Mark Mazzoleni, head coach at Harvard the past five seasons, will be introduced Wednesday as the new head coach of the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers, according to sources.
Neither the Gamblers nor Harvard have confirmed or denied the news. Green Bay has scheduled a 12:30 p.m. (CT) news conference to announce its new head coach.
Mazzoleni, 45, a native of Green Bay who still holds season tickets to the Green Bay Packers, also played his junior hockey there. He is lifelong friends with Green Bay president Rob Nicholson.
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 became the natural replacement, if he wanted to return home.
Despite being a junior league, Green Bay is nonetheless extremely attractive, especially for Mazzoleni. 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 said to be in line with 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. Whether these tensions were a factor in Mazzoleni’s decision is unknown. Nevertheless, Scalise has repeatedly thrown his support behind Mazzoleni, rewarding him last year with a multi-year contract extension.
A young Mazzoleni began his coaching career by leading Wisconsin-Stevens Point to three consecutive Division III national championships (1989-91). 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.
At Harvard, Mazzoleni won two ECAC championships and earned three straight NCAA tournament bids. The 2002 championship and NCAA bid was the program’s first in eight years. His best season was in 2002-03, when Harvard went 22-10-2. As a result, the Crimson were ranked No. 6 in the nation coming into the season, but finished a disappointing sixth in the ECAC before rallying to win the league tournament title. Mazzoleni’s record at Harvard is 82-72-13, including 0-3 in the NCAAs.
Despite the remarkable stability in college hockey’s coaching ranks in recent years, the ECAC had three coaching changes last season — four if Colgate is included — and will have had two more this year (three counting Colgate).
This will be Harvard’s third coaching change since 1990. That’s after a 40-year run of just two coaches — Cooney Weiland and Bill Cleary.