Hastings took the open door to MSU-Mankato coaching job

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2012 - 6:48 AM

Mike Hastings' goal was to be a Division I head coach, and Minnesota State Mankato had an opening. Will he be a fit?


Former Gophers assistant Mike Hastings will coach the Mavericks against the U in a home-and-home series this weekend.

Photo: Courtesy Minnesota State Mankato,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

When Mike Hastings left the University of Minnesota in 2009 after spending one season as an assistant hockey coach, it was to put himself in the best position to become a Division I head coach.

Most assumed that would be at the Nebraska Omaha, though, instead of Minnesota State Mankato. At UNO, he had become Dean Blais' associate head coach, and the goal was to be the heir apparent once Blais, 61, decided to retire.

"But we don't get to dictate timing or opportunity," Hastings said.

"Opportunity comes, you better be careful at closing doors. Dean can tell me as long as he wants that he might be leaving pretty soon, but do you know many guys that are 60 years old with the drive and the fire that man has? So when opportunity comes, you better grab on."

There are only 59 Division I hockey programs in the country -- "it's not like in basketball or football where there's 300 jobs," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. So when the Minnesota State job opened up, Hastings, after some lamenting, decided he couldn't afford to wait for Blais to pass the baton.

The Mavericks provided Hastings a chance to return to Minnesota. The 1993 St. Cloud State graduate grew up in Crookston. His wife, Jean-Ann, is from Hoyt Lakes.

And going to Mankato would fulfill his desire to run his own Division I program, "build on what's here already and, hopefully, have your fingerprints on the progression of a program that is looking to get better."

Six games into his tenure, the Mavericks are 2-2-2 heading into Hastings' first-ever meeting with the big, bad Gophers. Coming off consecutive 5-1 road losses to his alma mater, the Mavericks will play a home-and-home series against the nation's No. 2-ranked team.

"It's an opportunity for us to judge ourselves against one of the best teams in the country," Hastings said.

Roots in USHL

At 46, Hastings has been entrenched in the game ever since he was playing for Frank Serratore on the old Rochester Mustangs in 1985. Lucia, then an assistant at Alaska Anchorage, even recruited Hastings, "but he was a wimp and didn't want to go to Alaska," joked Lucia.

Hastings played at St. Cloud State but fractured two vertebrae in his back 15 games into his second season. That ended his playing career and eventually thrust him into coaching, leading him to the United States Hockey League's Omaha Lancers.

He coached the Lancers from 1994 to 2008, becoming the winningest coach in USHL history (529-210-56), never having a losing season and leading the team to six league finals and three championships. He was the Coach of the Year in the USHL three times and General Manager of the Year five times -- guiding a number of future NHLers, including Keith Ballard, Paul Stastny, Martin Hanzal, Matt Carle and former Wild player Jed Ortmeyer.

"The USHL is a college developmental league and I don't think that's only for the players," Hastings said. "I think it's a great learning ground for a lot of different avenues -- building a team, dealing with young men and the student-athlete and kids being away from home for the first time."

But after 14 seasons, the grind became too much and he felt like it was time to "pay back my family for what they've given me. My wife's been a blind supporter of myself professionally," Hastings said. He wanted to spend more time with his daughter Hannah, 13, and son, Hudson, 10 -- something that's difficult when you annually start coaching in August and potentially go until May.

Caring coach

Hastings spent one year with the Gophers, but Blais -- who is still the head coach at Nebraska Omaha -- said: "I was lucky enough to get him back here, thinking it would be a natural for him to take over when I left. This was home for Mike, but with Minnesota State, it won't be a tough transition because he was pretty much a head coach with me."

Blais calls Hastings "caring, knowledgeable and tough. Hates to lose. If you described Mike Hastings in a couple words, it would be 'very intense.'"

"I think he's just deflecting the time bomb and sliding it down," Hastings said, laughing. "There's a clip of him punching me on the bench one time, and I can tell you, I wasn't the one being intense.

"Yeah, I'm intense, but there's a time for that. But the game's changed where players need to know you have their back. That relationship-building piece has become really important to having longterm success, and that's what I plan to bring to [Minnesota State]."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question