COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Jeff Jackson and Bob Mancini, former college coaches who left their respective schools four years ago to lead the U.S. National Team Development Program, have been fired by USA Hockey.
“USA Hockey appreciates the fine efforts both Jeff and Bob have displayed while building our National Team Development Program,” said USA Hockey executive director Doug Palazzari. “We remain firmly committed to the program and all of its players. Beginning immediately, USA Hockey will conduct an extensive, nationwide search to fill these positions.”
Prior to joining the National Development Program, Jackson was a two-time national champion as coach at Lake Superior, and Mancini was head coach at Michigan Tech. The development program, based out of Ann Arbor, Mich., was started in 1996, and Jackson was named the first full-time U.S. national coach on June 7 of that year. Jackson was put in charge of the entire training program, and also served as head coach of the National Junior Team and the National Under-18 Team.
Jackson led the U.S. Junior Team to a second-place finish at the World Junior Championships in Switzerland in his first year on the job, 1996-97. That created high hopes for the program, but even Jackson warned at the time that it might be an aberration.
After disappointing finishes the next two years, the U.S. finished fourth, losing a shootout to Canada in the bronze medal game in Sweden this January. Jackson missed the game after flying home because of his mother’s illness.
However, a recent eighth-place finish at the Under-18 World Junior Championships in Switzerland may have sealed the coaches’ fates.
Jackson was one of the most respected coaches in college hockey when he left Lake Superior. He led the Lakers to a 182-52-25 overall record during his six-year tenure as head coach. His .751 winning percentage ranks first among all coaches in LSSU history, and his career total of 182 wins is just nine shy of the school record held by his predecessor, Frank Anzalone.
Under Jackson’s direction, the Lakers claimed two NCAA championships (1991-92 and 1993-94) and advanced to the title game of the NCAA Tournament three consecutive seasons (1992-94). Each of Jackson’s six teams qualified for the NCAA tournament, and five of his squads posted 30 or more victories. In 1990-91, he was honored as the CCHA Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.
Jackson was also athletic director at Lake Superior, and oversaw the renovation of the current Taffy Abel Arena, which opened in 1995-96.
Mancini had been with the program since its inception, as well. During his tenure at Michigan Tech, Mancini led the Huskies to three appearances in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five, including a spot in the championship game in Milwaukee in 1995-96. Prior to taking over at Michigan Tech in 1992-93, Mancini spent the previous two seasons as head coach at Ferris State University.