When Danton Cole was fired as Michigan State’s head coach in mid-April, the first name to surface as a potential candidate was NTDP U18 head coach and Michigan State alum Adam Nightingale. The Spartans reportedly reached out to a few other college head coaches, albeit with an unknown level of seriousness, but ultimately, they ended their search by naming Nightingale as the eighth head coach in the program’s history.
From a strictly resume standpoint, Nightingale is a bit of an underwhelming hire. Aside from his two years at the NTDP, he has some work at the NHL level, some international experience with USA Hockey, and a couple years spent as a Bantam coach at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. But ignore his two years as a player at Michigan State and four years as the school’s director of hockey operations and it’s unlikely he would have been considered as one of the top candidates for the job.
That said, resumes aren’t everything. Just because Nightingale doesn’t have a lot of successes to point to in the past doesn’t mean he can’t have them in the future. He’s spent a lot of time around smart hockey people and earned quite a bit of respect for his hockey knowledge and acumen, which has led to a quick ascension up USA Hockey’s ranks. It’s also worth pointing out that while Nightingale will draw inevitable comparisons to Danton Cole, who also came to MSU after coaching at the NTDP, it’s worth noting Nightingale is considered more of an up-and-coming coach than Cole was at the time he was hired, and likely would have other options for advancement at some point if he had not taken the MSU job.
Nightingale will face the same challenges faced by his predecessors at Michigan State. Namely, Michigan State’s inability to secure funding for proposed upgrades to Munn Ice Arena that would bring the arena more in line with their Big Ten peers. That, combined with a lack of success on the ice has all but eliminated Michigan State from consideration by most recruits who have other options.
He’ll have to prove he can find less-heralded talent and develop them to have success at Michigan State, at least initially; something that is a very different skillset from moving the sons of former NHL players along the conveyor belt to pro hockey like at the NTDP. Again, it’s not impossible he’ll be able to do that, there’s just nothing tangible to point to that shows he has done that.