May 16, 2003
Gilligan steps down at Vermont

By Nate Ewell

Mike Gilligan closes his Vermont head coaching career one win shy of the school's leader in victories, Jim Cross. (Photo courtesy of Vermont Sports Information)

Mike Gilligan announced his retirement from the head coaching position at Vermont Friday, ending a 19-year run at the school in which he led the Catamounts to their greatest heights.

The years since those back-to-back 20-win seasons in the mid-1990s have been less kind to the Catamounts. They have finished under .500 for six straight seasons, and the 1999-2000 campaign was canceled midway through due to a team hazing scandal. The Catamounts were 13-20-3 this past season (8-14-0 and 10th in the ECAC).

Despite the recent tumultuous seasons, he leaves as the 17th-winningest coach in college hockey history (419 wins) and a highly respected figure in the sport.

“Mike Gilligan has all the qualities you would want in a collegiate head coach," outgoing Vermont A.D. Rick Farnham said in a statement. "He is loyal, thoughtful and extremely dedicated to his student-athletes. His values are beyond reproach."

Gilligan, who will remain as Vermont's men's golf coach and become an assistant to new athletic director Bob Corran, spoke just last week to Inside College Hockey about the need for the school to upgrade its support for the hockey program. He said that fundraising would play a key role in that, and expressed an interest in helping that effort.

"We have a goal to raise $2 million in a hockey endowment," Gilligan said. "With some of the NHL players that have played for me and other support, I think we can do that."

Vermont will conduct a national search for its next head coach, and Corran – who officially assumes his role as A.D. on June 16 – indicated that the process will begin immediately.

"We want to get the process going as quickly as we can," he said. "We're going to meet over the phone on Monday to get the process laid out.

"This is an opportunity that doesn't come along very often, so we want to cast the net as wide as we can. I received a lot of calls from prospective candidates already today. I'm impressed with the quality of the people that have been in contact with me. This is obviously viewed as a quality job."

Gilligan, 55, began his coaching career at Salem State, his alma mater, and was the interim head coach at Yale when Tim Taylor was an assistant coach with the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. He concludes his 26-year head coaching career with a record of 419-348-49 (279-289-46 at Vermont).

"It has been an honor to lead this program for the past 19 years, and I am now looking forward to serving the university and the athletic department in a new capacity,” Gilligan said. “I am very proud of what we accomplished here and the quality of the young men who have come through this program. My relationships with the players and with the great Catamount fans have made these 19 years the best of my life.

"This is something I have been seriously considering since the end of the season,” he said. “I always wanted to make sure that I left the program in good shape. I think the program made tremendous strides in 2002-03, and I am confident that the future is bright for UVM hockey. I am now looking forward to working with Bob Corran, our incoming director of athletics, and supporting him as he works to elevate the overall quality of our athletic program.”

Corran, who met with Gilligan in person last week and was prepared for the possibility, looks forward to working closely with Gilligan moving forward.

"Mike wanted some comfort with the future direction of the program before making a decision," he said. "He didn't want to leave until he felt the timing was right."

"There are some major pieces of the process that I'll need Mike's help with and I'm going to be leaning on him a lot. He's a tremendous bridge for us to have as part of the transition process."

With special reporting by Jess Myers

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