Mike Hastings weird public interview on Friday was apparently more impressive than any of the zero other candidates for Minnesota State's head coaching position, and on Saturday, Hastings was announced as the third head coach in the program's Division I history. Video of his (ostensibly second) introductory press conference is here.
Minnesota State president Richard Davenport's comments last week--"The candidates we have, you're just going to be blown away by. They are just outstanding." among others--look pretty strange, unless he's so confident in Hastings that he's already referring to him in the Royal We. Admittedly, it wasn't a very deep field to choose from. Neither of my two dream candidates really had any interest in coaching at the collegiate level.(For the record: Norfolk Admirals head coach Jon Cooper, and Malcolm Tucker. Not necessarily in that order.) There weren't really an up-and-coming USHL coaches-- something that I think would have been a good fit-- that were viable candidates. Mike Guentzel apparently wanted more money than a guy who has batted around the order without a hit on other head coaching positions merited.That really leaves only North Dakota assistant Cary Eades as a potential candidate, though his omission at least from the interview process seems puzzling.
But putting aside any qualms about the way the coaching search was handled, the end result seems a good one. There's no doubt that Mike Hastings has the qualifications, and has earned the opportunity to be a head coach at the Division I level. He should bring a renewed energy, and hopefully, a sense of toughness that has been lacking for Minnesota State in recent years. It's not the easiest job in college hockey, but I also think expectations will be set accordingly. Like Mel Pearson last year, any sort of positive turnaround should be considered a huge success. Maverick fans would be happy just to spend their weekends in February and March watching meaningful hockey games, rather than watching My So-Called Life re-runs on Hulu just to feel things, and then drinking until they no longer feel them, or slowly inoculating themselves against the malaria of the African jungle while listening to the Cloud Nothings' No Future, No Past on endless loop. (No? Just semi-fictionalized versions of me, then?) Hastings provides that hope, and that was the biggest thing MSU needed to get out of this coaching hire.
Much was made about Hastings' assumed title of 'heir apparent' to Dean Blais at Nebraska-Omaha, both before and after his hiring. Both are non-issues to me. If Hastings can have success as a head coach at the Division I level, that only enhances his chances of being Dean Blais' successor at Nebraska-Omaha, more so than staying at UNO in an assistant role. There is the risk that Hastings may not be at Mankato for the long-term, but that's a risk worth taking if he is able to get some positive momentum going for the program. If you offered Western Michigan a do-over, do you think they would not hire Jeff Blashill, knowing he would only be there for one year? As long as Hastings can get the program headed back in the right direction, and can get fans interested in the Minnesota State program again, his hiring will be a great choice, regardless of how long he is there.