Union named Harvard assistant Nate Leaman as its next head coach on Tuesday, confirming what USCHO.com first reported early Monday. Leaman will replace Kevin Sneddon, who left to take the Vermont head coaching position.
“I am extremely honored to accept this position,” said Leaman. “I’m looking forward ot building upon the momentum that this team has. I fully embrace all of the challenges that are presented here.”
Union athletic director Val Belmonte was not scared off in hiring the youngest coach in the ECAC.
“He’s so knowledgeable about the game,” said Union athletic director Val Belmonte. “Everyone I talked to thought he was a special up and coming find. You see that quality and that’s what shined. You need high energy and he knows the league.”
Leaman was chosen from a pool of 21-25 applicants, according to Belmonte, and Belmonte and Union were looking for a certain mix in their applicants.
“There were three things that we called the three fits here,” Belmonte said. “The process was that the individual had to fit the process, it had to fit the hockey program and it had to fit the individual themselves. Some searches leave these out and we feel we got the best guy.
“[Leaman] is the real deal. He will be one of the great coaches in the coming years.”
Leaman just finished his fourth season with the Crimson, the last as the top assistant and recruiting coordinator. Leaman was instrumental in helping build the Crimson team that won the ECAC Championship two years ago and two consecutive NCAA appearances. Leaman came to Harvard from Maine, where served as a volunteer assistant on the 1999 NCAA Championship team.
“I think the world of Nate and Val hit a home run with this hire,” said Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni. He impacted Harvard so positively in so many ways from the special teams to the forwards to recruiting. It is a loss for the Crimson, but a tremendous opportunity for Nate and Union couldn’t be in better hands.”
“Every assistant wants to be a head coach,” said Leaman. “Val attracted me, the school attracted me. The job that has been done with this program and I believe that student-athletes have the complete package.”
Leaman takes over a squad that finished sixth in the ECAC standings last year and earned its first-ever home ice playoff series. Union returns its top two scorers in Jordan Webb and Joel Beal.
“This is the ideal opportunity for Nate to prove himself and everything he can do as a coach,” said former Harvard athletic director and head hockey coach Bill Cleary. “He has been a big part of Harvard’s success and will continue to bring success to Union.”
Leaman was one of four finalists for the position. Troy Ward of Wisconsin and John Micheletto of Notre Dame were two others, the fourth has not been confirmed. At 30, Leaman becomes the second-youngest head coach in Division I, after Ryan Soderquist at Bentley.
“Kevin Sneddon was 28 when he took over this job,” said Belmonte. “Age doesn’t mean anything as long as you have the ability to do the job. And let’s face it, even though he’s young, he’s experienced a lot of success.”
Harvard loses its second assistant coach in as many years. Ron Rolston left to take over an assistant’s role at Boston College before the beginning of last season.
“Lots of people have given Mazz a lot over this,” said Leaman. “But really, it’s a compliment to Mazz that he has lost two assistants. He gave us every opportunity and it says a lot about him to people want to hire his staff.”
Leaman will begin immediately and would not comment on rounding out his coaching staff yet.
“I know that I have the work ethic to bring this to the next level,” he said. “I am just so excited to be part of the Union community.”