Huntsville's Luongo Out as Coach, Replaced by Kleinendorst
CHN Staff Report
Just days before the start of the 2012-13 season, Alabama-Huntsville has a new head coach.
The school today announced that former Providence forward Kurt Kleinendorst was named the school's new head coach. He replaces Chris Luongo, with no reason given for Luongo's departure.
Kleinendorst was most recently head coach of the AHL's Binghamton Senators. Before that, he coached the U.S. Under-18 team, winning a gold medal in the process, and was head coach at Lowell of the AHL. Kleinendorst was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils in the early 2000s. The general manager of the Devils, Lou Lamoriello, was the coach at Providence when Kleinendorst played there, from 1979-83.
Kleinendorst, 51, is a native of Grand Rapids, Minn. He was an All-American at Providence and helped lead the Friars to the Frozen Four his senior year. He was a fourth-round draft choice of the New York Rangers, but never played in the NHL.
"We believe Kurt Kleinendorst's experience coaching at the highest levels of the National Team Development Program and professional ice hockey, and the discipline he will bring to the program on and off the ice, will create an environment that will allow us to enhance our status in Division I hockey as he takes over the reins as head coach," athletic director E.J. Brophy said in a statement.
"Our program is at a critical juncture in its history, and our best opportunity to maintain our tradition of competitive ice hockey lies with Kurt Kleinendorst."
Luongo was head coach the last two seasons, seeing the team through its most difficult period. He went 6-53-3 in those two seasons, amid the near-dissolution of the program and its status as the lone independent in college hockey.
Huntsville will continue to be an independent this year, as it seeks entry into a conference.
"During my 30-plus year association with Kurt Kleinendorst, I have been fortunate to watch him develop as a student-athlete, player, scout and coach at various levels," Lamoriello said in a statement. "There is no question in my mind that Kurt will be a decided asset to the University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey team both on and off the ice, and help UAH in their pursuit of a major Division I hockey conference affiliation."
It's been rocky for UAH since long-time coach Doug Ross retired after the 2006-07 season. In that season, the team finished with a losing record, but won the CHA Tournament and qualified for the NCAAs, nearly upsetting Notre Dame.
Danton Cole took over as coach, but the CHA disbanded, and left Alabama-Huntsville without a home or stable schedule.
Amid that uncertainty, the school's then-interim president, Malcolm Portera, announced that the school would cease to play as a varsity sport anymore. But after a groundswell of support, that plan was scrapped weeks later when new president Robert Altenkirch took over.
Despite the second life, UAH continues to face challenges, particularly if it can't find a new conference.
UAH opens the season Oct. 6 with an exhibition game against the University of Alabama club team.