Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis apparently has chosen another alumnus to lead the hockey program.
USA Hockey National Team Development Program head coach Danton Cole is returning to his alma mater, according to scout.com.
Cole did not immediately respond to calls nor texts from the Free Press. Hollis also has not responded to requests for comment.
Scott Monaghan, USA Hockey NTDP senior director of operations, told the Free Press this morning that Cole knows prospects coming up through the ranks and is an experienced, hard-nosed coach.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, MSU’s interim hockey staff has not yet been informed of a potential new coach.
Cole, 50, won a Stanley Cup as a player with the New Jersey Devils in 1995. Cole played four seasons for the Spartans (1985-89) and went on to play in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Devils and Chicago Blackhawks. He finished his pro career playing parts of four seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
He then was an assistant coach in Grand Rapids for two seasons, before winning a United Hockey League championship as coach of the Muskegon Fury in 2001-02. He returned to Grand Rapids as head coach for three seasons (2002-05) and coached the Motor City Mechanics in the UHL for two seasons (2004-06).
Cole spent one season as an assistant coach at Bowling Green in 2006-07, then was hired as head coach at Alabama-Huntsville. He spent three seasons there before joining the NTDP.
Cole coached current NHL players like Dylan Larkin, Jack Eichel and Auston Mathews during his time with the NTDP.
Cole has told the Free Press that he considered MSU his dream job. He offered to do anything to help the program, including serving on a search committee after coach Tom Anastos stepped down last month.
Anastos made the NCAA tournament in his first season at MSU but didn’t have much success over the last five seasons. The Spartans finished 7-24-4 overall and in last place in the Big Ten this season.
Cole and former MSU assistant George Gwozdecky were considered the front-runners for the job. Gwozdecky led Denver to two NCAA titles as head coach and now is coaching at a prep school in Colorado. Gwozdecky did not return several calls nor emails seeking comment over the last week.
There was some speculation that Gwozdecky would reunite with former Denver assistant Seth Appert and form a high-profile staff similar to what Wisconsin did with Tony and Don Granato and Mark Osiecki. That coaching staff cost $900,000, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. It’s unclear what Cole will make at MSU.
Detroit Free Press sports writer Chris Solari contributed.