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Hastings Accepts Minnesota State Mankato Job
Hockey coach says it's about the people.
Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press, 4-15-2012
MANKATO — Mike Hastings was Minnesota State’s No. 1 choice to be the university’s next men’s hockey coach, and Hastings ultimately agreed that MSU was a good match for him as well.
“It’s important to be surrounded by good people,” Hastings said. “I’ve had that in Omaha, and I really feel comfortable with the people I’m going to be surrounded by (at Minnesota State).”
On Saturday, Hastings was named the third coach in program history. The now-former Nebraska Omaha associate head coach agreed to a four-year contract that will pay him $225,000 annually. A portion of that salary will be funded privately, according to a university press release.
Hastings said there were a number of reasons why the job was attractive to him, but they all seemed to come back to the people.
“It’s an opportunity to be a head coach, but are the right people around?” said Hastings, who was reached by phone in at his home in Omaha, Neb. “And the answer is yes.”
Both athletic director Kevin Buisman and MSU President Richard Davenport said Hastings was the school’s top choice. Hastings was the only finalist announced by the university.
“Consistently, again and again, the first one or two names mentioned was Mike Hastings,” Buisman said. “I talked to literally a dozen people and had them make lists. Independently, his name was up there consistently.”
That didn’t change once the interview process started.
“After my first one-on-one meeting with him, I made up my mind,” Davenport said.
Hastings, 46, will be introduced during a press conference at 10:15 a.m.
Monday at the Verizon Wireless Center’s Ellerbee Room. Monday will be Hastings’ first official day on the job. He said he will return to Mankato some time this afternoon.
The Crookston native and his family were in Mankato from Thursday night until Saturday morning. Hastings was introduced as a candidate for the position during a public forum late Friday afternoon, but Hastings said then that he hadn’t been offered the job.
Buisman said an agreement in principle was reached on Saturday morning before Hastings returned to Omaha. Both sides took the night to weigh the decision.
“There were a lot of things to do just to get my family in order,” Hastings said. “Family always comes first in my life. I have a 13year- old daughter and a son, and you have to explain the proverbial ‘Why?’ question to them (about moving).
And I’m sure Mankato was trying to do their due diligence.”
Said Buisman: “ We’ve had only two other coaches here, so this could be a long-term relationship.”
Hastings succeeds Troy Jutting, who was coach for the last 12 years before being reassigned to an administrative position on April 1. Don Brose, who started the program, coached the team for 30 years.
Hastings brings an impressive resume to Minnesota State and has had brushes with some of the best coaches in college hockey. But he built a reputation as one of the top junior coaches in the United States.
He spent the last three seasons as part of Dean Blais’ staff in Omaha. A year before that he worked for one season on Don Lucia’s bench at Minnesota.
Between them, Blais and Lucia have four NCAA championships. Hastings also played for the legendary Herb Brooks for one year when Brooks was at St. Cloud State. Before going to Minnesota in 2008, Hastings earned his keep as a highly successful junior coach with the Omaha Lancers. In 14 seasons as head coach, he became the United States Hockey League’s all-time winningest coach. He won two national championships, three USHL Clark Cup titles and more than 500 games. He was also a two-time USHL coach of the year and five-time general manager of the year. “ We’re especially pleased because he was our first choice, right off,” Davenport said. “Every program in the country would be looking for someone like Mike. ...
He’s a first- class, first-rate guy.”
Hastings now has the task of turning around a program that finished 11th in the 12-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association the last two seasons and one that hasn’t been to the WCHA Final Five or the NCAA tournament since 2003. Minnesota State has also seen declining attendance figures and booster- club support in recent years.
Hastings said believes many pieces are in place for improvement, though, between returning players, incoming recruits and the newfound commitment to hockey shown by Davenport and others in the MSU administration.
“I think it’s a program that’s on the rise; I really do,” he said. “ There’s a lot there to work with.”
A large chunk of that commitment can be seen in Hastings’ salary. Jutting made approximately $160,000 last year.
However, Hastings’ contract is in line with other new deals in Division I hockey.
For example, first-year Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson made a reported $250,000 this past season, while Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Sandelin received a new deal worth $235,000 annually last spring after winning the national championship.
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