Berenson drawn to passion Harbaugh brings to UM

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Red Berenson had just started his career as head coach of the Michigan hockey team when Jim Harbaugh was the Wolverines’ quarterback in the mid-1980s.

Berenson, 75, remains the Wolverines’ hockey coach and plans to attend Michigan’s football game against UNLV Saturday at the Big House.

Berenson talked about Harbaugh-mania and his return to Michigan as head football coach.

“I think every head football coach that comes in here there’s a build up of curiosity,” Berenson said. “With Rich Rod (Rich Rodriguez), everyone was anticipating the spread offense and so on, but this is as good as it gets,” Berenson said.

“I mean, everybody’s behind him. I think part of it was there was a need like we had so much bad news for the past year or two and we’ve been looking for a savior and he’s the guy. I just think he’s a real solid football guy. He had the skill as a quarterback and he has the skill as a coach and he’s got the passion. He’s all Michigan even though he’s coached in the pros. This is his school, this is where he made his name, where he graduated. It’s a great story.”

Berenson played hockey at Michigan, graduating in 1962 before playing with numerous teams in the NHL, including Montreal, St. Louis and the Red Wings. He made his return as the Wolverines’ head coach in 1984. He guided them to a record 22 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including national championships in 1996 and ‘98 before missing the tournament the last three seasons.

When reminded of his own return to UM as head coach, Berenson replied: “It’s a little bit like that, but his is on a bigger scale. I think this is a destination job for him. I don’t think he’ll be looking for another job.”

Berenson said his son Gordie was friends with Harbaugh while the two attended Michigan. Berenson talked of his first meeting when Harbaugh returned as head coach.

“The first time I saw him I said ‘Jim, how are you doing, I’m Red Berenson,’ and he said, ‘Yes, I know who you are, how’s Gordie?’ He hadn’t seen him since college, so I thought that was pretty good that he remembered that.”

Now, Berenson is looking forward to watching Harbaugh at work, looking for that same passion as a coach that he had as a quarterback under Bo Schembechler.