With the deadline for applications just past, two names have emerged as leading candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant Wisconsin head coaching position.
According to the Capital Times, former Badgers Mike Eaves and Don Granato are on a short list of candidates, though neither has been formally interviewed. Current assistants Mark Johnson and Pat Ford are also being given consideration, and each has already received two interviews.
Current Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer announced in January that he was stepping down at the end of this season. Wisconsin athletics director Pat Richter has said he wants to announce Sauer’s replacement before the Frozen Four, which starts April 4.
Granato, one of four family members to play for Wisconsin — including long-time NHL player Tony Granato — and a member of the 1990 national championship team, is still under contract as head coach of the Worcester Ice Cats of the American Hockey League. He has declined to comment on the situation, though, according to the Capital Times, Richter intends to contact him for an interview shortly.
Granato, 35, had a brief pro playing career before turning to coaching. He began in the USHL in Green Bay, before moving to Columbus and then Peoria (ECHL), and Worcester, the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. Last year’s Ice Cats were regular-season AHL champions.
Eaves is currently head of the U.S. National Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. His son Ben plays at Boston College, and his younger son, Patrick, will enroll at BC next fall after his stint with the USNDP is over.
According to the Capital Times, Eaves and Richter first discussed the situation by phone last week, and have been trying to schedule a face-to-face meeting. Eaves’ busy schedule as coach of the U.S. Under-18 team, as well as Richter’s travel to Washington D.C. for the Badgers’ NCAA men’s basketball tournament game, poses a problem they are trying to work around.
“I expect somehow we’ll get together,” Richter told the Capital Times.
Eaves is the Badgers’ all-time leading scorer, compiling 267 points from 1974-78. After eight NHL seasons, he was briefly an assistant with the Calgary Flames under Bob Johnson, Eaves’ coach at Wisconsin. He was an assistant at St. Cloud State in 1987-88, a prep school coach and later was an NHL assistant in Pittsburgh before moving to Ann Arbor.
Eaves’ contract with USA Hockey runs out this summer, and his wife’s family still lives in Madison.
“Not only do we have roots there and stock in the program, it’s a great program,” Eaves said to the Capital Times.