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Howard Hanson: Randolph considered Twin Cities coaching offer

Duluth East boys' hockey coach Mike Randolph turned down a premiere high school hockey coaching job in the Twin Cities this summer after the Duluth school board reinstated him as head coach of the Greyhounds, he confirmed Thursday.

Duluth East boys' hockey coach Mike Randolph turned down a premiere high school hockey coaching job in the Twin Cities this summer after the Duluth school board reinstated him as head coach of the Greyhounds, he confirmed Thursday.

Randolph, a 15-year coach at East whose coaching contract wasn't renewed following the 2002-03 season, declined to name the Twin Cities school, but it is believed to be Minnetonka.

"We had a 'For Sale' sign ready to go up at our home," said Randolph. "Once I learned that it was possible that I could be reinstated, I decided to wait for the board's decision. But honestly, I didn't think I'd be back at East."

Once Duluth school board members voted to reinstate him, Randolph said the decision whether to remain in Duluth was an easy one. Mike and Ginny Randolph have a daughter who is a senior at Duluth East, which always made the Twin Cities offer less attractive, Mike Randolph said.

"This is where my heart is -- with Duluth East hockey," said Randolph, a 4th-grade teacher at Stowe Elementary.

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Randolph not being re-hired for the 2003-04 season sent shockwaves throughout the Minnesota hockey world. He had led Duluth East to the state tournament nine times in his first 15 seasons, including championships in 1995 and 1997.

"You go through a lot of emotions," Randolph said of his non-renewal. "It was tough on me personally, but the most difficult part was bringing my family and assistant coaches into it."

East, led by 14 seniors he had helped to develop, eventually finished third at state in 2004. "They did a heckuva job last season," Randolph said. "I tried to stay away as much as possible to not be a distraction for the kids and the program."

Randolph said he received sometimes overwhelming local and statewide support for him and his family.

"A group calling themselves People for Fairness, led by Bob Brooks, worked relentlessly to get me my job back," Randolph said. "They were solely committed to correcting a wrong."

"Support came from across the state, and it was enormous. It kept me going. Herb Brooks called the night before he died. He knew of my passion for the game and shared some of his personal coaching experiences, the ups and downs. He told me to hang in there, that good things would come of it, but he couldn't believe it was happening to me. For me personally, I couldn't wait to get my name out of the paper."

Last winter, Randolph coached the Portman Squirt A team and said coaching the youths and hanging around the outdoor rink was an eye opener. "The volunteers flood and shovel the rink and operate the concession stand every day," Randolph said. "It took me back to my roots."

Rejoining Randolph are top assistants Larry Trachsel and Terry Johnson. Former Bulldog regular Jon Downing will work with the young Greyhound goaltenders, and Craig Fellman will serve as a first-year assistant, working primarily with the junior varsity team.

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Randolph said his 2004-05 Greyhounds will be young and mostly inexperienced. One standout player will be senior captain Rob Johnson, a 26-goal scorer a year ago and a regular since his sophomore season.

"We graduated 14 regulars, including both goaltenders and the four regulars who got most of the icetime on defense," Randolph said. "After Rob Johnson, our next top returning goal-scorer had six. So experience-wise, I guess you could call this a rebuilding year."

Between the Lines

  • Rookie forward Rick Rickert's already slim chance of making the Timberwolves' final 12-man regular season roster was sliced in half Tuesday when the team signed free agent Eddie Griffin. The Wolves have 11 players under contract, not including Griffin, a 6-10, 232-pound forward who averaged 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in two seasons with the Houston Rockets.
  • Over 40 youth coaches attended the annual Duluth Amateur Youth Basketball Association coaches clinic on Wednesday at Washington Center. Bulldogs coach Gary Holquist led a very informative clinic, DAYBA CEO Mike Gerber said.

"Gary spoke on philosophy of coaching, including leadership and coachability, and offered solid on-court instruction," said Gerber. "Gary has volunteered his time for four years now. He really puts his heart into it, and his love of basketball and admiration for coaches who volunteer at the youth level is obvious. Our sincere thanks to Gary and one of our valuable board members, Kelly Fleissner, for coordinating this important event."
Quote City

Trachsel on the Randolph issue: "It's unfortunate that a lot of people on both sides needlessly got hurt. It was extremely tough on Mike and his family. I do know that Mike had a very good offer to coach in the Twin Cities. If they wouldn't have reinstated him at this time, I believe he would have left the area."

Howard Hanson pens a regular sports column for the Duluth Budgeteer News. He can be reached by e-mail at Duluth@aol.com .

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