Sertich to return -- on Tech's visiting bench
Mike Sertich is making a return to college hockey coaching, and he is doing it at the DECC this weekend. No, Sertich is not returning to UMD, where he coached 18 seasons until being dismissed last spring. He decided Tuesday morning to accept an o...
Mike Sertich is making a return to college hockey coaching, and he is doing it at the DECC this weekend.
No, Sertich is not returning to UMD, where he coached 18 seasons until being dismissed last spring. He decided Tuesday morning to accept an offer he had received Monday night to become the new head coach at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich. The Michigan Tech Huskies play UMD at the DECC Friday and Saturday nights.
Sertich made the announcement on the sports-talk radio show he just began hosting on WDSM, 710 AM. In typical Sertich fashion, he did it with style and subtlety, first talking about "scoops."
Long-suffering Michigan Tech upset North Dakota in the opening game of this season, but has since lost seven straight games, including a sweep last weekend against Minnesota State-Mankato. When asked if he thought Michigan Tech might be considering a coaching change, Sertich said that indeed they might be. When asked if such an opening ever came up and Tim Watters were to be fired, would he be interested in returning to the coaching life he loves, Sertich said yes he would.
Then, when asked if he thought such a turn of events could occur, Sertich said: "I would have to say it's a done deal."
After the blockbuster announcement had settled in, Sertich said he had discussed the situation with Tech athletic director Rick Yeo Monday night.
"When I got home, there were two phone messages from Rick Yeo," Sertich said. "I thought he was wondering how many passes I wanted."
Sertich meant for this weekend's Tech-UMD games. Sertich hasn't attended a UMD game this season, since being relieved of command and being replaced by Scott Sandelin.
"I thought about it a lot last night, but this morning, I was having coffee with my wife, Audie, at 6:30 a.m., and she asked me if I'd made a decision. I said, 'Not really.' I thought about it some more, and on my way into the station for the show, I decided I'd do it. I guess the fire is still burning."
Sertich, a native of Virginia, Minn., played high school hockey there and then at UMD. He got into coaching by assisting Gus Hendrickson at Grand Rapids High School, and after turning that school into the state's premier power of the 1970s, Hendrickson and Sertich went to UMD in 1975. Sertich served as Hendrickson's assistant until Hendrickson was dismissed.
Sertich was hired only on an interim basis, because athletic director Ralph Romano had an ex-UMD star who was still in the NHL in mind to coach the following year. But under Sertich, the 1982-83 Bulldogs went 28-16-1 in his first season, and he was voted coach of the year. That got him a permanent contract.
In 1983-84, the 'Dogs went 29-12-2, won the WCHA title for the first time in history, and went all the way to the NCAA championship game before losing a 5-4 quadruple-overtime classic to Bowling Green. Again, Sertich was coach of the year. And in 1984-85, UMD went 36-9-3, won the WCHA and again got to the NCAA final four before losing in overtime to RPI in the semifinals. Sertich was named WCHA coach of the year for an unprecedented third consecutive year.
The Bulldogs, under Sertich, had trouble maintaining such a high standard, as would any team, but Sertich was known throughout college hockey for his innovative and progressive style of coaching.
His term at UMD peaked again at 21-17-2 in 1997-98, when the Bulldogs capped it by beating Minnesota 5-4 in overtime in the third game of a league playoff series at the DECC, and Sertich ran across the ice in glee and slid into the goal cage in the postgame celebration.
But in 1998-99, the talent ran thin, and UMD plummeted to 7-27-4 and ninth place. The Bulldogs stood 11-11 last season before a tailspin of 4-11 in the last half of the season left them eighth, at 15-22.
Sertich resigned under pressure. His all-time UMD coaching record is above .500 for the 18 years, with 335 victories, 306 losses and 44 ties, with a 250-245-38 record in WCHA play.
Sertich had the last year of his contract worked out in legal terms during the summer, and spent most of the summer at his Island Lake home, fishing. When he got the opportunity to host the talk radio show three weeks ago, it was an immediate hit. It just had a short run, although Sertich promised to call in from Houghton.
"I'm going home after the show, loading the truck up and heading for Houghton," Sertich said.
"It's quite an honor to be asked, although I'm a little apprehensive. I'll meet with the kids tomorrow, and we'll be coming up to the DECC this weekend."
Obviously, it will be a pressure-filled weekend for Tech and Sertich, but his usual sense of humor came through.
"I told Rick Yeo that I would do just about anything, but I won't call season-ticket holders," said Sertich, referring to a task he did last year at UMD.
"Now that I've been in the media, I guess I can be my own critic," he added. And, as for the chance Tech wins, he said his post-game celebration will be the model of decorum. "I have a no-sliding clause," he said.