Cahoon Steps Down at UMass
by Michael King/CHN Writer
Don 'Toot' Cahoon resigned as coach of Massachusetts this morning, after guiding the program for 12 seasons.
In a press release, UMass athletic director John McCutcheon called the departure a mutual decision.
"It really developed last week," McCutcheon told College Hockey News. "We sat down and in talking through a number of points, he had concerns on one side, and I had concerns on the other side.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics of those issues, but suffice to say we got to a point where mutually, and non-confrontationally, we thought it was best for him and us to move one and go ahead with the future of UMass hockey."
The University announced immediate plans to begin a search process for a replacement. With the season less than four months away, the timing of the departure is substantially later in the cycle compared with most coaching changes.
"I don't think it will compromise our ability to run a thorough search and get a good pool of quality candidates," McCutcheon said. "I think we have a good situation."
Sources speculated that Cahoon was upset about a perceived lack of support from the athletic department administration. With the University's impending move to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Mid-America Conference, as well as the continued emphasis on men's basketball, it's believed that Cahoon perceived his program was not getting fair treatment.
"With the transition of football from the FCS to FBS, people sometimes jump to conclusions," McCutcheon said. "But we have not reduced our support to hockey by one cent because of football. We're committed to hockey as much now as we've always been. Does it mean we have a blank check? No. But we will continue to support it the same way.
"I think it's just natural speculation people will go through ... because the football transition is so visible."
The school's recent announcement of a radio contract with the Western Massachusetts WEEI affiliate, which excluded the hockey program, was a potential slight for Cahoon, sources say, but other sources, and McCutcheon, shot down that theory.
"That was an entirely separate issue from hockey," McCutcheon said. "It was a good opportunity for basketball and football, and we will continue to explore options for hockey as well. The station wasn't interested in hockey. That's nothing against hockey on our part."
Cahoon had one year left on his current contract. He will be paid the $200,000 owed him on that deal.
His time in Amherst was marked by highs and lows. The successes included achieving the program's first NCAA tournament appearance in 2006-07 and reaching a No. 5 national ranking the following year with early-season wins over Notre Dame and Colorado College.
Some fans expected the success of that NCAA tournament season to be a perpetual accomplishment for the team.
But a 166-225-42 record and failure to consistently compete for home-ice in the quarterfinals of the Hockey East playoffs suggested different expectations.
"It's been an honor to coach and work with so many fine student-athletes over the last 12 years here at UMass," Cahoon said in a press release. "Their efforts and the efforts of the faculty, staff and community members will be fond memories of my time here at Massachusetts. I look forward to the continued growth and development of this program so that it will sustain itself at the most elite level within Hockey East. The privilege has been all mine."
When Cahoon became coach in 2000, he inherited a program that was still in the early phases of its development, just seven seasons since its rebirth on the Amherst campus after a 15-year absence.
In 25 seasons as a headcoach, he compiled a 333-380-73 record, which includes a stint at Princeton from 1991-2000, Norwich from 1979-82, and Lehigh from 1973-74. At Princeton, Cahoon was also responsible for lifting that program to then-unreached heights, including its first ECAC tournament championship and NCAA tournament appearance in 1998. His star player from that team, Jeff Halpern, is still in the NHL.
"Toot's made significant contributions to the program," McCutcheon said. "He got us to the point where we did make the NCAA tournament, got us close to the Frozen Four. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case for the recent few years. But he put us in a great position in terms of the quality of people in the program, outreach in the community, the level of support from the fans, and the program is well positioned."