UND Promoting Brad Berry Was the Right Move

For the University of North Dakota Hockey team and their fans, it’s been a chaotic week. Early Monday morning, UND hockey players and fans woke up to find out that head coach Dave Hakstol had taken a job with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Some thought that it was a joke.  But this wasn’t a joke.  The UND coaching position wasn’t vacant long. Approximately two hours after Hakstol’s shocking announcement, UND replaced him with associate head coach Brad Berry.

UND Head Coach Brad Berry (Peter Bottini, UND Athletics)
UND Head Coach Brad Berry (Peter Bottini, UND Athletics)

At first, a few fans questioned the move, some fans wanted to know why UND didn’t do a national search for a new head coach. If you think about this move for a bit, hiring Berry as the head coach makes sense. Some called the move a no-brainer.

Berry is one of the main recruiters for the team. After being promoted to head coach, Berry and his staff reached out to all of their incoming recruits to make sure they were still coming to UND. They were. None of the incoming recruits planned on de-committing.

Berry brings a wealth of experience to UND

If you compare the coaching  experience of Berry and Hakstol, Berry has more coaching experience than his predecessor when he took the head coaching position at UND. Hakstol came to UND after coaching the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL. We know how successful Hakstol was during his 11-year tenure at UND.

Berry brings a wealth of  coaching experience to the table. Berry has been an assistant coach at UND (2001-2006, 2012-2015). Berry was also was an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose for two seasons (2006-2008). Finally, Berry was an assistant coach with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets (2010-2012). That’s an impressive coaching resume.

Hiring Berry should be a seamless transition. You won’t see a lot of changes.  However, the expectations for the UND hockey team remain the same, they’re very high. As for the hockey team’s over-all philosophy, nothing should change all that much, either.

“No expectations change,” coach Berry told Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. “There’s one thing we want to try to get to and that’s the national championship game, and we want to win that. There’s a process to do that and it starts this summer.

“I’m very humbled and honored and I’m very excited about carrying on the history and tradition of what the former coaches have done here. It’s a high bar. I know that. Along with my staff, we’re excited about getting going and getting there again.”


UND Players excited about coach Berry’s promotion

During Monday’s event, the players that I talked to were excited about Berry being named head coach. It didn’t’ take long to figure out that coach Berry is very popular with the current group of players.

“I am excited for coach Berry,” UND freshman defensemanTucker Poolman said. “I am excited about Hak’s opportunity.”

“I was shocked this morning when I saw that coach (Hakstol) left,” defenseman Gage Ausmus said. “I wasn’t shocked… In a way, because I knew it was always an option for him. But you never expected him just to leave. With coach Brad Berry being hired, not shocking at all. If anyone could replace Hakstol right now it’s Berry.”

Berry has been Paul LaDue’s position coach for the last two seasons,  the sophomore defenseman is excited about Berry being named the head coach.

“Obviously, it’s a bit of a shock,” LaDue said. “I think I speak on behalf of the players, we’re excited and happy for coach Hakstol and we know he’s going to do a good job. As far as things go here, we’re excited. We’re ready to move forward. We have trust in both of these coaches (Berry and Dane Jackson), they work just as hard as we do during the year. I know they will do a great job.”

After the Frozen Four, the Kings Management group flew to Grand Forks, ND, to meet with LaDue and his family. The Kings wanted to sign LaDue, who was selected by the L.A. Kings in the sixth round (181st overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. After reviewing all of his options, LaDue decided to return to UND for his junior season. LaDue’s plans remain the same with the coaching change.

“It was tough,” LaDue said. “Obviously, L.A. is a good organization, it’s nothing against them. I am excited to be working with them in the future. That was a dream since I got drafted. I feel like there’s a lot more left for me here. Once I made the decision I never looked back.”

To a man, the players that I talked to expressed a great deal of respect for coach Berry. Obviously, they were shocked about Monday’s announcement, but they’re happy for coach Hakstol. Make no mistake about it; the players seemed very excited about Berry being name head coach. I think in the end, this was the right move. Props to UND athletic director Brian Faison for recognizing that he already had UND’s next head coach standing next to Hakstol on the player’s bench.