After serving as head coach at Vermont for the past 19 years, Mike Gilligan is retiring, one win shy of the school record for wins. Gilligan will stay with the university as golf coach and to assist new athletic director Bob Corran with special projects.
Gilligan completes his UVM career with a record of 279-289-46, with a career record is 419-348-49. A collegiate head coach for 26 years, Gilligan was sixth among active coaches in career wins at the end of the 2002-03 season.
The golf coach at UVM for the past 10 years, Gilligan will retain those duties while also working in his new role. A national search to fill the hockey coaching position will begin immediately, and Gilligan will continue to handle all administrative aspects of the men’s hockey program until a successor is found.
“Mike Gilligan has all the qualities you would want in a collegiate head coach,” said outgoing athletic director Rick Farnham. “He is loyal, thoughtful and extremely dedicated to his student-athletes. His values are beyond reproach.
“More importantly, Mike is a man of integrity and as caring a person as you will find. He has been an asset to this university and to this community, and we are thrilled that he will remain with us as we move forward.”
Gilligan, 55, said the time was right to step down.
“It has been an honor to lead this program for the past 19 years, and I am now looking forward to serving the university and the athletic department in a new capacity,” Gilligan said. “I am very proud of what we accomplished here and the quality of the young men who have come through this program. My relationships with the players and with the great Catamount fans have made these 19 years the best of my life.
“This is something I have been seriously considering since the end of the season. I always wanted to make sure that I left the program in good shape. I think the program made tremendous strides in 2002-03, and I am confident that the future is bright for UVM hockey. I am now looking forward to working with Bob Corran, our incoming director of athletics, and supporting him as he works to elevate the overall quality of our athletic program.”
No current ECAC coach has compiled more wins than Gilligan, and only three coaches — Len Ceglarski, Jerry York and Jack Riley — have recorded more wins in the history of the league.
Gilligan coached six all-Americans at Vermont (Eric Perrin, Martin St. Louis, Tim Thomas, Christian Soucy, Aaron Miller and Kyle McDonough), two ECAC Rookies of the Year (Perrin and Soucy) and two ECAC Players of the Year (Perrin and St. Louis).
In addition to his success on the ice, Gilligan also was a key figure in the refurbishing of Gutterson Fieldhouse, which was introduced to the fans in the fall of 1990 and expanded the rink from 3,000 to more than 4,000 seats.
Gilligan’s 1987-88 team became UVM’s first hockey squad to compete in an NCAA tournament. That season, UVM advanced to the ECAC Championships at Boston Garden, losing to eventual ECAC champion and NCAA runner-up, St. Lawrence, in the semifinals. UVM then fell to Bowling Green in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For his team’s effort, Gilligan was named co-Coach of the Year in the ECAC.
During the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons, he led Vermont to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and back-to-back 20-win seasons. In 1995-96, the Cats posted a 27-7-4 record — the winningest season in UVM’s Division I hockey history — in addition to claiming their first-ever ECAC regular-season championship and making its first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance. In 1996-97, Vermont posted a 22-11-3 overall mark and attained a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in the program’s history.
Gilligan began his coaching career at his alma mater, Salem State, in 1975 where he compiled a .727 winning percentage (128-48-2, 6 years). Gilligan’s record represented the second-best Division II winning percentage in ECAC history, second only to his predecessor at Vermont, Jim Cross.
After Salem State, he left for Yale to serve two years as an assistant coach under Tim Taylor and one year (1983-84) as Yale’s interim head coach, during which season he posted a 12-13-1 record. In the spring of 1984, he was named to succeed Cross at Vermont, thus becoming the school’s third head coach since 1963.
A former standout defenseman at Salem State, Gilligan captained the Vikings for two years (1968-70), the same two seasons he earned All-America honors, the school’s first hockey player to do so. He was inducted into Salem State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986. Gilligan also played one season with the Springfield (Mass.) Blades of the Eastern League, and in 1972 was a member of the U.S. Team at the World University Games in Lake Placid.
During the 2000-2001 season, Gilligan achieved two career milestones: he recorded his 250th career win at Vermont with a win at Harvard in November, and posted his 400th career victory with a win over Brown late in the season. Gilligan was only the 18th coach in NCAA history to record 400 wins. In the game at Dartmouth on Jan. 18, 2003, Gilligan coached in his 800th career game.