Former Michigan assistant Pearson returns to succeed Berenson as Wolverines’ head coach

01 Oct 16:  Mel Pearson (Michigan Tech - Head Coach). The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs host the Michigan Technological University Huskies in a non-conference matchup at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, MN. (Jim Rosvold/USCHO.com)
Mel Pearson spent the past six seasons as head coach at Michigan Tech, going 118-92-29 over that span (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson has been named Michigan’s new head coach.

Pearson, who becomes the ninth head coach in program history, returns to Ann Arbor after previously serving 23 seasons as an assistant coach for the Wolverines and the past six as head coach at Michigan Tech.

“I am very honored and proud for this opportunity to be the next head coach at Michigan,” said Pearson in a statement. “I am looking forward to continuing to build upon the rich and successful tradition of Michigan hockey.

“I would like to thank President Schlissel, Warde Manuel and my long-time mentor and friend Red Berenson for entrusting me with this opportunity. I spent 23 years here and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ann Arbor. I am excited to be back and am looking forward to meeting the team and getting ready for next season.

“Lastly, I would like to thank the former players, alumni and fans that have reached out to me with encouragement.”

“I am thrilled to select Mel to lead our hockey program and for him to return home to U-M following tremendous success in leading the Michigan Tech program,” added Michigan director of athletics Warde Manuel in a statement. “I’ve known Mel for years and experienced his leadership ability when I was the sport administrator for hockey and he was an assistant under Red (Berenson). Mel’s qualifications are well known throughout the hockey community and reach far beyond his ability to coach. Simply put, I couldn’t have selected a finer person to lead our ice hockey program into the future.”

“I think Mel is a great fit for Michigan hockey,” said Berenson, who remains at U-M as an advisor to Manuel following his retirement from coaching earlier this month. “He knows the program well from his time here, and I think he is exactly what Michigan hockey needs to be successful.”

At MTU, Pearson guided the Huskies to two NCAA tournament appearances in the last three years while winning a WCHA regular-season title and a WCHA championship in that span. Pearson registered a 118-92-29 overall record, including a 75-34-14 mark over the past three seasons.

Under Pearson’s leadership, the Huskies finished the 2016-17 season ranked in the top 20 for a third consecutive year, all of them featuring 20-win campaigns. Pearson also earned two WCHA Coach of the Year honors in his time at Michigan Tech, which claimed the program’s first-ever No. 1 national ranking on Nov. 17, 2014.

Pearson served as a Michigan assistant coach from 1988-89 through 1998-99 and as associate head coach from 1999-2000 through 2010-11. He played an integral role in developing the Michigan program into one of the most successful in the country, being heavily involved in the Wolverines’ recruiting effort and helping land the core of its 1996 and 1998 NCAA championship teams. Over the course of those 23 years, the Wolverines posted a 667-243-71 record while capturing 11 CCHA regular-season titles, nine CCHA tournament crowns and two NCAA championships (1996 and 1998), in addition to making 11 NCAA Frozen Four appearances.

After he helped Michigan to the 1999-2000 CCHA regular-season championship, Pearson was awarded the Terry Flanagan Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association, which honors an assistant coach’s career body of work. Pearson also served as a coach with the 1996 United States World Junior Championship team, helping the Americans to a silver medal.

As a collegian, Pearson was a four-year letter-winner at Michigan Tech (1977-81), where he appeared in 97 games, accumulated 56 points (21 goals, 25 assists) and helped capture the WCHA tournament and a Great Lakes Invitational titles as a senior. Ironically, Pearson’s most “famous” goal was scored against the Wolverines in the championship game of the 1979 Great Lakes Invitational. He broke a 4-4 tie at 2:28 of the third overtime to give the Huskies the GLI title. The game still stands as the longest in the 43-year history of the tournament.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1981, Pearson remained at his alma mater to serve as an assistant coach on the Huskies’ staff from 1982-88.

“Mel has been an incredible leader for our hockey program over the last six seasons, and we thank him for his efforts to lead Michigan Tech hockey back to national relevance,” Michigan Tech athletic director Suzanne Sanregret said in a news release. “Winning the GLI, bringing home the MacNaughton Cup, winning the WCHA championship at home this season, and going to the NCAA tournament twice are moments that our fans will remember forever.”

“We have a great hockey program in a great hockey town and we will hire someone to build on that tradition,” Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz added. “We thank Coach Pearson for his fantastic six years at Michigan Tech. He has put us in a position to hire a new coach who will build upon the tremendous success Mel has had here. We wish Mel and his wife Susie the best of luck.”

“Mel has proven that you can win at Michigan Tech,” added Sanregret. “This is an opportunity for us to continue to grow and advance our historic program, and we will begin a national search for his replacement immediately.”

“I would like to thank President Mroz and Suzanne Sanregret for all of their support and for bringing me back to Michigan Tech and giving me an opportunity to become a head coach,” Pearson said. “I just can’t thank them enough.

“I would also like to thank all of the players that I’ve had at Tech that have helped make my time very enjoyable. I’m so proud of the guys I was able to coach, and I love those guys. I look forward to continuing my friendship with all of them. Being a head coach is never a one-man show. My assistant coaches and support staff worked tirelessly to help us win championships and were an important piece to our success.”

37 COMMENTS

  1. Definitely sad to see this happen, not that I didn’t have this gut feeling that it was going to happen, but I had hoped it wouldn’t. At the very least he returned Tech to relevancy and set the stage for us ot be able to find another good coach.

  2. .
    we had a beautiful 1/2-dozen-year run with pearson. thank you mel for that.

    new dawn, new opportunity; its all good, great. i am certain we will have great options. i know we will see to that.

    and that last goal scored here at home… that one against BGSU in OT. that somehow makes it all better… it somehow makes the future look amazingly bright!

    this is no different then m. roy or a. redmond… in a weird way, its what you want; relevance!

    we matter again. :)

    i am sad, but relieved – the anxiety was killing me.

    SO WHO ARE THE POSSIBILITIES?!?

    he did what was right for him – we will now do what’s right for us. best of luck to him – but mostly to us.

    GO TECH GOLD!
    .

    • my condolences. he’s a great coach. but best of luck in your search. mel made it a good destination. i’m sure you’ll get a good one.

      • .
        its all good. hell, what can you do?!?

        he will be a forever-ambassador for our program regardless… which is great.

        can’t wait to see who comes next… from the little that i know, i pick would be bill muckalt.

        GO TECH GOLD!
        .

        • May be too rich of a price tag but Dan Bylsma seems like an interesting idea. Born in west Michigan with ties to the area and is now out of a job with years left on a contract paying him well.

          From shining star to faded coaching prospect, there are worse places to rehabilitate yourself Gene Hackman style than Houghton. Young enough to have the energy to hit the recruiting trail too. Main thing though is if he does come to the college ranks I could see UNO as being a more appealing option.

  3. Well….

    1. Putting things in the best possible light: The last time Michigan Tech sent a head coach to Michigan (Al Renfrew, albeit with a one-year stop at NoDak), the Huskies hired a fellow named MacInnes, and he seemed to do OK…

    2. Mel is the third guy Tech has sent to Michigan – Renfrew and Danny Farrell (MacInnes’ assistant at the time). Not to mention Amo Bessone going to State. This is getting old. But then again, so am I…

    3. Blood and family *are* thicker than alma mater, and I can’t argue with that. Mel has a very tough act to follow at Michigan, but Mel’s successor, whoever it is, will have a tough act to follow at Tech as well.

    All the best, Mel. Look forward to your continued success.

    Now. Next man up!

      • Hmmm. Last I’d heard, he was let go a year ago by the Coyotes when they bought/moved the Springfield AHL team to Tucson. Not sure where he was last season – out of hockey? Resume looks good, except for Buffalo & Springfield stops. It could work. The only problem I’d have is if he considered the Tech job as a stepping stone to another NHL/AHL gig after a couple of years if the program remains successful, but I suppose I have to accept that these days…

        • .
          he is right now the/an advisor at ‘rolston hockey academy’ (oak park, mi) where his brother brian is the lead instructor.

          and about the stepping stone thing; looks like jim montgomery is headed to the panthers – makes mel’s move seem like old and trivial news.

          there is no way out of this.
          .

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  4. .
    tech hockey guide potential list;

    >> Former/current Pearson Assistants:

    Bill Muckalt, current Head Coach at Tri-City (USHL)
    Damon Whitten, current Head Coach at LSSU
    Joe Shawhan, former Head Coach in NAHL
    Gary Shuchuk, former Wisconsin assistant

    >> Former MTU players:

    Pat Mikesch, former assistant at MTU, current Head Coach at Green Bay (USHL)
    Brad Patterson, current Head Coach at Youngstown (USHL)
    Cam Ellsworth, former USHL assistant and current assistant coach at UMass-Lowell
    Ron Rolston, former USNTDP, AHL, and NHL Head Coach
    Davis Payne, former ECHL, AHL, and NHL Head Coach
    Jason McKee, former AJHL Head Coach and current Head Coach at Vancouver (WHL)
    Chris Cichocki, former ECHL Head Coach and current scout at Edmonton (NHL)
    Glenn Merkosky, former OHL and AHL Head Coach and current scout at Detroit (NHL)

    >> Current Successful USHL Coaches:

    John LaFontaine, head coach at Muskegon
    Jay Varady, head coach at Sioux City and former player/assistant at Union
    Cary Eades, head coach at Fargo and former player/assistant at North Dakota
    Dave Allison, head coach at Des Moines
    Chris Hartsburg, head coach at Lincoln and former player at Colorado College

    >> NCAA Coaches that might consider the opening:

    Mike Guentzel, current associate head coach at Minnesota
    Mark Osiecki, current assistant coach at Wisconsin and former OSU head coach
    Derek Schooley, current head coach at Robert Morris
    Chris Bergeron, current head coach at Bowling Green State
    Travis Winter, current assistant coach at Bemidji State
    Todd Knott, current assistant coach at Minnesota State
    Brett Larson, current assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth
    Dane Jackson, current assistant coach at North Dakota
    Ben Barr, current assistant coach at Massachusetts
    Josh Hauge, current assistant coach at Clarkson
    Dave Shyiak, current assistant coach at Western Michigan

    >> Other names to think about:

    Dean Blais, former North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha Head Coach
    Dan Bylsma, former Buffalo Sabres Head Coach
    Seth Appert, former RPI Head Coach
    .

      • .
        i think the likes of randy mckay (and/or john scott) would make great liaisons for the program – and would also be awesome additions to the search committee.

        …but not as coaches, they are not coaches.
        .

  5. This was the best outcome really, for everyone. Tech has a completely re-energized and successful program, the alums, students and Yoopers have something be proud of and rally around, we have multiple recent grads playing at the professional level, Mel was unequivocally able to establish creds as a head coach and get the job he was arguably already qualified for. Not but not least, while I have no inside knowledge I would like to extend a thank-you to Mel’s wife and family for what I’m sure involved personal sacrifices in relocating from a 20+ year home in AA to Houghton. Thanks very much for the six years.

    • Really?!? How is this the best outcome for Tech? The last time Tech lost a winning coach, we suffered through three decades of bad hockey.

      • .
        really…

        in the sense that he is doing what is right for him, what is best for him. he gets to finish off his career with a cherry on top. and let’s not forget what his wife may think, or the fact that he has a grand-kid downstate as well…

        does it suck for us? yes… i was sad.

        we now have to take the chance on somebody else – and pearson was the safe bet; alum, successful, classy, etc. hell, we took a chance on him didn’t we?

        six great years, i will take that any day. while this is a conspiracy type thought, he did us a favor. he could have stayed at michigan and had the job handed down to him. he didn’t. i am not sure if folks realize but he will be a forever-ambassador for our program…

        the success, community/fan involvement, legacy that he left us with makes me think that we won’t have another 30 years of bad sledding.

        and go further to say that we as fans are more demanding and hungrier now at six-years-in then we would be at, lets say, 12 or 18 years of success.

        the expectations here in houghton (i am typing this from inside dillman hall) are no less high then they are in ann arbor (no, i don’t much miss living there).

        potulny will apply for the MN job as soon as lucia retires… mel, no different right? NMU is now where we were six years ago.

        but the legacy he left, the position he left us in, allows us to land a energetic young (40s?) coach that will again strengthen the copper country as a destination – not a transition platform.

        and as a parting thought; i only see beautiful opportunity in all of this.

        GO TECH GOLD!
        .

        • I’ll be blunt, I don’t care what’s best for Mel, I care what’s best for Tech. Mel is a highly paid employee and $300,000 in Houghton is a great life. And yes, he could have stayed at Michigan and been Red’s minion the last six years instead of winning head coaching accolades at Tech. We did him a favor as much as he did us a favor.

          Now, by going back to Michigan, he’ll live in Red’s shadow (did you notice Red is still hanging around) and no matter how much Mel wins, he’ll be the third highest paid head coach at Michigan and play in the football-centric Big 10. The way I see this move, Mel found a cushy, well-paid position to keep his wife happy and coast into retirement 5 years from now.

          • .
            your thinking process is very valid. and probably partially true, just like somebody else’s ‘explanation.’

            and if this is the case, you would not want somebody of this type of “character” around anyway, right?!?

            so let’s find somebody that fits the bill in a hockeytown such as houghton! i am with you, let’s do what’s best for MTU!

            lots of great choices are out there… and the path is clear for them achieving more then mel did – he is great but he can be topped.

            GO TECH GOLD!
            .

      • I didn’t say it was. I said it was the best outcome for everyone overall. The leaving was unfortunately in the tea leaves. Incidentally I was a student 81-85 so I witnessed the beginning of the 30 years in the wilderness first-hand. Also took “hockey” as a PE class. Guess who the teacher was?

    • .
      i personally didn’t think it was the best choice – that pearson was a little too old – but not old enough to have stayed at tech.

      but they went with the safe bet.

      they will again cross the same bridge as berenson in 12 to 18 years. and looking at it that way (as in what he accomplished in six), you got it good!

      bill muckalt woulda have been a fine choice for UM… so maybe now he becomes ours. the gripe here being that pearson is a tech alum and muckalt a UM one… ;(
      .

  6. I am appalled that a former Michigan Tech hockey player would bolt the minute the Michigan job came up…Talk about ZERO LOYALTY… shaking my head…

    • .
      he was at UM longer then at tech as a player + coach. his daughter graduated from UM. he has a brand-new grand kid downstate. he is making more money. UM is a more storied program. its a way more prestigious job. his wife probably had a say…

      with that being said; IT TOTALLY SUCKS – specially on the verge of us turning 100! there are 60 D1 teams… only around 15 are older then tech.

      anyway we will get it right… we’ll see to that!
      .

      • What is bad about this is trying to gain a new coach after all the recruiting …Think about it..The hockey players now coming to MTU might have 2nd thoughts. You had a school and coach coming to your home and they impressed the family into signing a letter of intent… Now they realize the coach that impressed them to come to MTU is GONE… My experience is the school losing the coach suffers.. They lose possible players who no longer feel their best interest at MTU is there and I have never seen a program improve when a successful coach bolts a school. It only goes through setbacks. It’s like free fall from the mountain… You try and pick up the pieces but it’s almost impossible… Everything gained …is now lost.New program – new idea’s – new strategy- it all takes time…. it’s like starting all over again.

        Feel bad for the players left behind… I guarantee they all will suffer. It’s like…~Welcome back to the abyss~ from where you came… very disappointing.

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