Red Berenson collected his 700th(and 701st) win last weekend at Bowling Green, which puts him in some pretty exclusive company in the college hockey coaching world. He joins Ron Mason, Jack Parker, Jerry York, Rick Comley, and Bob Peters in college hockey's 700 win club. But what makes Berenson's 700 wins all the more impressive is that he won't coach his 1100th game at Michigan until this Saturday when the Wolverines travel to New Hampshire.
Berenson is starting off his 27th season as head coach of the Wolverines, and as I mentioned, has coached 1099 games. I was curious how that stacked up to Mason, Parker, York, and Comley--no offense to Bob Peters, but many of his wins came at the D-II level, while the others are pretty much Berenson's contemporaries.
Here's the amount of time it took each of the coaches to reach their 700th win.
Red Berenson- 27 years, 1098 games
Ron Mason- 29 years, 1128 games
Jack Parker-32 years, 1124 games
Jerry York-33 years, 1238 games
Rick Comley-34 years, 1333 games
As I suspected, Berenson is the fastest ever get to 700 wins, doing it about three-quarters of a season faster than Ron Mason and Jack Parker.(Out of curiosity, I looked up some other current coaches to see what their chances are of winning 700 of their first 1100 games. It's kind of tangential so I'll throw it after the jump, if you're interested, but suffice to say, I can't see anyone matching Berenson for a very long time.)
He likely won't be passing any of those coaches on the all-time wins list. Mason is at an unreachable 924 wins, and the other are still active, meaning he's gaining slowly on them at best. Still, the torrid pace he's kept for over a quarter of a century is pretty remarkable.
Then the question becomes, just how many more wins does Berenson have left in him? Berenson will turn 71 in December and there's been plenty of speculation about how much longer he'll go before deciding to retire. Some have said he's been hanging on for the world-record setting outdoor game at Michigan Stadium this winter. Some have speculated he wants one more national title. Berenson himself would probably say he'll coach until he doesn't feel that passion for the game anymore. No one really knows. He had been on a year-to-year contract with Michigan for the past few years, before, mainly for recruiting purposes, he signed a three-year deal this summer that I'm sure both parties would be willing to rip up if need be.
But more importantly, some cracks are starting to show in the unstoppable machine he has created at Michigan. The Wolverines needed a miracle run through the CCHA tournament to make their 20th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In the tournament, the Wolverines only have one Frozen Four appearance in their last seven attempts, compared to their first 13 trips under Berenson, where they made 9 Frozen Fours, and won two titles.
There are worse problems to have than "only" making the NCAA tournament every season, and his fellow 700-win coaches also have the occasional bad year now and again. But there may be a larger problem looming for Michigan. The driving force for Michigan's two and a half decades of success has always been their tremendous recruiting, something that has been in stark decline over the past year or so.
Berenson signed a contract extension this past summer largely, as mentioned, to aide in recruiting by showing players that he'll be around for the majority of their career. Since then, Michigan has landed just two 2012 prospects in forwards Justin Selman and Daniel Milne; two very solid players, but not necessarily superstars. I believe I've mentioned this stat before, but Michigan hasn't recruited a scholarship player from Michigan that kept his commitment since getting a commitment from Kevin Lynch is August of 2007. While other major programs try to shuffle players and decide who will play an extra year of junior hockey, Michigan, not counting any possible early departures, has just 11 forwards, 5 defenseman, and one walk-on goalie lined up for their roster next season. There's certainly still plenty of time to add players, but it seems unlikely for Michigan to find the same caliber of player they have in the past this late in the process.
Michigan has had a very tough time competing for the best prospects in recent years, in part perhaps, because of the way they recruit. Berenson's more passive recruiting style makes for a great profile lede, and philosophically speaking, is probably correct. He's a guy that once played on a team with Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Henri Richard, and Jacques Plante. He took a -1 on the most iconic goal in hockey history--in a game, by the way, that was only in overtime because of a late Berenson goal. He won national championships with Brendan Morrison and Marty Turco, and lost national championships to Paul Kariya and Chris Drury, arguably the four greatest college players of the '90s. Is he really supposed act over the moon about every 16-year-old pissant that walks into his office? Then again, things like wisdom and honesty rarely win out when it comes to star-eyed teenagers. When one side is going out of their way to tell a kid whatever he wants to hear, realistic or not, while the other is saying, 'Play for us, or don't. Whatever,' it's no surprise to see kids turning the other way.
Of course Berenson is still a great coach, and with what he's done so far as Michigan, arguably one of, if not the greatest college hockey coach of all-time, so regardless, it would be foolish to bet against him in the coming years. Hopefully college hockey is blessed with his presence for many more years to come.
Don Lucia would have to go 159-6 over the next 165 games. Mike Eaves has 767 more games to get 528 more wins, which already puts him behind pace. Scott Owens has 652 games to win 441 games, which would mean a .700 winning percentage over ten to eleven straight seasons. George Gwozdecky can't mathematically reach 700 wins before his 1100th game. Dave Hakstol has 835 games to win 544 games, so he's already slipped off the pace a little, but is trailing the pace by the least among WCHA coaches.
In the CCHA, Rico Blasi has 660 games left to win 460 games. Notre Dame's Jeff Jackson, who earned his 300th win tonight with the Irish, and Nebraska-Omaha's Dean Blais are both in very similar positions. Both find themselves within percentage points of the pace needed to match Berenson's mark(Jackson slightly above pace, Blais slightly below), but both likely cost themselves a shot because of extended hiatuses from the college game. It's pretty much impossible to imagine either coaching another 650 games--roughly 16 to 17 seasons--and even if they did, both are now at programs where even if they have some success, they're unlikely to have the same kind of success they once enjoyed at their previous powerhouse program.
I'm maybe missing a good candidate out East, but neither Dick Umile nor Mike Schafer are that close.