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.