Maura Crowell, Minnesota Duluth’s new head women’s hockey coach, knows a thing or two about replacing a legend.

In the 2013-14 season, she was named interim head coach at Harvard while longtime Crimson coach Katey Stone guided the United States to a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Now after serving as Stone’s associate head coach in 2014-15, Crowell will take over the Bulldogs from the only coach the program has ever known in five-time NCAA champion Shannon Miller.

The most important thing Crowell said she learned from her one season as an NCAA Division I head coach was to be herself.

“I was replacing Katey Stone, who had been at Harvard for 20 years, and was serving as the U.S. national and Olympic coach that year,” Crowell said during her introductory news conference Friday at Amsoil Arena. “In order to galvanize the group that I was coaching, it was important to be myself. That worked. That honest sort of approach is what young women believe in and that builds confidence in them.”

Crowell not only won over the Crimson players by being herself, she guided the team to a 23-7-4 record and second place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The Crimson reached the ECAC semifinals and their season ended in the NCAA quarterfinals. Crowell was named a finalist for ECAC Coach of the Year.

Crowell had been an assistant with Harvard for only three seasons when she was tasked by Stone to serve as interim head coach in 2013-14. Stone said she was comfortable trusting Crowell with the program that season because of the assistant’s work ethic and loyalty.

“We had a pretty short bench so she didn’t have a ton to work with,” Stone said by phone Friday. “They were very successful managing small numbers as well as different injuries. To win an Ivy (League) title and to get yourself to an NCAA quarterfinal, I thought that was a pretty significant achievement.”

Crowell’s ability to succeed as an interim coach with a short bench and short notice was something that stood out to UMD athletic director Josh Berlo, in addition to the pressure of filling in for a very successful coach in Stone (400-plus wins in 20 years).

“Maura has been working toward a goal like this for some time,” Berlo said. “She has an exceptional resume on the coaching side. Her experience as a student-athlete, getting thrust into the interim role and having a short roster; and not only succeeding, but excelling in that role and to be a finalist for (ECAC) coach of the year as an interim is pretty, pretty unusual.”

Crowell knows replacing Miller will be much different than replacing Stone for one season. Compared to other college coaching transitions, Crowell admitted the one at UMD is more interesting.

Instead of waiting until the end of the season to announce Miller was not being brought back, UMD made the announcement on Dec. 15. Berlo cited Miller’s $207,000 per-year salary - the highest in college women’s hockey - as the initial reason for the move.

Chancellor Lendley Black later expanded on that explanation to include the fact that Miller hasn’t won a national title since 2010, reached the NCAA tournament since 2011 and has gone 7-28-6 against the top teams in the WCHA - Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota - since the 2011-12 season.

Miller went on to accuse the university of violating Title IX - the federal law that bars schools that receive federal money from discriminating based on gender. She also alleged the university discriminated against her as a gay woman. She hired lawyers that specialize in both areas before the season even ended.

That cloud of controversy didn’t detract Crowell, however, from applying for and accepting the job at UMD.

“I think this position is one of the best in the country so when it opened up, I was instantly interested,” said Crowell, who is gay. “I certainly looked into things and after spending a lot of time with Josh, I got to know a lot more about what was going on. I feel comfortable with the resources, the facilities, the players. I think this is a national championship-caliber team and place. I feel good about it.”

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