A New Leader Arrives: Adam Nightingale Hired
Alan Haller Lands His Man After A Well Conducted Search
Danton Cole was relieved of his duties as Michigan State Head Hockey Coach on April 7th. Just under a month later, Michigan State has announced their new head man, Adam Nightingale, who is also a MSU alum and comes to East Lansing from the NTDP head coaching ranks. I mention this up front to establish yes, there are some corollaries to the previous regime that was unsuccessful, however there ends the similarities in my book. I will give my analysis on the hire why I think this is the right hire for the Spartans in this time, and why I am excited for what the future holds.
Alan Haller released the following quote, in the announcement of Nightingale’s hire:
Spartan hockey has a rich tradition and an engaged alumni base which cares deeply about their program. Throughout this process, Spartan alums proved to be an invaluable resource to me. I put together an advisory group of alumni including some former All-Americans and NHL players, who played a significant role in helping me develop the criteria to identify the right coach for sustained success for Michigan State hockey. Beyond the advisory group, I had conversations with several other alums, including many with NHL experience as players, coaches and in the front office. Beyond Spartan alumni, I also connected with several members of the hockey community at both the professional and collegiate level, each of whom recognized MSU's great history and the importance of this hire to the program. It all played a role in helping me develop a better understanding for the college hockey landscape and the qualities our next coach needed to possess
Criteria such as skill development, strong recruiting ties, style of play, respect throughout the hockey community and an ability to holistically develop student-athletes on and off the ice became the focus and guideposts for the search. Being a former Spartan player was not a requirement for either me or the advisory group. That was something that was very clear. My focus was finding the right fit based upon the developed criteria. In a thorough search, one which included conversations with some successful current head coaches, Adam matched all the established criteria
I can confirm from conversations I have had, this search was incredibly thorough, and used stakeholders from all over to help Haller in this process. The hockey world is (to its detriment sometimes) very insular. That means as an AD, it can be hard to run a search when you don’t listen to people who live in this bubble (cough Mark Hollis). Haller impressed me immensely in the search, casting a very wide net, attending the AHCA Coaches Convention in Naples last week, and seemingly never locking in on just one candidate. At the end of the search Michigan State has chosen who I believe was the first person interviewed, and was approached during the past hockey season about his interest in the position (emphasis mine on the quote below).
Criteria such as skill development, strong recruiting ties, style of play, respect throughout the hockey community and an ability to holistically develop student-athletes on and off the ice became the focus and guideposts for the search. Being a former Spartan player was not a requirement for either me or the advisory group. That was something that was very clear. My focus was finding the right fit based upon the developed criteria. In a thorough search, one which included conversations with some successful current head coaches, Adam matched all the established criteria.
Now that I have parsed the statement from Haller let’s get into some analysis on who Adam Nightingale is, and what I expect of him as a coach.
Resume: After Nightingale finished a 4 year ECHL pro career, he immediately returned to Michigan State to begin his coaching career. From 2010-2014 Nightingale was the Director of Hockey Ops under Tom Anastos. As Director of Hockey Ops Nightingale would be involved in scouting, recruiting, video breakdowns, and other arrangements for the program. After this Nightingale spent 2 seasons coaching at Shattuck St. Mary’s working with the 14U AAA program, where he coached Oliver Wahlstrom, Grant Silianoff, Cam York, Robert Mastrosimone, and Jackson Lacombe.
At this point Nightingale in 2016 headed to the NHL spending one season as video coach with the Buffalo Sabres, before joining Jeff Blashill in Detroit as video coach for 2 seasons before being his associate on bench coach for a season in 2019-20. Then Nightingale moved to the NTDP working with the 2004 prospects as their 17s coach last season and 18s coach this season. His team just won Silver at the U18s World Championships on Sunday.
Recruiting: I think beyond just the NTDP pipeline possibility (that will slow down after a year as Nightingale will not have coached beyond the 2004s, but I have heard he may be able to snare a couple for this Fall), Nightingale will bring youth and energy to recruiting. Young players rave about Nightingale, he plays a modern style, lets players be creative, and relates very well to them. He also has NHL bonafides he can sell to recruits that he can get you to the league, as since his time at Shattuck’s he has coached multiple NHL players. Hiring Nightingale now gets MSU in the race this summer for top 2006 players who can begin to commit to their schools August 1 (an early name to watch is Lucas Van Vliet from Little Ceasar’s who would have played for Nightingale next season at the NTDP 17s team, were Nightingale still in Plymouth).
Is this Cole 2.0?: I don’t believe this in any way. Now Nightingale may have the struggles that Cole did, but it will not be because they each came from the NTDP. Their play styles, age, personality, emphasis on recruiting, and cache with advisors/agents are pretty dramatically different. I think Nightingale will need to surround himself with strong assistants, a key mistake Cole made in my mind was not utilizing his assistants to get an A+ recruiter.
Names to watch in assistants: Keep an eye on Adam Krug (D3 HC Adrian College, 2022 NCAA Champs), Brad Fast (MSU player with Nightingale, skill development coach, followed Nightingale as Director of Hockey Ops at MSU, AAA hockey coach in Lansing area), Nick Fohr (NTDP Assistant with Nightingale, NCAA experience at Omaha & Miami), Mike York (Assistant at Lake State, previously played at MSU and volunteer coach at MSU, long NHL career).
Recruits to watch right away: In the last few weeks Cole Spicer and Cruz Lucius of the NTDP 18s de-committed from North Dakota and Minnesota respectively. They both are uncommitted at this time and Nightingale has coached them for 2 years. Something to keep an eye on, but keep expectations low, MSU will be new to this recruitment in the very late stages.
I will cover more as Nightingale hires assistants (and with college hickey changing, maybe more support staff #HireJerBear lives). I want to close with his quote and share once again; I am very optimistic in this hire and think this could be a turning point for MSU hockey. Enjoy today and please keep an open mind to one of our own coming home to take over this program, as he takes off running with facilities upgrades.
I'm extremely thankful and humbled to have the opportunity to lead at Michigan State University. Spartan hockey is a source of pride for the University, the East Lansing community, and the entire state of Michigan. I'd like to thank Athletic Director Alan Haller, Deputy AD Jennifer Smith, and everyone involved in the search process for the opportunity to come back home and once again be a part of this storied program.
We will hire a staff that is well equipped to support our student-athletes and will be committed to developing them as a person, not just a hockey player. We want to bring in high-level players with aspirations to work hard and help them develop to the point where they have the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League.
Our staff will put a premium on player development so that we can play an exciting and skilled brand of hockey. We will continue the traditions of hard-working student-athletes who are standouts not only on the ice, but also in the classroom and in our community. We look forward to building the program back to where our proud alumni and fan base know it should be, which is the top of college hockey