EAST LANSING, Mich. — Ron Mason wasted no time naming his successor.
Two days after losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Mason’s tenure as Michigan State head coach officially ended after 23 years. Today, Mason, who officially becomes the school’s new athletic director on July 1, picked Northern Michigan coach Rick Comley as his replacement.
Comley, who becomes MSU’s fifth men’s hockey coach, will be introduced at a noon press conference on Monday. Comley, who won a national championship at Northern Michigan in 1991, is seventh on the NCAA’s all-time win list with 597.
“I’m very excited about having the opportunity to lead one of the best hockey programs in the country,” Comley said. “Ron Mason has established a program of national prominence. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life.”
The Stratford, Ont., native began his coaching career as an assistant coach to Ron Mason at Lake Superior State in 1972-73, following his four-year Laker playing career. Comley took over the reins at Lake Superior State in 1973 following Mason’s departure to Bowling Green.
“My relationship with Ron has truly come full circle and it’s a special opportunity to work for him,” Comley said.
Comley spent three seasons (1973-76) as the Lakers’ head coach before moving on to Marquette, Mich., to start the varsity program at NMU, where he spent the next 26 seasons.
In addition to coaching, Comley spent 13 years (1987-2000) as NMU’s athletic director.
Comley was 538-429-68 (.553) at NMU, and is just of just 12 coaches to win 450 games at one school. He also is one of two individuals to have coached regular-season champions in the WCHA and CCHA.
Comley’s 1990-91 championship team was 38-5-4, and finished the season with a 26-game unbeaten streak, culminating in the 8-7 triple overtime win over Boston University in the NCAA final. The 1979-80 Wildcats lost the NCAA final to North Dakota, and Comley’s teams made five other NCAA appearances.
“First, Rick Comley is a fierce competitor,” said Mason. “Rick was that way as a player and he has carried that competitiveness into his coaching. He’s very innovative in terms of his coaching and he’s a tireless worker.
“At Northern Michigan, Rick has literally built that program from scratch and he has done every aspect of the job. At Michigan State, there’s so much more to this position than simply coaching. Rick knows how to completely run a hockey program so he can handle both the coaching and administrative roles.”
Comley was honored with the Spencer Penrose Memorial Trophy as college hockey’s national coach of the year in 1980 and 1991. Twice he was named CCHA Coach of the Year (1980 and 1981) and WCHA Coach of the Year (1989 and 1991).
“Rick’s track record is second to none,” Mason said. “It’s a tribute to Michigan State hockey that it can attract someone with Rick’s credentials. He’s a perfect fit for Michigan State and the right coach to follow in my footsteps.”
Comley played four years of collegiate hockey (1967-71) for Mason at Lake Superior State. He was a two-time NAIA All-American as well as serving as the team captain as a senior in 1971. He was voted the team’s MVP and won Lake Superior State’s Outstanding Athlete Award in 1971.