Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Look Back: Tom Anastos Hired

Nearly 17 months ago (on March 23, 2011 to be exact), Michigan State University hired Tom Anastos as the head coach of the hockey team. The question over his tenure will be - was it a good hire. Obviously this question cannot be answered fairly in such a short period of time. However, we can look at the initial media and public reaction, along with the current reaction.


To say the initial public reaction was mixed probably would be an understatement.

The United States of Hockey Blog examined the hire in great detail. They wondered if the decision was rushed, if he was leaving just because the Big 10 was coming and changing the entire landscape of college hockey, and there were still a lot of question marks if he could recruit and prove he was a good bench coach. At the same time, at no point does the article state he was a bad hire.

Even the College Hockey News Q&A with Coach Anastos raised some eyebrows:

CHN: So this all came down at the last minute?

Anastos: Yeah. He called and said, "What's up? I'd like to talk to you about our coaching position." I said, "What do you need to know?" He said, "No, I'd like to talk to you, I'd like to see if you'd be interested in it." I don't remember my exact words, but I said, "C'mon!" He says, "No, I'm serious," and he asked me if I'd consider it. I said sure, why not listen. So I went up there the next day, met with the selection committee, met with them for a while, and returned back to my office. Later that evening I got a call from (Hollis) and (associate AD Shelley) Applebaum, and they said, "We'd like you to be our hockey coach. We're at the end of our process and we need to get a decision because we made a commitment they'd have a coach by the end of the week."
So I got together wife my wife — my head was spinning — and talked to my kids, and made a decision. And I told him, "I'm interested, let's do it."
He had a list of reasons for why he wanted me. He has a pretty specific profile that he uses in hiring, and he said I hit, in his view, every one of them. It started that way, we talked about expectations and philosophy.
 Thoughts from the Ann Arbor camp were (not surprisingly) mocking Michigan State for the hire.... dedicating an entire article to laughing at MSU for making this hire.  I know, I know, linking an article from MGoBlog should probably require that I'm not allowed on the internet for awhile, but you don't have to click the link. In some circles, the hire was seen as disastrous at worst and risky at best.

But it was never questioned that Anastos was a good leader with a lot of power in the college hockey world. I know I was personally shocked, and I wondered where Mark Hollis was going with this one, but as a Spartan, I believe everyone (myself included) was willing to give him a chance. Plus, why question Mark Hollis at this point, since he has hit a home run on every coaching hire to date.


Michigan State may have only gone 19-16-4, a four win improvement from the 2010-2011 season, but the Spartans managed a first round bye in the CCHA tournament, and a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. On top of that, recruiting seems to have picked up, as the Spartans are landing some talented players. The question remains if all of these players will end up East Lansing, or if the OHL will come in and run interference, but the fact of the matter is these guys weren't always thinking 'Michigan State' under Rick Comley.

I doubt all of the skeptics are sold on Anastos, but the press does seem to be cautiously optimistic.

Dillion Davis from The State News talks about the hope of the program.....

College Hockey News even appeared to be on board with Anastos and the future of MSU hockey

It's tough to compare Coach Anastos with the start of Kobs & Paulsen (they went a combined 14-43-1 from 1925 - 1951, when MSU only played hockey for 8 seasons). Coach Bessone struggled early as MSU had losing records in his first six seasons at Michigan State. The rest is history though as Coach Bessone really put MSU hockey on the national power map. Ron Mason didn't have a winning season until his 3rd year in East Lansing. The rest is history there as well. Rick Comley had much more success early on, earning at least 20 wins in his first six seasons at MSU. However, he was only 23-14-2 in his first year, when MSU had won at least 25 games in each of its previous five seasons (33-29-27-33-27), so it'd be easy to point out that Comley was taking over a very good program.

So on that note, you could be impressed with how Anastos won in his first season behind the bench. The questions now will be to see if he can build upon that success and show improvement, despite losing some key players (including Torey Krug). This is where his recruiting will be put under the microscope - though it may take a few years before this impact is really realized. In the meantime, if the team continues to compete hard, you have to figure things are looking up, and Mark Hollis did it again with this hire.

And most of you would agree - as the earlier poll results suggest that the vast majority of voters gave his first season an 'A' grade.

But history will ultimately be the judge of his hire.

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