Scoggins: Egos don't get in way of what's best for U hockey team

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 5, 2012 - 12:05 PM

Assistant coach Mike Guentzel returned to the staff after a falling-out with coach Don Lucia three years ago.

TAMPA, FLA. - Mike Guentzel couldn't have predicted his return to the Gophers men's hockey program -- at least not so soon, and especially after the rough ending to his previous stint as assistant coach.

Getting spurned, after all, can alter opinions about one's employer.

But Guentzel didn't turn his back on a program he loves or let any emotional residue prevent him from helping clean up a mess that formed after he walked out the door. Ultimately, coming home just felt like the right thing to do.

"I had some of that energy back that had kind of went away previously," he said.

That sentiment holds true for the entire Gophers program, and it coincided with Guentzel's return. The longtime assistant -- who was gone for three years, during which the Gophers failed to reach the NCAA tournament -- helped foster the program's resurgence and return to the Frozen Four this season by overseeing the defense and serving as associate head coach under Don Lucia.

The Gophers set a school record with a 2.21 goals-against average, but Guentzel's impact on the program overall goes beyond statistics.

"I knew there was nobody I wanted to bring back in [more] than Mike," Lucia said. "He's what we needed. I wanted somebody that would be an easy transition, and it certainly was."

If the transition proved easy, the actual idea seemed awkward, at least from an outside perspective. Guentzel left the program in April 2008 after serving 14 seasons as an assistant under Doug Woog and Lucia.

At the time, the company line was that Guentzel resigned to pursue his dream of becoming a head coach. Reports later revealed that Lucia had fired him. Rumors persisted that issues between Lucia, Guentzel and then-assistant John Hill became the source of friction and necessitated change.

Reflecting on that situation, Guentzel indicated a number of factors contributed to his departure, both personal and professional.

"It just comes a time and place where maybe you should step away," he said. "I think both Don and I thought it was the best situation."

Was there animosity involved?

"Well, I'm not going to say that we saw eye to eye on everything," Guentzel said. "You get [set] in your own ways and your own means of doing things. Don has always been good about letting people do their jobs around here and contributing a lot. Sometimes you're adamant about how you think things should be done. He's the head coach and ultimately makes the final decisions.

"It was the [right] time. I could see some things starting to creep into our staff that weren't healthy. You should be a family, you should have good relationships, as we try to preach to our players. Obviously getting away, I think maybe his realization of what I could contribute and my realization of how it was good to work with Don and what the program meant to everybody involved ... from that end, it was an easy decision to come back."

The program's condition deteriorated during his absence, and Lucia bore the brunt of criticism. Embattled and feeling pressure to revive the program, Lucia replaced Hill with an assistant who spent much of his adult life in the program and had a hand in two national championships, five Frozen Four appearances and 11 trips to the NCAA tournament.

"I'm not a backseat-type driver," Guentzel said. "I like to be front and center as far as ideas and thoughts. That's one thing that was apparent from Day 1. Don was looking for ideas, looking for new ways, looking for improvement, looking for some freshness and new energy."

Both men deserve credit for not letting ego or pride get in the way of doing what's best for the program. Whatever happened in the past was buried as they focused on making the Gophers relevant again nationally.

"You understand the criticalness of where we're at," Guentzel said.

Guentzel knows better than most. A native of the Iron Range, he played four seasons for the Gophers, his final one as captain, an announcement that remains a source of pride.

"Probably one of the most memorable days of my life," he said. "I knew at that point what this program means."

Guentzel witnessed life outside that fishbowl the past few years as an assistant coach at Colorado College and Nebraska Omaha and coach/general manager of the USHL team in Des Moines. He enjoyed those experiences and appreciated the opportunities, which made his decision to return to his alma mater a difficult one.

The attachment never left him, though, and his passion and enthusiasm for the job returned. He's also the clear second-in-command on the staff now. As for his future, Guentzel hasn't ruled out anything. He's already learned you never say never.

"I love what I'm doing," he said. "If I was an assistant at Minnesota for a long time, I'd be comfortable with that. That's not to say I wouldn't like to try another level whether it's head coaching or try my hand in pro hockey. This to me is one of the best jobs in all of college hockey, and I'm comfortable with that."

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Gophers relishing underdog role

    Thursday April 5, 2012

    It's been Boston College this and BC that in advance of the Frozen Four. With all due respect, the Gophers are ready for the faceoff.

  • NCAA Frozen Four capsules

    Wednesday April 4, 2012

    Record: 26-7-7 • Conference: ECAC

  • Mike Guentzel

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 5
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 4 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 14
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt 2 FINAL
Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein 0
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 1 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Houston - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: D. Holland 4
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 0
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 2
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 4 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Samardzija 8
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 5 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: K. Correia 2
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 1
Chicago 27 FINAL
NY Jets 19
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 9/22/14 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 3 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
Washington 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Dallas 4
Anaheim 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 5
Arizona 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close