Matthew Mitchell Photography
About a month into year three of Danton Cole’s tenure at Michigan State, one thing is certain: he is the man Spartans want leading this program back to dominance.
In just over two full seasons of coaching, the signs are already there that Cole is building something special in East Lansing. Something Spartan hockey hasn’t seen in about a decade.
Cole has done everything you could ask of him so far shortly into his third season as head coach at Michigan State.
He is developing the talent of players throughout their time at Michigan State. This is evident with players like Patrick Khodorenko and Taro Hirose. One of the signs of very good programs is developing the talent you get, because recruits see that and want to come to Michigan State.
Another way to lure recruits is new facilities. Cole has done that as well. Munn Ice Arena is currently under the largest renovation project in the history of the building, which includes workout facilities, a player’s lounge and coaches offices. New facilities are a way of making everyone want to come to the rink and work, and thanks to donations, he will get them.
He is also bringing in new (and old) ideas into the locker room. This past summer he brought in Jim Slater, another former Spartan player who played under coach Rick Comley. He is bringing in guys who care about the program and want to see it succeed because they know how the program runs.
He has also created a buzz around East Lansing that is drawing attention, Munn is a tough place to play every night. Every year of his tenure so far, the number of student section season ticket holders has grown, which means he is getting the students invested again, which will lead to the rest of the public following their lead.
All of this contributes to how he is truly measured—winning. Cole has done that as well so far, given the situation he stepped into. The record of the first two seasons should be forgiven, because he inherited a program that was rebuilding. But about a quarter of the way into year three and the groundwork he set is paying off. Last year, Michigan State swept then-No. 4 Cornell on the road to show a sign of what was to come. This year, he sits at third place in the conference (with a chance to jump up a spot this weekend) despite the gauntlet of a schedule he’s been given early, playing the No. 3, 8 and 18 teams in the country—and his has looked just as talented as them. He is also coming off the first sweep of a weekend series against Michigan since 2009. Early on, Michigan State looks capable to go toe to toe with any team in America, and it’s only year three under a coach who inherited a young team that needed a change of leadership.
Cole has roots in East Lansing from when he was a player and has set the groundwork to stay here for a long time and build the program back to what it used to be. This is not a pit stop for Cole, he cares about the program and has made it a destination where he constantly places an emphasis on building a “winning culture,” and he is well on his way.
Only in year three, Cole has showed signs that he is the guy to bring this program to heights it has not seen in a while. He is building a talented roster in new facilities with an emphasis on player leadership in a locker room that expects to win night in and night out.
Spartans everywhere should be happy Cole is the leader of the team, because early on, it appears this hockey program is headed back to the national prominence everyone knows it is capable of.
Contact Kyle Hatty at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @KyleHattyIN.