COLUMN: Searching for Tom Anastos' replacement
After MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced on Tuesday Tom Anastos, who led the Spartans to a mere seven wins in the 2016-17 season, was stepping down from the helm of the MSU hockey program, the search to find a replacement instantly commenced.
With numerous potential contenders, George Gwozdecky and Danton Cole are two viable candidates who have brought plenty of attention early in the coaching search.
Gwozdecky was as an assistant coach under the late Ron Mason from 1984-89 before he took over as the head coach of Miami University’s (Ohio) hockey program.
In his five seasons with the RedHawks, Gwozdecky compiled an overall record of 81-93-19 in 193 games.
He went on to serve as the University of Denver’s head coach, where he remained for 19 years and finished with a 443-267-64 record before his firing in 2013.
Gwozdecky, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, served two years as an assistant in the NHL for the Tampa Bay Lightning afterward, but resigned in 2015.
As speculation arose as to where Gwozdecky would land next, the Ontario native’s next coaching position shocked many as he took a job as head coach of the Valor Christian High School hockey program in Colorado, a position he still holds today.
Gwozdecky’s 593 NCAA wins ranks him No. 11 all-time in nation. He is also the only coach in NCAA hockey history to win a Division I National Championship as a player, assistant coach and as a head coach.
Before beginning to coach, Cole — a sixth-round draft pick by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1985 Entry NHL Draft — had a lengthy playing career, including playing for the Spartans from 1985-89 under Mason.
Cole had stints with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks along with spending seven seasons with the now-defunct International Hockey League, or IHL, during his playing career.
Cole’s career as a head coach began in 1999, when he was given the job as an assistant for the IHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
After two years as an assistant with the Griffins, Cole coached the United Hockey League’s Muskegon Fury for one season.
He finished the season with a 48-22 record and lead the team to a championship.
Cole also served as an assistant with Bowling Green State University and held head coaching positions with the UHL’s Motor City Mechanics, the University of Alabama-Huntsville and the United States National Development Team.
Regardless of who MSU will hire to be the next head coach, they will have plenty of pressure to turn a struggling Spartan team back into the once-proud national title contenders the program was.