Red Berenson is coming back.
Eight days after the Michigan hockey team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Berenson announced at the team’s annual banquet Sunday that he would return for his 33rd season as head coach.
Many wondered whether the 2015-16 campaign would be Berenson’s last, but at the banquet, Berenson said he had spoken with Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel and decided to continue coaching the Wolverines.
“I’m excited about the direction of the program and the challenge of working with our student-athletes to improve on a daily basis and achieve our goal of winning championships,” Berenson said in a press release Sunday afternoon. “This season has been inspiring for our team, our staff and the fans. Our success has been the motivation to return to help the program take another step forward. I feel fortunate to be at Michigan and appreciate the support from our new athletic director.”
In early October, undergraduate assistant coach Mike Komisarek talked about how this season was a collective effort to get the Wolverines “back where we’re supposed to be.” And they did just that, returning to the NCAA Tournament this season after missing out on a bid the three previous years. But when asked if Michigan hockey is “back” this past Tuesday, he set a high bar of expectations going forward.
“I think it was back this year,” Berenson said. “But until you put a string of years together, you can’t say that.”
Now, it seems, Berenson has returned to ensure that terminology can be used in the near future.
In 2016, Berenson led the Wolverines to the Big Ten Tournament title and the team was one win away from the Frozen Four. Michigan’s season ended with a 5-2 loss to North Dakota in the Midwest Regional final.
Berenson won the 2016 Big Ten Coach of the Year award, but his body of work goes far deeper than a conference coach of the year honor.
He took over the program in 1984, after Michigan had compiled a mediocre 92-89-8 record in the five years prior. Berenson, though, saw the team as a diamond in the rough.
“I just recall my whole first year when I came in, how Red was so into it,” said associate head coach Billy Powers — who was a member of Berenson’s first recruiting class — in October. “He was so into it, and he was so passionate. … He wasn’t going to accept the fact that some of these guys had been so used to losing. I was always like, ‘Man, he cares more than half our team does.’
“His passion and his will, it was everyday. I was so impressed with how he attacked it. I remember that part, and through the good things and mostly the bad things — because we were losing — he never wavered. You could see like, wow, he’s gonna change this thing…”
Though Berenson notched a losing record in his first three seasons, he produced winning records in the three years that followed.
Then, in 1990-91, he left no doubt as to why he was handed the reigns in Yost Ice Arena.
The team bumped its 24-12-6 record from 1889 to 34-10-3, and began the 22-year streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances that Berenson catalyzed.
That run is the longest ever in the history of college hockey, and it was during that spell that Berenson captured his two national titles. Among those 22 NCAA Tournament runs, 11 were Frozen Four appearances as well.
Berenson currently boasts an 835-407-89 record though 32 seasons and is just the fourth collegiate coach to reach 800 career victories. His win total is good for fourth on the college hockey coaches all-time win list.
In 2016-17, he will return to a team that still has many questions this offseason.
The Wolverines will lose defensemen Michel Downing and Zach Werenski, who signed professional contracts this past week, but the statuses of star forwards Tyler Motte, JT Compher and Kyle Connor remain unknown.
In the week leading up to the announcement, Manuel, Michigan’s newly hired athletic director, had publicly stated his desire for Berenson to return if the coach wanted to. Now, he will get his wish.
This is a developing story. Stay with The Michigan Daily for updates.