North Dakota will stay within the family and appoint Dave Hakstol its head coach, a newspaper reports.
Hakstol, currently the team’s interim head coach after the departure of Dean Blais, will be given the full title as early as next week, the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald reported in a story in Thursday’s editions, quoting an unidentified source close to the hockey program.
North Dakota assistant coach Brad Berry has been offered the associate head coach position, the newspaper also reported.
Both claims were disputed by North Dakota athletic director Roger Thomas, who noted that the school’s hiring process is still under way.
“I have to wait and see what comes in,” Thomas told the Herald. “I could have 10 applicants or none.”
Thomas did confirm, however, that the position will be filled by a current employee of the university. The school’s job posting for the position is internal only.
Since Blais ended his 10-year tenure as the Sioux coach last week to join the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets as an associate head coach, the pressing question centered around whether Thomas would hire from within the school or open a national search.
The school’s internal job posting Web site on Thursday shows an opening for the head men’s hockey coach, with a deadline of July 7.
“There are good candidates, both internally and externally,” said Thomas to the Herald. “That was a decision I had to make, and I made it.”
Hakstol was careful in speaking to the paper, saying “The position was opened internally, and I will most definitely apply for it. Beyond that, they have a process they must go through.”
Hakstol, 35, was an assistant to Blais for four seasons, following a stint as head coach and general manager of Sioux City in the United States Hockey League and another as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Moose of the IHL.
A three-year letterwinner for the Sioux from 1989 to 1992 as a defenseman, Hakstol was a two-year captain as a player.
In his farewell press conference at UND last Saturday, Blais campaigned for Hakstol to be named his replacement. Timing was an issue, with Thursday being the first day recruiters can contact next year’s high school seniors.
If the school had opened a national search, that would have taken at least 30 days.
Hakstol will have big shoes to fill at UND. Before he left, Blais was the top active Division I coach in terms of winning percentage (.679) and won two national championships in 10 seasons. North Dakota was the top seed in last season’s NCAA tournament, but lost to eventual national champion Denver in the West Regional final.
But, despite the loss of Zach Parise to the NHL, he has a strong team, led by Hobey Baker finalist Brandon Bochenski, a senior. North Dakota also has two first-round draft picks, Sophomore-to-be Drew Stafford and incoming freshman Travis Zajac.
“The game of hockey isn’t rocket science. The philosophy and style of hockey that Dean brought to the table, that won’t change,” said Hakstol at Saturday’s press conference to announce Blais’ departure, already speaking like a head coach. “That [up-tempo game] is a style that people have said is the way hockey is meant to be played. Beyond that, you win a lot of games with recruiting.
“I think it’s a great challenge, and a challenge I look forward to. I think [assistant coach] Brad [Berry] and I can take it on during this transition without any major changes in style or philosophies.”