By @MichaelCaples –
ANN ARBOR – Red Berenson knew, just like everything else.
The question of “will he or won’t he” started to take its toll – especially on the recruiting trail.
It was time. He knew it.
The 77-year-old face of Michigan Hockey officially announced his retirement today at the Junge Family Champions Center, and for the first time in 33 years, the Wolverines will search for a new head coach.
The legendary head coach said that in his conversations with athletic director Warde Manuel, Berenson decided to end the annual speculation. Uncertainty in the status of the head coach is difficult in any college sport; it’s immense when hockey players now commit to programs as early as their freshman year of high school.
“I can tell you it started some time ago,” Berenson said during his press conference. “The last few years I’ve been questioned about, ‘How long are you going coach or when are you going to retire?’ Particularly on the recruiting trail, and it bothered me. This was an issue, and at one time with Bill Martin, I signed a three-year contract, and then it came up again under Dave Brandon. And it wasn’t the athletic director asking me, it was the people along the recruiting trail and I feel like it’s come to the point now where as Warde said, you should sign a long-term contract and I don’t know if that’s the best interest of this program.
“…It really put it in perspective, and I think we’re doing the right thing because I talked to Warde about this last year after we had a pretty good year and lost to North Dakota in regionals, and Warde hadn’t even moved here yet; he had just been named the athletic director. We agreed that I should come back for another year and have a good year. He thinks I’m still 45, but nevertheless, I’ve had great support from our coaches. Billy Powers isn’t here; he’s on his way back from vacation. [Brian Wiseman] has been terrific; he’s helped jumpstart this program. Steve Shields has done a terrific job; he’s just about moved into Yost. You talk about a coach spending time, caring about what he’s doing. So we’ve had a great staff and I know we’ll continue to have a great staff, but I think it’s time I get out of the way. I met with Warde a couple of times last week and we decided this is the right time and it’s the right thing to do. I wanted to wait until the NCAA tournament was over, and here we are.”
The search will now begin for the new Wolverines hockey coach. Berenson said he will help where he can.
“I’ll play a distant role,” Berenson said. “I think I’ll have Warde introduce me as an advisor. I’ll be one of several I’m sure. I hope there’s some Michigan awareness or Michigan connection for a coach that will feel the right way about what Michigan man should be like and what a Michigan team should be like. We’ve got some of those coaches here today, and we’ve got some great alumni here today. I’m sure Warde will make the right decision. It might be an easy decision, it might not be. We’re going to get a lot of people interested.”
Manuel, in his second year as athletic director for his alma mater, said the search begins now; he didn’t want it to be a distraction while Berenson made his decision.
“Red said it well – we’re looking for someone who is going to move the program forward and have that passion for Michigan, have that passion for these young men, embrace our alums, get a chance to understand what Michigan hockey has been about, looking for somebody to have success with these young men on the ice and off,” Manuel said. “My focus has been on Red, the current team and staff and tomorrow we’ll start the process of taking a look at it, trying to compartmentalize this because I did not want these young men – and Red himself didn’t deserve anything to be leaked and out there, talking about who was the next coach before he had the opportunity to celebrate what he meant and what he means to Michigan and what he has meant to Michigan hockey.”
Whoever takes over the Wolverines’ hockey program has big shoes to fill; in his remarkable career, he ranks No. 4 among all college hockey coaches with 848 all-time wins. Michigan’s 22 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is a record that won’t be broken for quite some time, if either; the next closest is 12. He has two National Titles to his name, and his coaching honors include the the Big Ten coach of the year in 2016, the CCHA coach of the year in 1994 and 2008, the Spencer Penrose Award as national coach of the year in 2008 and Jack Adams Award as NHL head coach (yes, he was rather successful there, too, before returning to his alma mater).
Stay tuned for more from Berenson’s farewell press conference…