HOUGHTON - Mel Pearson has options.
And that is what the Michigan Tech hockey coach likes best as the Huskies continue to narrow down the candidates for replacing former assistant coach Damon Whitten (now the head coach at Lake Superior State) this summer.
According to Pearson - who is currently on the road recruiting - applicants range from Stanley Cup winners to 20-year coaching veterans and players just recently out of college themselves.
Michigan Tech’s bench watches a February game against Alaska at MacInnes Student Ice Arena. Standing in the back are, from left, former assistant coach Damon Whitten, head coach Mel Pearson and current assistant Bill?Muckalt. The Huskies are considering applicants to replace Whitten, who took the head coaching job at Lake Superior State this spring. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Pearson, with the help of assistant coach Bill Muckalt, should be reaching a decision in "two or three weeks time."
"Replacing Damon will be difficult, because he did such a great job with so many things, but we are really happy with the number of quality candidates that we had apply and I personally got calls from," Pearson said. "I wish we could take three of them on, but no matter what, we are going to get a good one."
There are a lot of factors to consider when rounding out a college coaching class.
Personality, energy, tactics, style and experience all matter when trying to find the right combination to woo 16-year-old recruits and motivate 24-year-old players.
Pearson doesn't want to lock himself in on one type though. He just wants a coach as passionate about hockey as he is.
"When you are selling the program, you are essentially selling yourself to recruits," Pearson said. "The character of a person is so important. So while all those hats matter, all the little details matter, we are primarily looking for someone who has the same passion for the game we do."
Still, the ideal candidate would likely be familiar with the United States' various junior hockey leagues, as Muckalt is responsible for recruiting Western Canada.
But even that isn't a deal breaker with the Huskies locked in on many of their recruits over the next couple of years.
"It would be nice for someone who has knowledge of the junior leagues in the U.S.," Pearson said. "But primarily we want someone who can network. Whether that is an experience guy with that network already built or a younger guy with the energy to do it, we are considering all the options right now."
Age does not matter much to Pearson.
There are benefits for both experience and youth in an assistant. So he is willing to go in either direction with whichever coach impresses him the most.
"Experience is obviously valuable, but there is an energy with a younger guy that helps too," Pearson said. "So we don't need someone that has been doing this for 10 years."
Pearson said there were no candidates for the job who formerly played at Michigan Tech, thus limiting one obvious route.
Instead he wants someone with fresh ideas about hockey. Someone that can challenge Pearson's preconceived notions.
"That's one thing we are not looking for, we are not looking for another guy like us," Pearson said. "We want someone who can bring new ideas to the game and challenge me in the right way. We aren't looking for a yes-man."