four games last season and averaged 10 a year in Shyiak's eight-year tenure. How much improvement can be expected in the new coach's first year? What a mess.

Hastings began on April 16, 2012, and got right to work, flying to Europe to make sure Teddy Blueger was coming, calling and meeting with other committed players, working on recruiting for future years. He was in place in time to attend the national and conference meetings (this year's meetings ended last week) and get his team's summer program started.

From there, Minnesota State had one of its most successful years as a Division I program, winning 24 games and getting back to the WCHA Final Five and the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Watching what's transpired this offseason, one should appreciate what MSU was able to do just a year earlier.

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter @puckato.