When Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis announced Tom Anastos as the new head coach of Spartan Hockey he shocked the hockey world as well as his new coach.  Anastos was one of the most influential people in the entire sport of hockey, but it was clearly an out of the box move.  Even Anastos said of the hire, “I was shocked.”

 

With essentially the same players that Rick Comley had failed miserably with, Anastos has not only captivated his team, he has turned the hockey world up on their head.  Ending the first half of his first season at #15 in the nation, and with a shoot out overtime win over Michigan that improved their record to 10-6-2.  Spartan hockey is once again respectable.

 

That ranking and record may not stun you, but you must remember that this was a season that even the most optimistic dreamed only of getting to five hundred.  So what happened?  The credit goes to Anastos.  There are two big things he did.

 

The first is that Anastos is very secure in his own skin.  He is only about winning.  That is the only thing.  Do it and do it the right way.  He could care who gets the credit.  So what did he do?  He hired a great staff.

 

Many in the Spartan Nation were pushing for Kelly Miller to get the head job.  Anastos obviously beat him for it.  With being such an out of the box pick, most head coaches would have never picked as an assistant a man who was in the final three for the job he had just won.  Anastos didn’t care.  He had great respect for Miller and when he offered the job, to his credit, Miller didn’t waste one second to accept it.

 

Anastos retained Tom Newton.  Newton during the Rick Comley era had held the program together.  Newts is the heart and soul of Spartan hockey.  Loved by the players past and present, a tireless worker and a man of character and integrity.  Again Anastos could have been insecure and he wasn’t. Newt stayed.  Most coaches from the Anastos point of view would have been bothered by the respect Newts carried.  Anastos didn’t care he shared the respect for his retained assistant.

 

Finally he reached back to get one of the best goalies MSU has ever had in Mike Gilmore and got him to join the staff.  Gilmore was a blue collar tough as nails player and Anastos wants that in a goalie.  Who better than a high character Spartan who had done it?  Gilmore’s presence and teaching has exponentially helped the Spartan netminders.

 

Not only did Anastos get those men, he has backed off and let them coach.  He sets the agenda, he sets the style, but in meetings, prep and on ice he wants them to speak up and he listens.  Ultimately Anastos is the boss, but he hired great hockey men and he lets them do their job.  He doesn’t micro manage and he doesn’t second-guess them.

 

Secondly he followed the same route Dantonio did when he arrived.  He didn’t want to hear that this team wasn’t his recruits or his guys.  If they wore the green and white they are his guys.  He knew there would be growing pains.  He knew that they would be learning a new system and style and although he is a perfectionist, he wanted them to do something that hadn’t been happening under Comley:  have fun.

 

Anastos described it this way, “I told them don’t worry about mistakes, just play hard.  I don’t want guys worried about making mistakes and worrying about what my reaction is.  They just have to play hard and I can accept that.”

 

Captain Torey Krug said it best in my opinion.  “Coach Anastos does such a great job.  He makes hockey fun.  We want to do well for him, we aren’t playing afraid of making mistakes, we are playing to win.”

 

As you celebrate with chestnuts roasting over an open fire this Christmas season, you need to celebrate a Christmas gift that came early.    On March 23, 2011 the best Athletic Director in the nation, Mark Hollis gave the Spartan Nation a Christmas gift early.  He named Tom Anastos as the head coach of Michigan State and oh what a difference a coach can make.

**This article was originally from Spartan Nation Magazine.  If you are not  subscriber all you need to do to get the 100% free publication is send your name and a request for service to SpartanNationMail@yahoo.com **