Vermont look to the future
Gilligan is 279-289-46 in 19 years at Vermont. Only Jim Cross,
with 280 victories, has more wins with the Catamounts.
has been behind the bench for the highest peaks and deepest valleys
in Vermont hockey history; the trip to the Frozen Four in 1996
and the scandal-shortened season in 1999-2000.
Now, with a new president and athletic director
in place in Burlington, Gilligan says he wants to help bring the
program back into the national spotlight. But it remains to be
seen whether he will be the one to see those improvements through
from behind the bench.
Gilligan talked candidly on Friday about his excitement
for the upcoming season. He also said that he planned to stay
at Vermont for another four or five years, but left open the possibility
that he may not be coaching hockey for that long.
“I've got to keep working like heck to get
this program back where we want it,” he said. “It
may involve getting into athletic development, coaching hockey
or coaching golf.”
When asked how soon that transition away from
the bench could take place, Gilligan said: “I've made some
commitments to my athletes and I intend to honor them. Either
way, it's up to me. Right now I feel great about last year, and
great about where we're headed.”
who was hired as
Vermont’s new A.D. on Wednesday, met with Gilligan for
an hour in Burlington on Thursday. He echoed the idea that any
change will be Gilligan’s decision, but indicated that it
could come in the relatively near future.
“Mike’s been talking about (stepping
down) but there's been no decision yet,” Corran said Friday.
“I talked to him in person yesterday, because it's certainly
the kind of thing you'd want to know going into a job like this.
He told me he's going to make a decision within a few weeks.”
of his personal plans, Gilligan was emphatic about the need for
added support from the administration if Vermont hockey hopes
to compete on the national stage. After back-to-back 20-win seasons
in the mid-1990s, including that 1996 Frozen Four appearance,
the Catamounts have finished under .500 for six straight seasons.
The 1999-2000 campaign was canceled midway through due to a team
hazing scandal, and Vermont hasn’t finished higher than
ninth in the ECAC since 1996-97. The Catamounts were 13-20-3 this
past season (8-14-0 and 10th in the ECAC).
“We need better support in terms of our
facilities, our compensation for assistant coaches, our equipment
manager – those sorts of things,” Gilligan said. “I
spend time every September teaching a student equipment manager
how to sharpen skates – that shouldn’t happen.
“We need a large increase in our operating
budget, and we’ve got to push admissions to the limit. These
are the things we have to do to keep up with the Joneses.”
Gilligan, whether he stays on as hockey coach
or in another role, would appear to have allies in Corran and
Daniel Fogel, Vermont’s first-year president. Fogel has
stated his desire to have a new, 9,000-seat arena built in Burlington,
and as Gilligan said, “has made some very public statements”
about measuring the school with the nation’s best in every
Meanwhile, Corran helped build a very successful
athletic program at Minnesota-Duluth – including the three-time
defending national champion women’s hockey team –
and certainly said all the right things as he met Gilligan and
other coaches this week.
“I think he’s going to do everything
he can,” Gilligan said. “I’m really optimistic
about what he’s going to try to do.”
has optimism for Vermont hockey. Time will tell if he helps to
fulfill it as a fundraiser or as the program’s head coach.
reporting by Jess Myers