This is a day I have been trying to tell people would likely come and get them prepared for and that day is finally here. Today Michigan State University Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced that hockey coach Tom Anastos would return for a sixth season. Anastos received a 6th season despite a disappointing 5th season that saw the Spartans finish 5th in the B1G and a career record of 71-98-20.
I feel really good about where we’re at.I’m like anyone else, I get frustrated as a fan as we’re going through the year and you have games where you feel like you’re being challenged a little bit as a spectator. But I’m also an AD that has to look at, ‘OK, what’s the next five years going to look like, based upon the past five years?’ And from all the assessments I’ve put into this and all the folks I’ve talked to, I’m very confident we’re going to have success here next year and in the immediate future.
That quote comes from Mark Hollis in an article published today by Graham Couch linked above. On it's surface that's a fine quote. Hollis knew five years ago the hockey program had reached some pretty low depths under Rick Comley, attendance was declining and recruiting (especially from the metro Detroit AAA programs) had gotten embarrassing. Hollis surprised everyone hiring Anastos from the commissioner's chair of the now defunct CCHA giving him the reins of his first NCAA Division I hockey team. Anastos brought a connection to Ron Mason, was an instant hit with season ticket holders and still to this day has been a great ambassador to the program. He has struggled on the ice where he should rightly be judged the most, meaning this is not going to be a positive move to many in the fanbase.
I feel like we’ve got a good system in place to build the type of student-athletes you want to have here.
Unfortunately you can’t do that in five years. Penn State had a great advantage in having no roster (when it started its program) and being able to build from ground zero. Tom fulfilled all of the commitments put out there prior to him (by Comley). And as you know, in hockey, you start recruiting kids at the age of 14 and maybe in some cases don’t get them until they’re 20. It’s uniquely different than football, uniquely different than basketball
This quote I take a little bit of an issue with though. While I think it is commendable that Anastos allowed Comley recruits to come to campus, even if they weren't up to his level of expectations a move he may live to regret, let's not say Penn State had it easier than us. Michigan State is a proud program with three national titles, a much more fertile recruiting ground, and an established fanbase. Penn State had great financial investment, made an inspiring coaching hire, but don't even try and spin that they had an easier time building a roster. If you start recruiting kids at 14 the Penn State program jumped to Division I recruiting kids late as well so these two quotes don't completely add up. I think this was just a case of Mark picking a bad analogy so I don't want to tear him apart for this but man I hate seeing that quote as someone who believes MSU shouldn't look up to a 5 year old program.
Let's Move on Now
I love Michigan State hockey and it has been a guiding part of my life for 26 years. I want nothing more than Tom Anastos to prove all the doubters wrong and get this thing going. It will be a difficult task with pressure around the program being at times toxic this season, but I am not in the locker room. I believe these guys still love their coach and will play next season like they finished this season, rather than the terrible middle stretch of the year. I like the freshman coming in this summer and I love this team being led by senior Joe Cox. Today was tough in that junior Mackenzie MacEachern signed with the St. Louis Blues but that is also where Anastos wants to get this program, having talented players the NHL signs after a junior season.
Tom Anastos is the coach of MSU hockey for another season, regardless of fan (and blogger) discontent. He has told Hollis this was a five year plan to start the rebuild and in recent interviews stated he say it being 9 seasons before MSU was elite. I have to admit Mark Hollis often has an eye for things that us normal people miss. He put hockey in Spartan Stadium and basketball on an aircraft carrier. At this point I'll fall in line and hope that Hollis is right and there is a renaissance coming under Anastos. I hope he isn't wrong because that could destroy what was a once proud program to something worse than just looking at Penn State in envy.