June 15, 2004; UPDATED June 16, 2004
Mazzoleni Leaves Harvard
USHL's Green Bay Gamblers introduced him as new coach Wednesday

Mark Mazzoleni

After five years at Harvard, including three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, Mark Mazzoleni is leaving the Crimson to take over as head coach of the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. The Gamblers made the announcement Wednesday in Green Bay.

A Green Bay native and the former head coach at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Mazzoleni returns to his hometown and joins his longtime friend Rob Nicholson, the president of the Gamblers.

"This is very bittersweet for me," Mazzoleni said in a Harvard press release. "I'm leaving a group of athletes for whom I have the utmost respect for, as well as an administration that from day one – under both [former Harvard athletic director] Bill Cleary and [current A.D.] Bob Scalise – has given its support to me, the staff, and our program. As a coach, I couldn't have asked for a more supportive group of individuals to work with, from everyone involved in the hockey operations to everyone throughout the athletic department.

"At the same time, my family has been offered an exceptional, unbelieveable opportunity. My wife [Karen] and I return to our families, and as our children continue to grow they will have the chance to experience some family things that they haven't been a part of because we haven't lived in the area. That was as important as this coaching opportunity that I have been offered – I'll still have the opportunity to work with high-level athletes who are driven to attain the highest level of development."

Mazzoleni's extended family still lives in Green Bay, another reason for his desire to return to the area. Sources also tell Inside College Hockey that Mazzoleni's Green Bay salary, believed to be in the six figures, represents a raise over his earnings in Cambridge. Neither Mazzoleni nor Nicholson were available for comment on Tuesday.

The Gamblers position opened up when former head coach Mark Osiecki, a Wisconsin alumnus, took an assistant coaching position with the Badgers.

Mazzoleni's departure leaves Harvard searching for just its fourth coach in the last 32 years. The Harvard opening is the third Division I head coaching position to open this off-season, and the sixth ECAC school to have a coaching change in the last two years.

"This is a big loss for Harvard," said Scalise. "Looking back, one can see that he has really done an outstanding job with our hockey program, and I am really proud of what he has done here. His educational approach to coaching, hard work, and knowledge of the game has returned Harvard hockey to prominence both in the ECAC and on the national scene. We think the world of him here, but we understand that this is a great opportunity for him, not only professionally, but for his family as well."

"We wanted to have him back here next year," said Noah Welch, a defenseman who will be the Crimson's senior captain next season. "We understand the opportunity that was presented to him, however, and we understand why he's made this move. In the last few years, we were 30 seconds away from three straight ECAC titles, and have made three NCAA appearances. As a player, what you ask for is a chance to compete for championships. While it would have been great to have a chance for at least one more with him, we respect his decision and we all wish him well."

Last season's Crimson team, the preseason favorite in the ECAC, finished sixth in the league, but reached the NCAA Tournament on the strength of winning the ECAC Tournament title. Harvard finished 18-15-3 overall, 10-10-2 ECAC.

Early candidates for the Harvard position could include former Crimson assistant coaches Nate Leaman, now the head coach at Union, and Ron Rolston, now the assistant coach at Boston College. Current Harvard assistants Gene Reilly and Sean McCann could get consideration as well, as could Colgate assistant (and former interim head coach) Stan Moore. A more remote possibility could include Harvard alum and Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon, who joined the Catamounts a year ago.

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