Sources: Wisconsin preparing to name Tony Granato coach

Wisconsin is preparing to announce Tony Granato as its new head coach, sources have told USCHO.

Granato, who played for the Badgers from 1983 to 1987, has been an NHL coach since 2002, including head coaching stints with the Colorado Avalanche.

For the last two seasons, he has been an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings.

He would be only the fifth full-time Wisconsin head coach since the program restarted in 1963 after a nearly-three-decade hiatus. Bob Johnson, Jeff Sauer and Mike Eaves all had coaching tenures of at least 14 seasons in that time; inaugural modern era coach John Riley spent three seasons with Wisconsin.

Sources indicated that Granato’s brother, Don, and former Badgers assistant and Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki also appear to be part of the incoming Wisconsin coaching staff.

Don Granato is the coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, while Osiecki is associate coach with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. Both are also former Wisconsin players.

Tony Granato, 51, led Colorado to the NHL playoffs in 2003 after taking over during the season and again in 2004. He returned to an assistant role after the lost 2004-05 lockout season, then was head coach again in 2008-09.

After being fired by Colorado in 2009, he spent five seasons as an assistant with Pittsburgh before joining Detroit in 2014.

The Badgers fired Eaves on March 18 after a second straight losing season. Wisconsin was 8-19-8 this season after going 4-26-5 in 2014-15.

Eaves won the 2006 national championship and made seven NCAA tournament appearances in 14 seasons at his alma mater.

The contracts of associate head coach Luke Strand and assistant coach JB Bittner were tied to that of Eaves, a Wisconsin spokesperson said. Strand and Bittner agreed to stay on during the program’s transition.

The new coaching staff will take over a program that has suffered a sharp decline in attendance and revenue in recent seasons.

This season, the Badgers averaged fewer than 10,000 fans per game at the Kohl Center for the first time in 18 seasons playing there. Season ticket sales fell 23 percent between 2014-15 and 2015-16, and season sales this season were less than half of the level in 2006-07, the season after Wisconsin won its sixth national championship.

According to athletic department financial statements, the men’s hockey team’s net profit fell from $1.179 million in 2011-12 to $38,502 in 2014-15.

Granato played in 853 NHL regular season and playoff games over 13 seasons, scoring 264 goals.

In four seasons at Wisconsin, he scored 100 goals in 151 games and was a finalist for the 1987 Hobey Baker Award.

He was inducted into Wisconsin’s athletics hall of fame in 2000.