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Up To The Minute ▲ Bamford Comments On Micheletto Decision, Coaching Search

We are one day into the Massachusetts hockey coaching search and I’ve done my best to consolidate all the information that is out there regarding the firing of former coach John Micheletto and the ongoing search.  Athletic Director Ryan Bamford had a conference call with the media today and I think UMass hockey fans should be very happy to hear what he has to say about a wide range of topics.  One piece of news that I reported yesterday is that assistant coach Ryan Miller was named interim head coach during the search process and will continue to handle a lot of the administrative tasks and continue to work with the players in the meantime.

Dan Malone of Masslive/The Republican did a very good job this afternoon putting together three pieces based on the call Bamford held earlier in the day.

Probably the first read for the hardcore fans that have stuck through the last four years is this piece titled “UMass shows support for hockey by making coaching move now”.  This is obviously in direct contrast with Bamford’s predecessor, John McCutcheon, who pretty much ignored the program and then completely screwed up the coaching search when the school parted ways with Toot Cahoon.  Some quotes of interest:

“Hockey is important to us. Hockey in this state is an important sport and there’s no reason why the flagship university of this state can’t be successful in hockey”

“Right now, if you look at our league – and it’s changed, certainly, in the last couple of years – you have a couple of programs, Providence being one that comes to mind, that were in the bottom half of the league with us for a number of years,” he said. “And they have made a commitment, hired a new coach in Nate Leaman and won a national championship last year.”

“This is a revenue-generating sport for us. We’ve seen a little bit of what happens when the results haven’t met our expectations the last few years,” he said, explaining that, through a reduction in attendance in ticket sales, the department has lost “$150,000 in ticket revenue from 2011-12 to this past season.”

The second piece goes into the financials of the Micheletto buyout as well as that of women’s basketball coach Sharon Dawley who was also let go yesterday.  The biggest takeaway is that the buyouts are being completely self-funded by the department and that no taxpayer money is being used (I can almost hear the weeping on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester at that revelation).  Micheletto’s buyout totals $260K.  Assistant coaches Ryan Miller and Joey Gasparini are both still employed and have contracts through the end of next season.  The new coach will decide if they are to be retained.  It’s unlikely they would be, but that’s the situation.  Both have clauses in their contracts that if they are let go and find new positions the university would only have to pay them the difference between their UMass salary and their new salary.

Malone’s last piece goes into Bamford’s plans for the search itself.  He will not be hiring an outside search firm.  He will not be naming a search committee but will have a number of internal and external advisors that he plans to utilize.  He doesn’t have a timetable, which makes sense considering it could be weeks until some candidates are available to speak.  (Although Union coach Rick Bennett is available to talk!).  Some quotes of interest regarding the search:

“If we can compete in our league – and that’s really where our focus is going to be – at the highest level, the rest will take care of itself.”

“I’ll look at who’s the best fit for the University of Massachusetts and who will be able to take us to the next level,” he said. “There are candidate profiles who might be head coaches, might be assistant coaches that I think can do that. I don’t get hung up so much on if we have to hire a head coach because we’re at that life cycle of our program. I want to hire the best person for UMass hockey and the best person for our organization. How they interact with our campus community and our external ticket holders, all the way that a coach can be successful on this campus.

“Obviously the recruiting and player development is paramount, but fit is more important to me than everything and that’s the thing we’re truly going to vet in this process.”

I wrote yesterday, Bamford will want a complete hockey coach who motivates and teaches players, can find success on the ice, and can get fans in the stands and buying merchandise.  The quotes above confirm that and I feel are a direct indictment on the shortcomings of Micheletto.

Malone also ran a poll where over 80% of respondents agree with the decision to fire Micheletto.  Masslive draws a diverse cross-section of readers, including a surprising number of trolls who seem to exist only to criticize everything UMass.  I’m sure if I ran the same poll the results would even more over the top.

I would suggest all fans read the above articles.  Bamford’s actions will ultimately show us just how effective he is at selling the UMass opportunity and the potential of the Minuteman hockey program.  But you have to be hopeful that he’s saying all the right things.  That’s more than you can say for the last time we went through a coaching search.

The Gazette’s Matt Vautour posted the first article listing prospect candidates.  A lot of them were ones I mentioned last month.  But there are also a few new names.  Greg Carvel is listed.  That would be an interesting situation since he’s currently coaching his alma mater, Saint Lawrence, and just signed an extension in December.  Western Michigan assistant Ben Barr is mentioned as is Vermont assist Kyle Wallack.  Merrimack’s Mark Dennehy, former UMass grad assistant Darren Yopyk, and Quinnpiaic assistant Bill Riga were names I speculated on earlier.

All signs points toward Bennett being the top choice.

Vautour also wrote this piece regarding storylines to consider for both the hockey and women’s hoops searches.

There obviously were a number of articles in all the major and minor media outlets regarding Micheletto’s dismissal, but most covered the same info.  Here’s the Gazette’s version if you want to catch up on the basic facts.

Similar to the first Malone article I relayed, Andrew Cry of the Collegian writes that the moves show that Bamford “will not settle for mediocrity.”

Even the Herald ran a story following Bamford’s call with some of his comments.  That story was better than the John Connolly piece that was published earlier in the day.  Not only does he continue to bang the injury excuse drum for Micheletto (although mysteriously the 31 games lost to injury he mentioned in his story last Monday suddenly jumped to 38 in the most recent piece), but he got the facts of the assistant coaches’ contracts wrong.  The last two weeks have seriously shaken my confidence in Jocko.

Ken Schott of the Daily Gazette thinks UMass will also look at Union assistant Joe Dumais.

That’s it on the coaching front for now.  But there is a bunch of other UMass hockey news.

Nick Jenny, who verbally committed to UMass last Spring, announced today that he is now committed to Robert Morris.  It seems unlikely this switch was due to yesterday’s news, especially since the release from the Lancers mentions him visiting RMU.  The defenseman has 2 goals and 9 assists in 46 games this season in the USHL.  Due in Amherst in 2017, I don’t think he was considered one of UMass’ top recruits.  We’ll have to keep a close eye on the committed recruits to see if others decide to switch because of the coaching change.  Those who have only verbally committed can choose to commit elsewhere whenever they want.  But those who have signed a National Letter of Intent (Bear, Nachtigall, Massie, Pelton-Byce, Dixson, Makar) would need to get a release from the school.

Oleg Yevenko has been signed to a one year extension by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Frank Vatrano was in the news a lot the last day.  But that will happen when you’re just the third person in AHL history to score three unassisted goals in a game.  For that and more he was named AHL Player of the Week.  Kirk Luedeke posted on Vatrano’s incredible season for his Scouting Post blog, complete with the awesome nickname “The Springfield Rifle” which I feel sad for not thinking of myself.

I think that’s it for UMass hockey news.  I’m going to skip tomorrow’s usual recruit update since there will probably be more coaching news.  Plus I want to get working on my season recap posts intermingled with the latest on the search.  So keep checking back.

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29 Comments

  1. RDW

     /  March 7, 2016

    Great move leaving members of the last search committee out of the search process#ALLRIGHT

    Like

  2. Rex

     /  March 8, 2016

    Great stuff rocks. What a breath of fresh air Bamford is, now comes the hard part.

    Like

  3. Duggan

     /  March 8, 2016

    So far, so good. I am unfortunately the son in law and brother in law of BC grads. To make matters worse, my brother in law is a former hockey player at BC. The good news is he played in the mid 90’s when BC won 8-12 games per year. Then York arrive for his senior year. The culture changed, the quality of kid changed. There was accountability, expectations and he was conditioned to be a better person and teammate, which led to being a better player. I hate BC, but I am blown away by their culture and frankly, I am underwhelmed by our culture. Kids need boundaries and yes, hockey is important, but citizenship is more important. I agree with the other blogs that Mark Dennehy and Greg Brown should be on the short list, but Brown was part of the best 10 year run in college hockey. I like the other names too, but we can’t pay a Bennett or another current head. A guy that I skate with played at St Marks School with Brown for 1 year. Obviously can play and coach, but what set him apart is his character. Either he or some other high character guy should be our next coach.

    Like

    • The question with Brown is, is he interested in leaving BC or is he waiting for York to retire? If he’s interested then I agree he’d be a top choice.

      Like

  4. Rex

     /  March 8, 2016

    I would love to see Brown here, and completely agree with your take on the culture of the two programs. I just dont see any way Brown leaves BC when York only has a few years left one would assume.

    Like

    • Bus

       /  March 8, 2016

      Let’s hope Bamford asks the question and gets the cream of the crop to interview

      Like

  5. Here is my question about Bennett, who is mentioned all over the place- and I’m not trying to be annoying or snarky! Bennett won a championship, it is true, but they were Leaman’s players, no? Granted a bad coach will screw up with good players- and to his credit Bennett took them all the way, including wins over BC and MN in the FF. How good have his teams been since? (And by the way that’s a question, not a statement!) I worry about the “he won a championship, let’s bring him here” kind of mentality. Mind you, I’m not opposed to Bennett, just wondering. Anyone out there close to the Union program who can address this ? And- do I have my timeline correct, or am I right in observing that UMASS’ greatest success coincided with Ian McCaw’s tenure here? Good to have a real AD! And, no Rocks, I’m not going to beat the drum for Guentzel!

    Like

    • Bennett was the associate head coach under Leaman, presumably doing a lot of the recruiting, so I’m not sure it’s fair to say he won with “Leaman’s players”.
      They won 26 games in Leaman’s last year and made the tourney for the first time ever. In Bennet’s first year they win 26 and made the Frozen Four. Year 2 they won 22 games and made the tournament. Year 3 they won 32 games and the national championship. Year 4 won 19 games, missed tourney. This year they were one game under .500.
      If he had won the championship the year after Leaman left and sucked since you may have a point. But it was year 3. With players he recruited either as an assistant or as a head coach.
      .634 win percentage over 5 years is not exactly a flash in the pan.
      And McCutcheon was hired right before the 2004 Hockey East tournament. So your McCaw theory isn’t entirely correct.

      Like

      • ganderson9754

         /  March 8, 2016

        Fair enough! Ok- so I’m 0 for 2! My follow up would be: would he consider it a step up to come to UMASS?

        Like

        • Rex

           /  March 8, 2016

          Step up in pay and hopefully a step up in resources around the program.

          Like

        • Did Nate Leaman consider it a step up to go to a Providence program that went 25-40-17 in the three years prior? Yes. Will Bennett? I don’t know

          Like

  6. Rex

     /  March 8, 2016

    I am on the Bennett/Brown or BUST train.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bus

     /  March 8, 2016

    I like that train too. I have to do more homework on Bennett, but reading Brown’s bio sends chills up my spine. ACELA to Amherst….choo choo

    Like

    • Just a heads up, I changed your name so people don’t think that the former player may be commenting.

      Like

  8. Anonymous

     /  March 8, 2016

    The new coach first needs to be able to attract great players to UMASS, which has all the qualities of a D-1 program and then some. He also has to embrace the community, fans and alumni, something which Coach Mich did not do. Next he needs to get a few players who aren’t 5’8″ 170 lbs. The current roster has a lot of good smallish skilled players but not nearly enough bigger bodies who play with jam. Thats why they struggled scoring…a lot of peripheral movement, fancy stick handling, but nothing in the “dirty” areas.” Pre-Micheletto teams always had a good balance of bigger and smaller skilled players.

    Like

  9. George

     /  March 8, 2016

    Point well made above. Listening to game this past weekend, BU had 5 forwards 6-1 or bigger. We had zero. There’s a place for those 5′ 8″ 170 lb guys, Toot was able to mix them with some size, but never could find the finishers. Hopefully the new coach can.

    Like

  10. Bus

     /  March 8, 2016

    Appreciate the name change. One thing that strikes me is the better teams year in and year out (BC, BU, UND, DU, MINN, Mich) all have role players in each slot. They have 2 lines of Studs up front then lines of GREAT college players. Same on D where they have 2 exceptional DMEN then they have 4 other good college players. Bennett, Brown, Dennehy all find guys who will be great in college who will contribute when the superstars are on the bench. Build depth with character guys and we can compete.

    Like

    • Duggan

       /  March 8, 2016

      I completely agree. Depth with character guys and a cultural change will propel us forward.

      Like

      • Please stick with one nickname and refrain from replying to your own comments. Thanks.

        Like

  11. umassattack

     /  March 8, 2016

    Bamford’s very swift decision to bring this dismal ERA to an end was vital to get this program back on track just as soon as possible. The last four seasons for the team, the student body, the over-all fan base has just been disheartening. This university has to get excitement and energy back into the Mullins Center.
    The fans will return and the excitement will be back if this university can put a competitive team together that exhibits desire, heart, and a willingness to give it their all. Having a team back that is competitive in Hockey East play would be a wonderful thing.

    Like

    • Rex

       /  March 9, 2016

      Speaking of the fan base, I checked Michs twitter account to see if he had written anything. He hadn’t. What I found interesting and never noticed before was his background picture. It was a packed mullins center, he never had a crowd like that here.

      Like

  12. Anonymous

     /  March 9, 2016

    correct on size…we need some “alex berry” type power forwards to control the wall….that guy was a beast….greg mauldin types who will “kill” to win…GO UMASS

    Like

  13. George

     /  March 15, 2016

    I’m not sure if you agree with the Mike McMahon tweet, FTT, but Mike Vecchione pulled this stunt the season before too, without having to worry about Bennett. Having said that, my feeling, 9 days later, is Bennett will pass on UMass. Nothing to back it up, just a gut feeling.

    Like

    • I don’t think the Vecchione announcement means anything in regards to Bennett’s future.

      I still think UMass has a decent chance to land him.

      Like

  14. Rex

     /  March 15, 2016

    What stunt is that George? I saw he said he was returning for senior season.

    Like

    • I think referring to him weighing options, talking to teams, and then ultimately deciding to come back. He did the same last year.

      Like

  15. anonymous

     /  March 16, 2016

    Bennett is out of running because of buyout.

    Like

  16. anonymous

     /  March 17, 2016

    Odd someone as “plugged in” as the CHN guy didnt know that.

    Like

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