The Wolverine

June/July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 25 sistant coach a few years ago, I came down here to apply for a job. Little did I know at the time, if I got that job, how it would change the rest of my life. When I accepted that position as assistant coach, I had the opportunity to work at the greatest university. "I had an opportunity to be around the best student-athletes in the world and I had the opportunity to coach, in my opinion, with the best college coach there's ever been, Coach Red Berenson." Michigan director of athletics Warde Manuel only took 14 days to complete the search that culminated in Pear- son's hiring. Pearson's 23-year stint as both assistant coach and associate head coach at Michigan made him the odds-on favorite to take over for the retiring Berenson. "It is a great day to welcome Mel and his family back to Ann Arbor," Manuel said. "Mel and I had great conversations the last couple of days, and it ultimately was a very easy decision because of who Mel is as a person. "We all know his coaching ac- colades, his ability to provide great leadership under Red; [he] went out to Michigan Tech, rebuilt that program — two NCAA Tournament appear- ances, a conference championship this year. He has done a tremendous job and earned the seat to sit in the chair as the head coach here at Michigan. I had a great conversation with [Beren- son] regarding the choice of Mel as coach." The hiring decision was made easier for Manuel due to the personal rela- tionship he had built with Pearson during their earlier tenure together in the athletic department. The new coach shared a story at the press con- ference detailing their previous stint together at Michigan. "I'd also like to thank Warde Man- uel, who was the hockey administrator back in the day," Pearson said. "Warde would be the guy who handed out the per diem. My kids loved Warde. I think they liked him more than they liked me. Their nickname for Warde was 'the money man.' I don't think they knew his name or anything like that. "Now," Pearson added with a laugh, "he's Daddy Warbucks." Nobody knew better than Beren- son, who had mentored Pearson for all of his 23 years as an assistant at Michigan, that Manuel's choice was the right fit for Michigan's program at this time. "I think Mel is a great fit for Michi- gan hockey," Berenson said. "He knows the program well from his time here, and I think he is exactly what Michigan hockey needs to be success- ful." Upon stepping down from the head coaching position, Berenson had said: "I've thought about this for a long time and I think this is the right thing to do for the Michigan hockey program. My heart will always be at Michigan, and I look forward to the team taking the next step and making me proud as a former coach." The hiring of Pearson gives Michi- gan a shot of new energy while main- taining a connection with the pro- gram's storied past under Berenson's direction for the past 33 seasons. Pearson's college hockey career commenced as a player at Michigan Tech in 1977, when he posted a four- year total of 21 goals among his 56 points with the Huskies. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Pearson spent six years on Tech's hockey staff, the last four as an assis- tant coach. Moving to Ann Arbor in 1988, Pear- son served as an assistant coach from 1988-99 and as associate head coach from 1999-2011. Michigan's hockey program enjoyed unmatched success during Pearson's years on the hockey staff, winning two national championships in 1996 and 1998, as well as 11 Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) regular- season titles, nine CCHA tournament championships and 11 NCAA Frozen Four berths. Individually, Pearson was honored with the Terry Flana- gan Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA) for ex- cellence as an assistant coach at the collegiate level. Encouraged by his mentor to gain experience at the top of a NCAA Di- vision I program, Pearson returned to his alma mater as head coach in 2011 to take over a program that had posted mere single-digit win totals for the previous three seasons. In his six years atop the Michigan Tech hockey program, Pearson re- stored the Huskies' winning ways to the tune of a 75-34-14 record over the past three seasons, a winning 118-92- 29 mark overall, two Western Colle- giate Hockey Association (WCHA) Coach of the Year awards and two NCAA Tournament appearances. Anxious to get started with his Michigan duties, Pearson outlined several immediate goals for the Wol- verine program. "We're in great shape here," Pear- son said. "I've had the opportunity to be given the keys to the prize car. I've been given the keys. The car's in great shape. It's got a great engine. The body looks fantastic. We might have to make a couple repairs here this summer. And then we're going to get that car ready to go on the road. " C o m e S e p - tember, that car is headed in one direction — St. Paul, Minnesota [the site of the 2018 NCAA championship finals]. We're going to get the guys on board and there might be some bumps in the road. There might be a couple detours here and there. But we know where we're headed and we have to make sure we know how to get that car there. That's my goal. "I'm excited to work with these young men. I just had the opportu- nity to meet with them before we came over. I shared a couple of things with them. One of the things I shared with them is that I'm not interested in being good. I'm interested in being great. That's what we need here and that's what the University of Michigan stands for." Next on Pearson's agenda is secur- ing a coaching staff and immersing himself in recruiting plans. He's happy to be the party responsible for leading Michigan hockey into the future. "I'm thrilled to be the head coach at Michigan," Pearson said. "Like I told the players today, I wish we could start tomorrow. I'm excited to get after it. I'm looking forward to continuing the winning tradition that Coach Be- renson has established here." ❏ Berenson on Pearson "I think Mel is a great fit for Michigan hockey. He knows the program well from his time here, and I think he is exactly what Michigan hockey needs to be successful."

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