With Tom Anastos’ resignation Tuesday afternoon, the hypothetical conversation that many Spartan fans have had now becomes reality.
Who will replace Anastos as coach and try to lead Michigan State hockey back to glory?
Below are my top picks for the next MSU hockey coach. These are not the only possibilities, but they are be biggest names that offer the best chance to return Spartan hockey to a place of prominence.
If you remember the Ron Mason days, then you likely remember George Gwozdecky. As an assistant coach with Mason from 1984-1989, Gwozdecky was instrumental in recruiting some of the best players ever to don the Green and White in the 1980’s, better known as the heyday of Spartan Hockey.
As a coach, Gwozdecky gained notoriety for winning back to back national titles with the Denver Pioneers in 2004 and 2005. Since retiring from head coaching in 2013, he has been an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning and currently coaches Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Gwozdecky would be a major hire. A coach with a connection to Mason, winning pedigree and experience to spare. MSU could get back in the win column quickly with him behind the bench. The only issues are the fact that he has been out of NCAA hockey for several years and his advanced age of 63 years old, but that could be remedied with a stellar assistant ready to take over in a few years.
Cole is the name every Spartan hockey fan knows. Cole was a player at MSU from 1985-1989, and was a member of the 1986 national championship team. As a player, Cole won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995. Cole has considerable coaching credentials, coaching three years with the University of Alabama-Huntsville and taking the Chargers to the NCAA tournament. He currently coaches the US National Team Development Program, a position he has had great success at.
Cole is obviously the first choice for a lot of people. It was widely believed that he would be hired by MSU in 2011 before Mark Hollis hired Anastos. Hiring Cole would likely right a perceived wrong in the eyes of many fans, and Cole’s respected name and connections in the state of Michigan would be key in recruiting. Cole is also on record for calling the MSU coaching position a “dream job” and indicated that he would be willing to serve in an advisory role if asked.
The current coach of Providence might be a bit out or left field, but think about it. Leamon has been credited with turning around both Union and Providence college. Both teams I might add are currently in the NCAA tournament. Could it be possible that Leamon could work his magic in East Lansing? The resources and prestige are obviously higher at Michigan State then at Providence, and the Big Ten is a significantly easier league to break into than Hockey East.
Of course, it could be possible that Leamon is just happy with his current status at Providence. It could also be a bit too much of a jump for a coach, who’s entire coaching career has been out east, to jump back into the midwest. Still, it’s a name Mark Hollis should at least look into.
Bergeron, the coach with Bowling Green, has been key to that program’s resurgence and it’s success in the new WCHA. Bergeron has coached in Ohio for his entire career, having been an assistant at Miami-Ohio for 10 years before joining the Falcons in 2010. Though his first three years with BG in the Central Collegiate Hockey Conference were tough, (39–73–14 overall) since joining the new WCHA, Bowling Green has been a consistent power in that conference.
Bergeron, would be a decent choice to come to The State Up North, he likely wouldn’t win immediately and would need several years to get his program in place. That said, Bergeron would bring a winning culture to MSU as well as a respected name in midwestern hockey. Considering the last hockey coach MSU hired from Bowling Green was a fellow by the name of Ron Mason, Bergeron at least deserves consideration for this new opening.
Jeff Jackson (Notre Dame)
Bob Daniels (Ferris State)
Damon Whitten (Lake Superior State)
Jeff Blashill (Detroit Red Wings)
This list will be updated as more candidates become known.