Mel Pearson says championship loss delayed his decision to take Michigan Tech job, discusses possibility of returning to Michigan
Three weeks ago, Mel Pearson turned down the opportunity to be the hockey coach at Michigan Tech.
Today, it was announced that the Michigan associate head coach would accept the still-vacant position.
According to Pearson, there was no clever posturing or negotiating that led to him eventually accepting the position. Just a matter of timing, and a change of heart.
“The one big thing was when I went up there (in mid-April), it was just like four days after we lost to (Minnesota) Duluth in the championship game and I think, just emotionally, I was all over the place at that point,” Pearson said in a telephone interview.
Michigan Tech wanted an answer within 48 hours of the offer last month and, at that point, he felt staying at Michigan was the right decision.
“I just needed to step back and take a look at things and, at that time, really with everything going on, it was just a tough time to make a decision, a life-changing decision," Pearson said. "So I just think I went with the safe way and said no."
Last week at the American Hockey Coaches Association convention in Naples, Fla., Pearson ran into Michigan Tech athletic director Suzanne Sanregret and a couple days later discussed the position again.
The result was a five-year deal to be the head coach at his alma mater.
“It’s a good opportunity a good challenge so I’m looking forward to it,” Pearson said.
“I think I never completely shut the door on Tech, even though I had to give them a pretty quick answer there, and I always thought about Tech."
Pearson said both Michigan coach Red Berenson and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told him "there was some really good things about taking a head coaching job and getting that experience."
So is a return to Michigan in Pearson’s future? He has long been mentioned as the successor to Berenson, who has two years remaining on a three-year contract.
“Right now, I’m just going into it trying to get that program turned around and in order and we’ll see what happens,” Pearson said.
Pearson replaces Jamie Russell, who went 70-197-37 in eight seasons. The Huskies were 4-30-4 last year. The last time the Huskies qualified for the NCAA Tournament was in 1981, Pearson's senior year.
“I obviously have a special place in my heart here," Pearson said of Ann Arbor. "I've got two kids at Michigan right now, so there are a lot of positives about right here. But I guess I’m not really thinking about it right now. And who knows with Red. Red could be here another 10 years.
“I think that was part of looking at it, too, was ya know, jeez, Red could be here five, six, seven years. That’s not out of the possibility. I mean he’s in great shape, he has a passion for the game, he still makes a difference, he still motivates his kids. So I think that was part of it.” Pearson said. “If I had time to digest (the job offer initially) more I think that would have swayed me more into going back to Tech.”
When Pearson turned down the Michigan Tech job in April, some speculated it was because he had been promised the Michigan head coaching job when Berenson stepped down. Pearson said no such thing was ever offered, nor did he ask for a timetable.
“I didn’t discuss that with those guys. I don’t think Red knows how long he’s going to be here, so it’d be tough to ask Dave or Red (for a timetable),” Pearson said. “There were no discussions like that. It was more of this was a good opportunity and the timing was good and right, and things just fell into place for me.”
Michigan has a 667-243-71 record during Pearson's tenure behind the bench, including 11 CCHA regular-season titles and two NCAA championships (1996 and 1998). Michigan Tech has scheduled an 11 a.m. press conference on Tuesday to introduce Pearson.