MANKATO, Minn. — Don Brose has seen a lot at Minnesota State, Mankato. Over 35 years with the school, including 30 as the hockey team’s head coach, he’s been a part of a national championship, the building of an arena, the ascent to Division I, a name change at the school and entry into the WCHA.
On Monday, Brose announced that he’s seen enough.
The coach of the Mavericks said at a news conference in Mankato, Minn., he will step down from his post when his contract expires in June.
But seeing the looks in his players’ eyes when he had to tell them he was resigning was almost too much.
“I guess when I first came in there, I looked at them and started getting tears in my eyes,” said Brose, who told his players of the decision on Sunday. “So I had to go out and get a drink of water. When I came back in, I told them that, ‘You can’t look at me, we can’t have eye contact, or we’re never going to get this over with.’ ”
Brose, who took the program from club status in the 1960s to the pinnacle of NCAA Division II hockey with a national championship in 1980, has a 551-332-72 record with the Mavericks.
He is seventh in career victories among active college coaches, and is 11th all-time.
“I don’t think that you really can comprehend what he has done for this program,” MSU captain Aaron Fox said. “I don’t think that anyone who doesn’t follow this team or doesn’t follow hockey really could understand what Don has done for this program. People who never had a chance to work or play for Coach Brose missed out.”
Retirement has the potential to be a double-edged sword for Brose, 59. On one hand, he looks forward to opportunities outside hockey.
But then again, when you’ve been doing something for 30-odd years, he said, it’s tough to let go.
Admitting this was a tough decision, Brose didn’t want to be labeled a quitter.
“I hate the word ‘quit,’” he said, “so I’m glad that nobody has used ‘quitting,’ because I refuse to use that word.
“I’m going to turn 60 in the spring. I’ve been at MSU for 35 years. I’ve been the head coach 30 years. I want to be selfish for me and my family for a change. I want to go out hunting, I want to say when I’m going to get up and all that good stuff. I could have had early retirement at age 57, but I wanted to keep going and see this program through to the WCHA. And you think of the wonderful things that are out there for you when you retire.
“But you know what? It really dawned on me what I’m giving up to gain all that stuff. I’m known as a crusty old guy with a big marshmallow heart. It was not easy facing the players (Sunday) night. I couldn’t get through it. It’s going to eat (at) me, (and be) very difficult for me to let go of coaching hockey and coaching young men.”
Minnesota State athletics director Don Amiot said a search for a replacement will begin immediately. One possibility is Mavericks assistant coach Troy Jutting, who played for the Mavericks and has been an assistant under Brose for 10 years.
He already has Brose’s vote.
“I think that Troy is a perfect fit for the program,” Brose said.
For the players, there is now a bit more riding on the rest of this season. The Mavericks are in fifth place in the WCHA with three weeks to play, one point ahead of intrastate rival Minnesota and one point behind Colorado College and St. Cloud State for third.
“I definitely think that it will motivate us a little more,” Fox said. “We have something more to play for now than just the home-ice advantage.
“Coach Brose deserves to go out on top, and hopefully we can give that to him.”