Michigan hockey will never be the same.
Legendary coach Red Berenson, 77, announced today that the recently concluded season -- his 33rd behind the bench at U-M -- was his last. He was to meet with the team at 3 p.m.
Berenson told the Free Press that athletic director Warde Manuel did not ask him to step down. He said Manuel actually asked him for long-term commitment, for recruiting purposes.
But "it's the right time," Berenson said.
The Wolverines finished 13-19-3 overall and 6-12-2-2 in the Big Ten. They lost in the first round of the conference tournament last month at Joe Louis Arena.
Berenson said he will remain in Ann Arbor and will have an undetermined job within the Athletic Department. It will not be full-time, he said.
Berenson, who won national championships in 1996 and 1998, told the Free Press that he contemplated retiring after last season but decided to come back for 2016-17 because Manuel was in his first year as U-M athletic director. Berenson said he didn’t want to make life more difficult for Manuel, who previously had served as an administrator for the hockey team.
Now Manuel will be charged with replacing the biggest icon in U-M hockey history.
Former Berenson assistant and current Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson will be one of the first considered, but there should be no shortage of interest in the job.
Reached about today's news, Pearson said, "It's a sad day for me. When you think of Michigan hockey, it's Red Berenson. ... Any success that I have had, even though it is limited, I owe it all to coach Berenson."
As for whether he's interested in succeeding Berenson, Pearson said: "At this point, I have a job I really enjoy. No one has contacted me from Michigan."
Berenson is one of four college hockey coaches to amass more than 800 career wins. He went 848-426-92 (.654 winning percentage) in 1,366 games. Only Jerry York (1,033), the late Ron Mason (924) and Jack Parker (897) won more games. Berenson also guided the Wolverines to a record 22 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament (1991-2002).
Berenson was a three-year letter winner at U-M and was named All-America and team MVP in his junior and senior seasons (1961-62). He went straight from college to the NHL after signing with the Montreal Canadiens. He played for the Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings during an NHL career that spanned 1962-78. He had 261 goals and 397 assists for 658 points in 987 games.
Berenson spent three seasons as coach of the Blues, winning the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year in 1980-81, but was fired the next season. He reunited with his former coach Scotty Bowman as an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres in 1982, before returning to Ann Arbor to resurrect the U-M hockey program.
Athletic director Don Canham had considered dropping the hockey program before hiring Berenson on May 17, 1984. “I think that now people will be thinking more highly about the program,” Berenson said during his introductory news conference.
Berenson accomplished that and much more during his time with the Wolverines. Just last season, he was named the Big Ten coach of the year and led Michigan to a league tournament title and a record 36th NCAA tournament appearance. But four players from that team departed early and wound up playing in the NHL this season.
Detroit Free Press