This article was updated to include statements from Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel and interim Michigan hockey coach Brandon Naurato.
Mel Pearson’s firing left the Michigan hockey team without a head coach, and with its first exhibition game just under two months away, it desperately needs a leader behind the bench. But the hiring process takes time, and an interim must fill those duties for now.
On Sunday, NHL Network’s Jon Morosi broke news, confirmed by The Daily, that Michigan Athletics will promote Brandon Naurato to the interim role.
“We are fortunate to have someone of Brandon Naurato’s caliber to lead our ice hockey team for the upcoming year,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “I had conversations with many individuals who care greatly about this program and appreciate the insight they shared. Brandon will do a great job leading the program, and I look forward to our student-athletes and staff benefiting from his leadership.”
Naurato, the Wolverines’ assistant coach last season, will work as their head coach until a permanent coach can be selected. And Naurato has plenty of skills to merit the promotion.
As a development coach for five seasons before coming to Michigan last year, Naurato knows how to polish players’ skills. He spent parts of three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, and he brought what he learned at the professional level to Ann Arbor last season.
Throughout his career, Naurato has shown a knack for finding key information that others overlook. He notably tracked and discussed every power play goal in the 2017-18 NHL season to compare how they were scored, and he also analyzed the offensive output of the Red Wings during that same season. His writing background shows that he not only understands what statistics mean, but he can also tell their story. That will be key to passing those lessons on to players.
That background could also help Michigan’s offense stay near the top of college hockey. With a roster full of scorers at his disposal, his ability to dig through the data could uncover different perspectives that lead to more goals.
The Wolverines averaged 4.02 goals per game last season — third best in the nation — and Naurato’s coaching played a heavy role in creating some of them. He especially worked with the power play, and multiple times players credited his coaching with their increased production.
Naurato played four seasons as a forward for Michigan from 2005 to 2009, scoring 32 goals and 32 assists in 130 games.
“I am honored to lead my alma mater and will give everything I have to what is the most storied program in college hockey,” Naurato said. “I want to thank Warde Manuel and our student-athletes for their trust and look forward to working positively with our talented coaching and support staff.”
Last season was Naurato’s only year behind the bench, far less experience than some other options for the interim job. But his rapport with players combined with his unique way of seeing the game unfold could be key to making the most out of a chaotic situation for the Wolverines — and clearly the Athletic Department agreed.
With the season fast approaching, Michigan’s goal-scoring guru has taken charge. While it’s impossible to know how the promotion will work out, the Wolverines nevertheless found someone to guide them into the season.