Lake Superior State announced the return of Frank Anzalone, the man who took the Lakers to their first NCAA Championship in 1988, as its head coach on Tuesday afternoon.
Anzalone replaces Scott Borek, who was fired March 18 after five seasons as coach of the Lakers. Borek replaced Jeff Jackson, who took the Lakers to two more national championships after replacing Anzalone.
“I’m obviously very happy to get back to the college game,” said Anzalone. “While I have benefited greatly from my experience in the professional game, my passion is college hockey and, specifically, Laker hockey. I’m very motivated by this challenge.”
Anzalone did not have his contract renewed after the 1990 season, after a falling out with the administration.
“When I left the Sault in 1990, I was deeply saddened,” Anzalone said. “I left behind a stable program and a legacy of loyal players who have been incredibly supportive over the course of many years. Despite the circumstances, I left with my dignity, and my love of Laker hockey. I return with the same, and look forward to going about the business of re-energizing the team and the program and its support.”
“Frank’s a Laker,” said Lake State Director of Athletics Bill Crawford. “The University has opted for someone who proved in the past that he can win. He has enormous respect for the traditions of Laker hockey. He established many of them.
“Lake Superior State is a special place, and it requires a special person to coach here successfully. We have become accustomed to success here, but we compete in a tough league, and it is not easy to maintain success. We have the smallest student enrollment in the league and we are the smallest public institution playing the game. Frank has proven in the past that he can master the situation, and we need that again. Also, I am confident that hockey alumni will take a more active role in the program.”
Anzalone was most recently coach of the ECHL’s Pee Dee Pride, where he was fired in November, just 13 games into the season. The previous year, he led Pee Dee to a 47-18-5 record and the Palmetto Cup as regular season champs.
Anzalone took over as head coach at Lake State in January of 1983 on an interim basis for Bill Selman, who had resigned. He took a relatively unknown program and turned the Lakers into an NCAA champion. In 1988, Anzalone won the CCHA Championship and captured the NCAA title over St. Lawrence in Lake Placid, N.Y.
In hist first tenure, Anzalone guided the Lakers to a 191-108-22 record from 1983-90.
Anzalone left and bounced from one pro job to another over 10 years.
“Frank is the right guy for Lake Superior State at this time,” said Crawford. “He knows the situation and I have no doubt that he knows how to approach it. He’s experienced a lot in the last 11 years. I believe that this opportunity to work with college players again will rejuvenate him and bring out his best work.”
Anzalone is confident he can return the program to prior glory, while also acknowledging some of his past issues.
“I really appreciate what the University has done here,” said Anzalone. “I am confident that I am back where I belong. A person’s character is what he is; his reputation is what others think he is. I know my character and I know my reputation. Some say that I was difficult to work with and to play for; that I am demanding and relentless, but I consider myself a teacher, a developer. I am fair and I am honest.
“I accept that I can become so focused on what I am doing that I may neglect to acknowledge someone as we pass in a hallway or on a street. There is never an intention of offend anyone, however. I now look forward to renewing old friendships and building new ones. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to return to LSSU.
“This is not about me, not about my return, nor is it about my restoration to the head coaching position. It means to me what it always has: it’s about Laker hockey.”
Lake State also announced the hiring of Jim Roque as assistant coach. Roque played under Anzalone and graduated in 1987. After a tenure as an assistant at Lake State, Roque moved to Clarkson in 1994 and has been there since.
“Jim Roque has the experience we need at this time,” said Crawford. “He’s been at this for 14 years. He knows the recruiting game inside and out. He knows Frank Anzalone and what Frank wants in a player. Jim works very well with Frank, and he wants to return to the Lakers.”
Said Roque, “I’m excited about this. Working with Frank has always been a good experience for me. Nobody knows the game better than Coach Anzalone. There is no one I respect more. I like the staff at Lake Superior, and the situation we face. It will be a challenge, but I like our chances.”
Crawford also announced that Paul Jerrard would be returning as an assistant coach and that Alan Dunbar would not be retained as an assistant coach.