The Massachusetts hockey team finally found its man in John Micheletto.
The decision was made after a search of more than 50 candidates.
“I am humbled to be the 13th head coach at the University of Massachusetts,” said Micheletto, who was formally introduced at the Mullins Center in a press conference Monday afternoon. “When I first started coaching in 1991, I never fathomed that my first head coaching job would come at such a highly-regarded hockey program as UMass.”
Micheletto took the job on a five-year contract worth $210,000 annually with performance-based incentives. His hiring concludes the nearly month-long search that began on June 19 when 12-year coach Don Cahoon stepped down as coach of the Minutemen.
Micheletto is only the third UMass coach in the last 20 years and first in the last 12.
“What really matters in a process such as this is it’s not the first person you talk to, but the last,” said UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon. “In that regard, we couldn’t be more pleased with how this process went and who we identified as our next coach.”
This is Micheletto’s first college head coaching job. He previously served as an assistant at Union, Notre Dame and, most recently, Hockey East rival Vermont, where he has served since 2003-2004.
In 2006, Micheletto was named director of recruiting at UVM and was an instrumental part of the Catamounts’ Frozen Four run in 2009.
Since joining Vermont, Micheletto has coached or recruited 12 different Catamounts that were selected in the NHL draft, including rising sophomore Connor Brickley (second round, 2010) and Viktor Stalberg of the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, it was not just his achievements as a coach that stood out to McCutcheon.
“I think you’ll find as you get to know [Micheletto],” said McCutcheon, “that he is a person of integrity, a person of character, a proven recruiter … and a true educator.
“I think his success in recruiting was important. Also, his understanding of [Hockey East] and experience of the league. He knows what it takes to win in this league,” McCutcheon said.
Micheletto’s has some familiarity with much of the Minuteman roster as he handled scouting duties whenever UVM faced UMass. With that in mind, he has plenty of goals for this young, up-and-coming bunch, which he considers a “sleeping giant.”
“The goal is to continually improve as a team until we are among the conversation of teams that are in the national acclaim on an annual basis,” said Micheletto. “Sustaining this national relevance will certainly be difficult, but I believe we have the pieces in place to achieve it.”
Micheletto anticipates this team to be a fun and exciting one under his style of play, which consists of fast-paced hockey up and down the ice, as well as a strong commitment to defense and creating turnovers.
“I like to play fast,” said Micheletto. “There’s a big difference to playing speed and playing fast. We certainly have a good base of players with good speed and we’re trying to formulate that into playing much faster.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to play offense, but we’re going to get that offense from turning pucks over. I want it to be in your face, playing with a little sandpaper, make sure we’re turning pucks over and incorporating people into transition so that we’re creating odd-man breaks and use secondary offense off of that.”
In terms of hiring a staff around him, Micheletto has had few conversations about the process, but does expect to quickly dive into it.
The same goes for recruiting, which he considers the “life blood of any program.” They plan to start right away, and his experience recruiting across North America and around the world has him telling all potential recruits to “circle Amherst on their maps.”
A prime example of that comes from his recruiting of Stalberg, whom he traveled to Stockholm to watch play after receiving a letter of interest from him at Vermont. After watching just two games, Micheletto was convinced, and his rise in the NHL surely doesn’t hurt his resume.
When it comes to his players’ preparations, Micheletto has faith his players will be ready.
“I don’t think there’s any hurry,” said Micheletto. “The way that we play is you’re gonna be quick but you don’t want to hurry and I think our preparation should be the same way. Our guys certainly are getting ready at this point physically.”
Micheletto is originally from Illinois, but does have New England roots. He attended high school at Milton Academy in Milton and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990.
His educational background clearly stood out to McCutcheon, who made a point of Micheletto’s use of the word pedagogy during the interview process. The word means the function or work of a teacher, which is something the newest Minuteman coach sees as something important as a leader of a program.
Micheletto is not only there to coach, but also to teach.
Nick Canelas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Canelas.