Ex-player’s call convinces Berenson to return

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Red Berenson said he didn’t sign a multi-year deal — he didn’t sign anything. He just agreed to return next season.

Ann Arbor — It took one call from a former player for Red Berenson to decide he would return for at least one more year as Michigan’s hockey coach.

“We started having meetings with some of our players and they’re asking me if I’m going to be here,” Berenson said Monday, a day after announcing he would return for his 33rd season as Michigan’s coach. “I thought if I’m going to make this decision I’d better make it sooner than later to let the players know, to be up front with them.

“Then, I got a call from a player reminding me that it was the day we won the national championship in ’96. We had a short talk and then he said, ‘By the way, I just want to let you know that you changed my life, like thank you for recruiting me. Michigan changed my life. I will be forever grateful.’ ”

Berenson wouldn’t say who called.

But that call, along with the fact athletic director Warde Manuel wanted Berenson, 76, back, was all the coach needed to hear.

“This is why you’re coaching really, for kids like this,” Berenson said. “Then, I thought right away you know what, that sounds like me because when I went to Michigan it changed my life. ... I thought even if I’m on the fence I can do this for one more year.”

Michigan won its first Big Ten tournament title and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. It lost to North Dakota in the Midwest Regional final.

Berenson said he didn’t sign a multi-year deal — he didn’t sign anything.

He just agreed to return next season.

“This is on a year-to-year basis,” Berenson said. “They wanted a three-year contract (in the past) because it sounded good for recruiting, but in all fairness I’ve told our recruits for the last four or so years, don’t expect me to be here (for their entire career). This isn’t a one-man show. This is a coaching team. There will be a good coach here. There will be good program here. Michigan’s not going away as a school.

“And, I would say in fairness we’ve still been competitive in recruiting. Kyle Connor is as good a player as there is in the country. Dylan Larkin and Zach Werenski and so on.”

Larkin left after his freshman year in 2015 and is an impact player with the Red Wings. Werenski announced last week he was leaving after his sophomore year to play for the Blue Jackets.

Berenson met with Connor, who led the nation in goals and scoring, to try to persuade him to return for his sophomore year. Connor (71 points, 35 goals) joined juniors JT Compher (63, 16) and Tyler Motte (56, 32) to form a dominant top line, going 1-2-3 nationally in scoring.

Connor is a first-round pick (2015) of the Jets, Motte is a fourth-round pick (2013) of the Blackhawks, and Compher is a second-round pick (2013) of the Sabres.

“Each will have to make up their own decision,” Berenson said. “For me it’s an easy decision for Tyler and JT. I say that because they’re juniors. They are only a year from graduating. They are in a good position so just do it right and finish up.

“I told (Connor) there’s some unfinished business. And, if you’re such a goal scorer, there’s somebody in this room that scored 43 (at Michigan) and he would love for you to break that record.”

The person who scored 43?

Red Berenson.