SB Nation Detroit
Stay connected for news and updates Follow @sbnationdetroit
Like us to subscribe
Michigan State's new hockey head coach, Tom Anastos, announced who is on his first coaching staff on Monday. He hired Kelly Miller and Mike Gilmore, who both played at Michigan State, and he retained assistant Tom Newton and video coordinator Adam Nightingale.
Miller and Newton will be full-time assistant coaches for MSU. Miller played at Michigan State from 1981-85 and is a cousin of Ryan Miller and Drew Miller. His brothers, Kelly and Kip, also played at Michigan State and in the NHL. Kelly Miller's NHL career spanned 16 seasons and saw him play in more than 1,000 games.
Newton being retained means he will be entering his 22nd season with the Spartans in 2011. He was originally hired by Ron Mason and was also an assistant under Rick Comley.
Gilmore will be a volunteer assistant coach who will mainly work with MSU's goalies. He played at MSU from 1988-92 and spent time with the ECHL's Erie Panthers and the AHL's Binghamton Rangers for three seasons after leaving MSU. From 1994-96, he was a volunteer assistant at Michigan State, so this will be his second stint as a volunteer assistant for the Spartans.
One thing is for certain about Anastos' coaching staff -- there are a lot of familiar faces that have been around the Michigan State hockey program for a number of years.
This afternoon, Michigan State officially announced that its new hockey head coach is Tom Anastos. He resigned from his position as commissioner of the CCHA to take the job in an all-around stunning move.
The MSU coaching situation went from Danton Cole, a favorite from the get-go, appearing to be the hire to Anastos getting the job completely out of left field. To say this is a shock is an understatement, but Anastos is in fact the new hockey coach at MSU, and he is excited to be back in East Lansing.
"I am extremely excited about returning to Michigan State to lead the Spartan Hockey program and once again be a part of the MSU Athletics Department family," said Anastos. "I have obviously maintained a relationship with MSU and been in close contact with the hockey program for the last 13 years in my role with the CCHA, but this opportunity is incredibly special.
"The expectations I have for our program will be to compete annually for conference and national championships. That was the expectation when I was here as a player and as an assistant coach, and I don't believe it should be any different in my role as head coach. In our locker room, we have quality young men who are good players, good students and good citizens, which are all hallmarks of this program. I am excited to get started, to hire a staff, and to get myself re-acclimated within the MSU community."
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis and school president Lou Anna K. Simon had this to say about the decision to hire Anastos:
"Bringing Tom Anastos into the MSU Athletics Department to run our hockey program brings someone with energy and passion not only for the sport of hockey, but for our University and program as well," said Hollis. "He can attract high-caliber talent and develop those players into those who are attractive to the National Hockey League. He places a premium on education, and the drive and desire to compete for championships.
"Hockey is important in the state of Michigan, and it is also important to Michigan State. We will continue to provide the resources to appropriately support this program, and to best prepare our student-athletes for their personal future ... in the NHL and the business world."
"Tom Anastos is an incredibly accomplished individual, and the same characteristics which have made him such a successful leader since his graduation from Michigan State will pay dividends for our hockey program, our entire athletic department and University," added Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon. "Tom is a dynamic individual who will be an asset for Team MSU as we move forward. There is no doubt that he is passionate about developing young people, and we are excited for our next era to begin."
Anastos will be officially introduced at Munn Ice Arena during a 4 p.m. press conference that is open to the public. It will also be streamed live on MSU's athletics website.
Contrary to a previous report by Lansing TV station WILX, which stated that Danton Cole had been hired as Michigan State's new hockey head coach, it appears that CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos is going to lead the Spartans' program. Multiple sources are reporting the move, which comes way out of left field.
Anastos had been the commissioner of the CCHA since 1998. Before taking that position he was the president of the North American Hockey League, which is a Tier II junior league.
Anastos attended Michigan State and played for the Spartans' hockey team from 1981-85. Oddly enough, that was the same time Cole was on the team, which may be part of why there was confusion earlier over who was hired. (Perhaps Cole will be an assistant.)
Anastos' coaching career is fairly limited. He was the Michigan-Dearborn head coach from 1987-90. From 1990-92, he was an assistant on Ron Mason's coaching staff at Michigan State. Considering he has not been involved in coaching since the early 90s, this move is very surprising, especially with a guy like Cole out there as the favorite to get the job.
The announcement about Anastos' hire is expected to take place later this afternoon.
WILX in Lansing is reporting that Danton Cole is expected to be announced as Michigan State's new hockey coach at a 4 p.m. announcement at Munn Ice Arena. MSU athletic director Mark Hollis said last week to expect an announcement about a new hockey coach this week, and it looks like decision day has arrived for the Spartans.
Some background on Cole: He went to Waverly High School in Lansing before attending Michigan State. He played for the Spartans hockey team for four seasons and won a national title in 1986, when Ron Mason was head coach. Cole was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets and later played for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He went on to play for the Devils, who he won a Stanley Cup with in 1995, as well as the Islanders and Blackhawks. Cole also spent time playing in Germany and in the IHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
After retiring from hockey, Cole became an assistant coach for the Griffins and later the head coach of the UHL's Muskegon Fury. He won a title with the Fury and then returned to Grand Rapids as the Griffins' head coach. Upon being let go by Grand Rapids during the 2004-05 season, Cole was hired by Bowling Green as an assistant. He then became the head coach of Alabama-Huntsville in 2007, leading the Chargers to the NCAA hockey tournament in 2009-10. After losing to Miami (Ohio) in the first round, Cole resigned as head coach and was hired to lead the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor.
Now Cole is set to return to his alma mater as the program's sixth head coach.
While in Tampa for the NCAA men's basketball tournament last week, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told reporters that he expects to announce the school's new hockey coach this week. Hollis has been searching for a new head coach ever since it came out in January that Rick Comley would retire at the end of the season. Since the Spartans' season came to an end a couple weeks ago when they were eliminated by Alaska in the CCHA playoffs, Hollis is free to announce a decision at any time.
Two of the people Hollis sought advice from while evaluating candidates to replace Comley were Steve Yzerman and Ron Mason. Yzerman, as you all know, is a former Red Wings player and member of the front office, and he now is the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mason is MSU's former hockey coach and athletic director. He decided to hire Comley, which turned out to be a good move in the sense that MSU won a national title during his time in East Lansing. The last few years had been below average for MSU, though.
In addition to confirming he gave his take on some candidates to Hollis, Mason also confirmed that Danton Cole and Kelly Miller are in the mix for the opening. Both played under Mason while at MSU, and Cole is the person I said to keep an eye on when it was announced that Comley was going to retire at the end of the season. He is still my pick to get the job, and based on what Hollis said last week, we should find out shortly if my pick is correct or not.
Rick Comley, the head coach of Michigan State's hockey team, will retire at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season. Comley has been MSU's head coach since taking over for Ron Mason in 2002, and he has accumulated a record of 181-133-39 in nine seasons in East Lansing. Comley won a national championship with the Spartans in 2007, and over the course of his 38-year coaching career he holds a record of 778-608-110.
Comley had this to say about his decision to retire in a statement released by MSU:
"I have been very proud to be a part of Michigan State hockey, and I would like to thank Ron Mason for giving me this opportunity nine years ago," said Comley. "This program is very special, with a long tradition of success. I am very proud that we could bring a National Championship here in 2007, and not only have we had good hockey players in our locker room, we have had quality young men who represented this program well in the classroom and in the community. I want to thank them, as well as my staff, for an experience at Michigan State that leaves me with many great memories.
"As I continue on as the head coach for the remainder of this season, our focus for our players and staff will not change. We have improved throughout this season, and it is important for all of us to continue to try to improve every day. While the end of my Michigan State career is on the horizon, we owe it to these players to continue with business as usual. We have two important games this weekend, and four more series after that - and each game is important. That is, and will remain, our focus in these coming weeks."
Although Comley did lead MSU to a national title just four years ago, a number of Spartan fans have wanted athletic director Mark Hollis to make a change with the hockey program the last couple years. Comley has enjoyed a lot of success during his career, but lately the Spartans have been struggling quite a bit. In 2008-09, for example, MSU finished second-to-last in the CCHA and had an overall record of 10-23-5. Last year, MSU rebounded to finish second in the CCHA during the regular season, but they struggled down the stretch and were swept at home by Michigan in the CCHA playoffs. So far this season, MSU is once again in second-to-last place in the CCHA and has an overall record of 10-12-4.
Michigan State has 10 regular season games left and then at least two games in the CCHA playoffs. Unless the Spartans go on a monster run to end the season (much like Michigan did last year), Comley's tenure at Michigan State will not end with an NCAA tournament appearance. While another early end to the season would be less than desired, it would at the very least give Hollis the opportunity to name a coach very early on in the offseason if he wants to.
"A thorough national search will begin immediately to identify Coach Comley's successor as the head coach of the Michigan State hockey program," said Hollis. "Hockey is important to our athletic department and our campus community, as well as to our fans. It is a program with a long and storied tradition. However, what is also important is to support the coaches and our hockey student-athletes for the remainder of this season."
It will be interesting to see who Hollis hires. One name I would keep an eye on is former MSU player Danton Cole. He is currently the head coach of the USA Hockey NTDP in Ann Arbor. Before that he was the head coach of Alabama-Huntsville and led them to an NCAA tournament in 2010. He knows MSU well and knows the area and seems like a good fit for the program, so I'd keep my eye on him once Hollis' search gets underway.