Less than three weeks after the MSU hockey team’s season came to a close, MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis introduced former CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos as the program’s new head coach Wednesday.
Anastos, 47, served as commissioner of the CCHA for the past 13 years, played under former MSU hockey coach Ron Mason from 1981-85 and served as an assistant to Mason from 1990-92.
He replaces retiring head coach Rick Comley, who announced his decision to step down in January.
Hollis, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and other administrators spoke at Anastos’ introductory press conference at Munn Ice Arena on Wednesday and expressed confidence in Anastos’ ability to turn a team that went 15-19-4 this season into a championship contender.
New MSU hockey head coach Tom Anastos talks about the importance of recruiting.
New MSU hockey head coach Tom Anastos talks about the expectations for the program at MSU.
“I can’t tell you how anxious and excited I am to get going,” Anastos said.
“It’s been a whirlwind. … This place is a special place for me. … I’m so appreciative of the opportunity that President Simon and Mark (Hollis) have presented me with.”
Hollis said he looked at several variables in the coaching search, including leadership and previous success.
Hollis said he identified 20-plus candidates for the job, but Anastos’ honesty stood out, and Hollis said he was the only candidate offered the job.
“At Michigan State, and especially in the sport of hockey, I want to try to be the best,” Hollis said.
“He has an unbelievable background in all levels of hockey. … The one comment I made is that he is a man of unbelievable integrity that I’d trust my three kids with.”
Following one season in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization, Anastos started off his coaching career as a staff member for the University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team and served as the head coach from 1987-90, leading the team to a 68-37-7 record.
He then joined Mason’s staff in 1990 and helped MSU to a 43-28-13 run in two seasons before eventually moving onto the CCHA commissioner job in 1998.
In his time as commissioner he was instrumental in increasing exposure for the conference.
Hollis said he offered Anastos the position Sunday, waiting until after the conference tournament had concluded last weekend to offer him the role.
“It happened real fast,” Anastos said.
“There was a lot going on at that time. I had to really take a step back. I was excited. I was humbled and ultimately when I was able to clear the smoke and look at it and take the emotion out of it, I was pretty pumped up about it.”
Anastos said following three legendary head coaches and the expectation to compete annually for a conference and national championship are what attracted him to MSU.
Anastos was in the news as recently as Monday in commenting on the CCHA’s future after the Big Ten announced its hockey conference sponsorship.
He said the timing of the Big Ten’s announcement and his decision to accept the position at MSU were coincidental, and the CCHA has known since September 2010 of the Big Ten’s interest in creating a hockey conference.
He met with Hollis on Monday and met players Wednesday and said he’s glad he proudly can proclaim himself as a Spartan again.
Anastos said he immediately will begin recruiting and working to help turn around a young team after a disappointing season.
“He’s going to work hard, we’re going to work hard, and together we’re going to pull this out,” junior forward Trevor Nill said.