EAST LANSING – Michigan State announced Danton Cole as its new hockey coach at a 3 p.m. news conference today at Munn Arena.
Cole has been a coach with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program since 2013. He played at MSU for Ron Mason from 1985-1989, helping the Spartans win the 1986 national title as a freshman.
“He taught us a lot about how to be a pro,” Cole said last summer after Mason’s death. “I kind of mean that hockey-wise, but life-wise, too. Our guys who left here were ready to play and were ready to go out in the world.”
The recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Spartan Award, Cole has told the Free Press that he considered MSU his dream job and told the Lansing State Journal in 2007 while still at Alabama-Huntsville that he wants to win an NCAA title as a coach.
Cole, who was considered by MSU last time it had an opening in 2011, will replace Tom Anastos, another former MSU alum and Mason protegee. Anastos went 78-122-24 in six seasons after taking over following Rick Comley’s retirement. The Spartans had the fewest wins of any NCAA Division I school in the state during Anastos’ tenure, including a 7-24-4 record this season.
News of the Cole hire was first reported by scout.com. Cole did not respond to calls or texts from the Free Press. Hollis also has not responded to requests for comment.
It is 50-year-old Cole’s second stint coaching in Division I college hockey. He was 23-59-12 in three seasons at Alabama-Huntsville from 2007-10 before joining the NTDP.
Scott Monaghan, USA Hockey NTDP senior director of operations, told the Free Press on Monday that Cole knows prospects coming up through the ranks and is an experienced, hard-nosed coach.
Cole won a Stanley Cup as a player with the New Jersey Devils in 1995. The graduate of nearby Lansing Waverly High was an MSU captain as a senior. He spent 10 seasons in pro hockey, five of them in the NHL with Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks and had 58 goals and 118 points in 318 games. 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. Cole returned to Grand Rapids as coach for three seasons (2002-05) and coached the Motor City Mechanics in the UHL for two seasons (2004-06).
During his time with the NTDP, Cole has coached current NHL players such as Dylan Larkin, Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews. He also coached current MSU goalie Ed Minney and forwards Dylan Pavalek and Patrick Khodorenko with the national program.
“It’s just younger and younger,” Cole said of college hockey recruiting in 2014. “I’m not sure anyone likes having to do that, but that’s where we’re at in the business. You have to do it. Guys are getting locked up, so you have to be out there.”
Cole and former MSU assistant George Gwozdecky, a two-time NCAA title-winning coach at Denver, were considered the front-runners for the MSU job.
Detroit Free Press