Wisconsin Badgers Hockey has its next head coach. Mike Hastings – the former head coach of the Minnesota State Mavericks – is the 14th UW men’s hockey team coach. Earlier this month, Athletic Director Chris McIntosh introduced Hastings to the Badger faithful at the Kohl Center. The mood surrounding the hiring was a familiar one. Just a handful of months before Hastings’ introduction, McIntosh hired Luke Fickell to serve as head coach of the Wisconsin Football program. That familiarity was no accident; in fewer than two years, Barry Alvarez’ protege revealed exactly what he looks for in a head coach.
Wisconsin Badgers Hockey Head Coach Mike Hastings has a Record of Success
Before his hiring at UW, Hastings served as the head coach of the Minnesota State Mavericks men’s hockey program. In his time with Mankato, the Eugene, Oregon native completed an unimaginable program turnaround. Before his arrival, the Mavericks had only one winning season in the previous nine. Minnesota State won only 12 games in the 2011-12 season. In 2012-13, Hastings’ first of 11 seasons with MSU, his team doubled that win total. That team, which went 24-14-3, also reached the NCAA Tournament. It was Minnesota State’s second tournament appearance since joining Division 1 in 1996.
In the ensuing ten seasons, the three-time Spencer Penrose Award winner, college hockey’s national coach of the year award, missed the NCAAs only twice. Beyond just making the tournament, Hastings was building a real contender at Minnesota State. In his final seasons in Mankato, the Mavericks won six consecutive regular season conference titles, back-to-back conference tournament titles, and made the Frozen Four in 2020-21 and 2021-22. Although MSU fell in the 2022 national championship game, it was clear that Hastings made himself the most highly-sought after coach in college hockey.
Following the 2022 national championship game loss, Hastings was reported as one of, if not the top candidate, for multiple head coaching positions. Among them was Boston University. The Terriers showed significant interest in Hastings, although it is uncommon for a college hockey head coach to go from the Midwest to the East. However, the five-time national championship-winning program had a unique opportunity to lure the then-MSU head coach because his son was attending college at Northeastern – also in Boston. Of course, Hastings did not take the opportunity before leaving for Madison just a year later.
Chris McIntosh Shows his Formula for Success with Mike Hastings and Luke Fickell
The track record of the new Wisconsin Badgers Hockey head coach has tremendous parallels to that of Fickell’s. Fickell took Cincinnati, a Group of 5 program, to the College Football Playoff after inheriting a program that had compiled a disappointing 4-8 record the season before his arrival. Before leaving the Bearcats, he won back-to-back conference titles in 2020 and 2021 and earned multiple national coach of the year awards in 2021. Fickell and Hastings took middling programs, maxed out their potential for success, and ultimately left for Madison despite having no ties to UW.
Fickell and Hastings each chose Wisconsin over other premier programs. Hastings ended up at UW despite an earlier opportunity to coach at BU. In 2021, Fickell to Notre Dame rumors nearly overshadowed Cincy’s CFP appearance. Not to mention, USC, LSU, and Oklahoma all had head coach openings that offseason.
Wisconsin’s football and hockey coaches also brought similar talents to Madison to power the lifeblood of any collegiate athletic program: recruiting. Pat Lambert and Max Stienecker, Wisconsin football’s new heads in the recruiting department, followed Fickell from Cincinnati. Lambert and Steinecker already proved an ability to attract high-level talent to Cincy – including the nine Bearcats selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Hastings is bringing his top assistant, Todd Knott, to Wisconsin. Knott served as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at MSU under Hastings. The Minnesota native is considered one of the top assistants in college hockey. Upon Hastings’ departure, Knott was even offered the Mavericks head coaching job but ultimately chose to follow his boss to UW.
Wisconsin Badgers Hockey and Wisconsin Badgers Football Have Shared Destiny
Wisconsin Badgers Athletic Director Chris McIntosh has a formula. When hiring a head coach, he desires success. Both on the field (or ice) and in recruiting. McIntosh looks for the best available coach who has hit the ceiling at their current job. Hastings and Fickell will need to prove the formula works in Madison.
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