Osiecki Shocked By Dismissal at Ohio State
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
When Mark Osiecki walked into his office at Ohio State Monday morning, it was going to be just a normal day at the office. It turned out to be anything but that.
Minutes after arriving, Osiecki says Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith told him he was being relieved of his duties as head hockey coach.
In a statement, Smith said: “We are making a change in our head hockey coaching position. There was a difference of opinion over the management of the program that could not be resolved.”
That disagreement was news to Osiecki.
“My reaction was total surprise,” he said. “You would have to ask [the administration]. Yesterday was my first knowledge [of any difference of opinion]. Up to that point, everything was positive and we were moving forward as a staff. We were excited about our team and where we finished, our recruits, our families, everyone around the program has been outstanding.”
Osiecki was relieved after just three seasons as head coach. The Buckeyes went 16-17-7 this past season (13-10-5 in CCHA play) and Osiecki was 46-50-16 in his career at Ohio State. He inherited a team in 2010 that had finished under .500 in four of its last five seasons.
Before joining Ohio State, Osiecki was a six-year assistant coach at his alma mater, Wisconsin, and before that served as the general manager and head coach of the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League for seven seasons.
Internationally, he was on Team USA’s staff for 2010, 2011 and 2013 World Junior Championships, winning two gold and one bronze medal.
“By 8:15 [Monday morning] it was all done,” he said of the meeting. “I cleaned out my office yesterday and now it’s time to move on. I think I’ve done things the right way. I grew up with this sport, my father and my grandfather brought me up in this sport and I love and have a lot of respect for this sport. I want to continue to do what I love to do, but I’m not sure when or where that opportunity will arise. I have a lot of options already as we speak.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there were two years remaining on Osiecki's contract and he will receive a $112,000 buyout. He says the outpouring of support from the hockey community has been overwhelming.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “My phone has been crazy. I literally cannot keep up with all of my texts or emails or phone calls. Twice yesterday and twice today my voicemail was full. I try to return one call and I get six more. That’s been positive for us as a family.”
Osiecki led the Buckeyes to their first .500-or-better performance in CCHA play since 2008-09, when John Markell led the program to its only NCAA tournament berth in the last nine seasons. Perceived to be behind football and basketball on the priority ladder at the university, he says he felt the program had made considerable strides during his short tenure.
“I definitely felt like we were moving in the right direction,” he said. “I think we were able to start to model ourselves after some of the other successful programs.”
Ohio State’s recruiting class the next two seasons is slated to be stellar, including four players brought up through USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
The improved recruiting trails finding their way to Columbus come after two full years of recruiting for Osiecki and his staff.
According to Osiecki, three USHL programs have already reached out to him and four National Hockey League teams have told him they “have something for him.”
“I’m literally trying to keep all of my options open, whether it’s USA Hockey or the USHL, NHL, college or anything,” he said. “I spent seven years [in the USHL] and I love it and I think it’s awesome; it’s one of the best leagues in North America.”
Ohio State will mark the sixth program that has hired or will hire a new head coach this year joining Denver, Boston University, Maine, Connecticut and Alaska-Anchorage. Since the end of the 2010-11 season, there have been 17 new coaches hired across college hockey – there are 59 Division 1 programs – including nine new hires to start the 2011-12 season.
“The landscape has changed, the expectations have changed,” said Osiecki. “I was talking to [Minnesota head coach] Don Lucia [on Tuesday] and we were just talking about how the landscape has changed dramatically. It just goes along with other big-time college sports.”
Former Denver head coach George Gwozdecky, who left the Pioneers program just two weeks ago, flirted with the Buckeyes before Osiecki was hired in 2010. When asked if he thought it was possible his dismissal was a power move by Smith to hire Gwozdecky, Osiecki said: “You would have to ask them. I don’t know. It would be speculative on my part.”