Opinion: UM hockey coaching transition went as planned?

9/30/17 2017-18 Ice Hockey defeats Western Ontario in exhibition prior to the season open. IHM 2017-18 Win 10-1

The bags are unpacked and most of the boxes are gone. And Mel Pearson is feeling at home. Back home – as if according to plan.

If there was a plan to coach the University of Michigan hockey team, if that was the end goal, Pearson drew it up perfectly. He took the necessary steps to replace a coaching legend and run one of the most coveted jobs in college athletics.

The “plan” included serving as a U-M assistant coach from 1988-89 through 1998-99 and as associate head coach from 1999-2000 through 2010-11. Pearson played an integral role in developing the Michigan program into one of the most successful in the country, working with and learning from Red Berenson, one of just four college hockey coaches to amass more than 800 career wins.

Back in 2011, Berenson wasn’t thinking retirement. So Pearson took what he had learned from the legendary coach and hit the road to build something all his very own at Michigan Tech. If the plan was to run the Wolverines someday, maybe the road to get there went through Houghton, Michigan.

Maybe, just maybe, the job description for Berenson’s replacement would include head coaching experience and a track record of success. So Pearson headed north to check off a few boxes and fill out that resume. Maybe, just maybe, he left Ann Arbor for a better shot at getting back to Ann Arbor.

In six years at Michigan Tech, Pearson led the Huskies to two NCAA Tournament appearances in the last three years while winning a WCHA regular-season title and a WCHA Championship. He registered a 118-92-29 overall record, including a 75-34-14 mark over the past three seasons.

Head coaching experience: Check.

Success running a program: Check.

Berenson, 77, announced in April that the recently concluded season, his 33rd behind the bench at U-M, would be his last. Then the phone rang and Mel Pearson said “hello” and eventually “yes” and now here we are.

Bags unpacked, back home – according to plan.

Pearson would never admit the reason he took over Michigan Tech was done to gain experience to coach Michigan someday. That wouldn’t be fair to everyone he worked with and all the success he had – he wasn’t building something so he could leave someday. That’s not why he took the job in the first place. He took it because it was a great opportunity, challenge and dream come true.

He took the Michigan job because it’s a great opportunity, challenge and dream come true. Now he starts working on a plan to get the Wolverines back among the elite in college hockey.

And based on his success at both U-M and then Michigan Tech, the Wolverines are in very capable hands – whether it was planned or not.

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