Mark Mazzoleni, head coach at Harvard the past five seasons, has been offered the job as head coach of the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, and is in Green Bay this weekend to discuss the offer, sources have confirmed.
Mazzoleni, a native of Green Bay who still holds season tickets to the Green Bay Packers, is said to be seriously mulling the offer to return to his hometown.
Neither Mazzoleni nor Nicholson have responded to attempts to reach them. Nicholson recently denied that he offered the job to Mazzoleni during an interview with a Green Bay television station.
Rumors about Mazzoleni’s future have kicked around since John Hynes left his job as Wisconsin assistant in December to replace Moe Mantha in the U.S. National Team Development Program. Former Green Bay coach Mark Osiecki, a Wisconsin alumnus, had long been considered the likely candidate to replace Hynes. That was made official last week, creating the Green Bay opening.
Mazzoleni, 48, is lifelong friends with Green Bay president Rob Nicholson and has been considered a prime candidate to be the next Gamblers head coach ever since the possibility arose that Osiecki could leave. He and his wife grew up there and have retained close ties to the area. Nicholson and Mazzoleni were seen in Boston together during the Frozen Four, and according to reports, it was more than just a friendly gathering.
Though in a sense a step down the coaching ladder, the Green Bay job is extremely attractive. In addition to being a homecoming, the Gamblers draw large crowds at the Resch Center, which is a future home of an NCAA Regional. Osiecki was also paid well, approximately $100,000 annually, which is not believed to be far off from Mazzoleni’s Harvard salary.
In addition, tension has built at Harvard in recent years, and especially recent months, with players, parents and alumni voicing various forms of displeasure with Mazzoleni. This past season, for example, according to sources close to the team, players aired a set of grievances to athletic director Bob Scalise. Nevertheless, Scalise has repeatedly thrown his support behind Mazzoleni, rewarding him last year with a multi-year contract extension.
According to USHR, parents used a December 2003 incident as a way around Scalise. Reportedly, Mazzoleni and the parent of goalie John Daigneau had words at the Dunkin Donuts tournament. A group of parents went around Scalise and spoke to the school president, Larry Summers, who used Scalise’s assistant, Patricia Henry, to investigate.
The other candidate for the job in Green Bay is current St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin. Coghlin was a star player for Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where a young Mazzoleni had his first head coaching job and won three straight national championships.
From there, Mazzoleni was an assistant at Minnesota before getting his first Division I head coaching job, at Miami. He replaced George Gwozdecky and was there for five seasons, earning an NCAA bid in 1996-97. After the 1998-99 season, Mazzoleni earned the job at Harvard after a number of others turned it down. He went on to help Harvard rebound from some down years, but never seemed to quite get over the hump, despite earning NCAA tournament bids — and two ECAC championships — the last three seasons.
“Within the Harvard community, he felt like an outsider, and the more he felt that way, the worse things became,” wrote USHR’s Chris Warner. “Jobs are a bit like marriages. Some work, some don’t. This one wasn’t working.”
Todd Milewski contributed to this report.