If Red Berenson Won't Retire, He Should Be Fired Comment Count

Brian April 3rd, 2017 at 12:07 PM


[Patrick Barron]

So here's a post I absolutely never wanted to write. Despite being an e-site on the internet staffed by basement trolls, historically this space has been very slow to get on a soapbox and say FIRE THIS GUY. I was still barely on board with Rodriguez after his third season and only called for Hoke's firing after the Shane Morris concussion fiasco. Meanwhile other parts of the internet call us Beilein slaps, because other parts of the internet are dirt stupid Rome listeners. And I love not just Michigan hockey but damn the torpedoes, screw your trap, let's score a buttload of goals Red Berenson hockey. Without Berenson it's likely I'm not a hockey fan of any variety.

But I kind of have to write this, because apparently missing the tournament for the fourth time in five years with the worst team Red Berenson's had since the mid-80s isn't enough for everyone involved:

This is why I was fretting about Michigan's post-Frozen-Four decision date on Berenson. If there was a decision to make it should have been made midseason, probably after Michigan handed a Tom Anastos-led Michigan State team two of their three conference wins. If not then, then immediately after the season. And yet.

Red Berenson is no longer a good hockey coach. Michigan's decline has been near-constant for a decade, with two items obscuring that: walk-on goalie Shawn Hunwick turning in two of the program's best-ever years in goal and last year's near-unprecedented pile of NHL talent. While Berenson should get credit for each, those are blips as Michigan hockey slaloms downhill.

Even when Michigan has been at a relative peak during their decline, North Dakota pops up to remind us that Berenson's approach has been lapped by modern hockey coaches. The last two times Michigan and North Dakota have met in the NCAA tournament Michigan has gotten outshot two to one. They won one of those with the greatest single-game goalie performance in program history. Last year they lost, meekly, because they could not even get out of their own zone.

That should have been the last straw. Michigan is no longer a program that can go into any game against a top-end foe and expect to have an even game even if their entire power play should already be in the NHL. North Dakota flat-out embarrassed Michigan in that game, and they specifically embarrassed Michigan's coaching.

It was not the last straw, so Michigan fans were treated to a season in which the only thing keeping them from a single-digit-win season was outstanding goaltending. Michigan finished 57th of 60 D-I teams in even-strength Corsi*. Forgive me if I bring out my inner Jim Rome right now, but that is flat-out unacceptable. Michigan controlled their zones about as well as 5-31-3 Niagara, 7-21-6 Alaska-Anchorage, and second-year independent Arizona State—which is still using club players.

Talent is indisputably down, but not that much. There are nine NHL draft picks on the roster and a tenth player (Luke Martin) will go in the next one. It is distantly possible that you could build a case for Red to return if Michigan had missed the tournament by a hair. They did not. They missed it by a mile, and the underlying numbers are even worse than the record.

Michigan's coaching is not and has not been an asset since Mel Pearson left. Pearson is working with scraps and guys from places so remote that Houghton seems like a metropolis in comparison. He's made the tournament twice in the last three years, and finished in the top five of even strength Corsi all three years. His talent is at best average in the WCHA; he outperforms. Berenson's talent was at worst league-average in the Big Ten; he underperforms.

Meanwhile there are signs every year that nobody's afraid of Red anymore—that nobody even respects him. This year Cooper Marody was academically ineligible for the first half of the year, which hasn't happened since I've been paying attention. Every NHL talent flees the instant it's an option. Jon Merrill missed half a season with personal issues a few years back; things never should have gotten that bad with him. When Andrew Copp jumped to the NHL after his junior season, Red slammed his character and that of his father. When Mike Spath related this, Copp's furious father responded at length, explaining why Copp decided that another year in Ann Arbor would not be a positive for his hockey career.

The year Copp decided to leave Michigan excluded him from the hockey banquet entirely: not a mention of his name. For the captain of the team. Does that sound like a rational person?


[Bill Rapai]

Red Berenson is 77. His hockey team was horrendous this year. He appears increasingly incapable of controlling the kids on his team. He's been on his "final" season for three years now. If he won't retire he is RedPa. Warde Manuel should do him a favor and prevent that from happening.

*[Corsi is your percent of all shot attempts. It is broadly more predictive of future events than actual goals, which are lower in number and subject to goalie vagaries.]



April 3rd, 2017 at 12:44 PM ^

Treating a coach, who revived the program and perhaps wants to leave on his term, like a piece of crap is not right.  One year will not make or break the program.  If this gives Warde a year to find the best coach, then I would rather give Red one more year.  He has earned it.


April 3rd, 2017 at 1:07 PM ^

last year for the year before. If this the first year that Warde is seriously considering a replacement for him, then I believe Red does deserve to stay one year if he wants to.

It would be entirely a different situation if he let Warde think that last year was his last year and now has changed his mind.


April 3rd, 2017 at 1:23 PM ^

the program has been fading for a decade now and without Tiny Jesus in net, the last 5-7 years of Michigan Hockey would've been truly forgettable. Red should've retired probably after the loss to UMD but he keeps staying one more year, and then another year, and then another year

It's getting to the point that he's about to leave the program in worse shape than it was when he got it.


April 3rd, 2017 at 12:49 PM ^

If Red returns, it is either because Warde wants him to continue coaching, or he is too scared to fire him. Either is a damning indictment of his leadership ability.

Red has been over the hill for at least 5-6 years now, if not longer, and believing that he still has the ability to lead the team would mean Warde is clueless. 

If he doesn't believe Berenson has what it takes, and has encouraged Red to step down, then not firing Red when he refuses to step down would make him gutless. 

One year can absolutely set the team back for years to come. This year probably made the rebuild take a year or two longer than it would other wise. Recruits aren't going to come and play for a garbage team that squeaks into double digit wins. Another season like that would solidify Michigan as a bottom tier team.


April 3rd, 2017 at 1:44 PM ^

written. Red has needed to go for a few years now. I was always saying if someone in the front office won't tell him, maybe a close friend would urge him to step down. He does not relate to the players anymore and his message doesn't get through.

Teams have figured out everything we do and the team seems to never play hard anymore. It's sad to watch how far this program has fallen and a change must be made now! This can not be put off one more year for the 5th or 6th time!


April 4th, 2017 at 9:26 AM ^

I agree that Red needs to go, and the sooner the better. However, I think that for optics / PR, several things should happen.

  1. They really should be talking about this behind closed doors. In other words, make Red an offer he can't refuse. Make clear to Red that he needs to go, and that he will go, one way or another (i.e., agreeably, or not.) Maybe allow him to stick around? Like Bo, perhaps? But a public firing? Don't do that. Maybe money, maybe public honor, maybe name something after him.
  2. They need to do whatever it takes to get the best coach possible who fits Michigan's culture. Michigan is obviously a blue blood . . . more NCAA championships than any other team with nine. We need to get on the stick, because North Dakota has eight. Things need to be turned around.
  3. Ideally, they should work together with Red (or with his knowledge) in interviewing coaches. Maybe Warde doesn't tell him all the details, or give him a whole lot of input, but personally, I think it is bad form and could be disastrous to really have a coach in place without Red's knowledge. Could create bad blood.

In one way, an analogous situation is OSU in basketball. Thad Matta has the dreaded institutional support and blessing. And will be there another year. Which is going to hurt OSU.


April 3rd, 2017 at 12:53 PM ^

As illustrated in the post, it hasn't been one year; it has been five. Five years in which NHL talent has cycled through the program like always, but the team has been unable to use. Five years with the same problems on the ice occurring every season and not getting fixed, even with guys like Jacob Trouba and Zach Werenski on the blueline. 

Last year's talent level was ridiculous, and the team was good, but they should have been a dominant national title winner.

He shouldn't be fired, but it's time to go


Robbie Moore

April 3rd, 2017 at 2:42 PM ^

...is on the money. I love Red and have watched his teams since he came back to Ann Arbor. No he shouldn't be fired but then I suppose someone like, maybe, his boss should make him Associate Athletic Director or some such and retire him. My real concern is what this says about Warde Manuel. Is he capable of making the tough decision in a timely manner? Like, ohhh, Jim Hackett? That is a critical characteristic of a good chief executive. And the whole Red saga of the past several years smells of kicking the can down the road. 


April 6th, 2017 at 10:03 PM ^

Bobby Bowden is the perfect analogy here.  However, things are in even worse shape here than at FSU when Bowden left.  I love Sam Webb, but hearing his argument to Brian this morning on the radio made no damn sense.  Hopefully Warde is just waiting until the Frozen Four is done to announce a change.  

Mi Sooner

April 3rd, 2017 at 8:05 PM ^

Year when he made it known he was done and look how that turned out.

I started watching Michigan hockey a year or two after Red started here and couldn't be happier, but it is clearly time. Warde could have made the call up north last year, or he could have been spending this year seeing who was interested and made a list with Red's help. He should have made a call to the next head coach by now and started the transition.

Ron Utah

April 3rd, 2017 at 1:10 PM ^

  1. Red is not more important than the program, and we don't honor him by letting him continue to damage the program.
  2. Firing someone who is not doing their job well is not "treating a coach...like crap."
  3. Red loves Michigan, and that love is only honored by doing what is right for school and hockey program.  That choice is clear.
  4. If Warde doesn't have a successor ready at this point, shame on him.  This has been years in coming--it's not a sudden issue.


April 4th, 2017 at 9:38 AM ^

No offense, but this chart doesn't really show you much as it's represented in percentages. Of course any company that has any amount of success would be expected to grow faster than 4 of the biggest companies in the world. Apple would need to add TRILLIONS (with a T) of market value to grow at the same rate.  


April 3rd, 2017 at 4:10 PM ^

I just re-read the whole thing and feel like smoking a cigarette. I don't smoke.



That is how a guy can be in charge of three different things and still be an idiot: Dave Brandon's skill is for creating personal leverage for Dave Brandon. And there end the skills. There is that sub-genre of successful person that achieves seemingly without any reason to. They are nature's bullshitters. Charlie Weis is their treasurer. Dave Brandon is their king.

Pepto Bismol

April 3rd, 2017 at 3:13 PM ^

Chris Chelios wanted to play until he was 50.  Maybe longer.  Problem was in his mid-40s his body betrayed him and he was less and less useful in the NHL. 

No team has ever given a player a lifetime contract to play as long as you want.  When Chelios became dead weight on the blue line, the Red Wings shipped his Hall of Fame-ass to Grand Rapids to waste away in the AHL. 


I can't figure out why letting Red (or any head coach) fall apart on the job is okay when it's not accepted for any other role in organized sports.


I Like Burgers

April 3rd, 2017 at 1:23 PM ^

He's 77.  What is giving him one more year going to really accomplish?  Red and the program are at their nadir now, you either let him try and turn it around so he can retire and have to hand the program over to someone else, or you hand the program over to someone else now.

Allowing him to try and turn things around is only worthwhile if you think he has something left to give, and pretty much all available evidence --- either on the ice, or in the number of grains of sand left in his hour glass -- is trending the other direction.


April 3rd, 2017 at 1:36 PM ^

The writing has been on the wall for years.  If Warde still needs more time to find a coach then he should be fired too.  

Hockey is a disaster right now and its painful to watch and needs to stop.  

I don't care how legendary a coach you USED to be.  You don't get granted tenure in the coaching business.  You get some leeway sure based on past results, but Red has long ago used his up.  


April 3rd, 2017 at 3:42 PM ^

I don't hear anyone saying Red should be treated "like a piece of crap". I hear a lot of people saying that it's time to tell Red to hang 'em up, as gently as possible but as firmly as necessary. 

Red's history entitles him to a dignified exit, one that gets labeled "retirement" whether it's really voluntary or not, and a big celebration of his career on the way out. Probably a statue.

What it doesn't entitle him to is an indefinite period of "one more years" while the program deteriorates. At this point the question isn't "how long before it turns around" but rather "how hot a tire fire is the next coach going to be left?"

Mr. Yost

April 3rd, 2017 at 7:17 PM ^

In 2015 he got 800 wins and in 2015-16 he was B1G Coach of the year.

IMO, this was that final year and he should've announced it midseason to get all of the fanfare and tears from it.

I'm not going to go as far as to say it should've been over 5, 6, 7 years ago...but this year was truly the last one by ALL accounts. Even if he won this year it should've been the last one and just go out on top.

Michigan should be on the verge of naming a new coach this week.


April 3rd, 2017 at 12:45 PM ^

The evidence presented against Red is all true. The team is in decline. Last season was embarrassing (and I made a point of saying so after the second home MSU loss). The Copp departure was a shocking bellweather. The team's record this season was the result of incredible good luck--the corsi stats speak for themselves, and so does the shots on goal category, a stat Michigan lost in all but 4 or 5 games this past year.

But I don't think any athletic director can fire Red. It's the program nightmare situation we keep circling back to with guys like Bobby Bowden: The program, the facilities, the fanbase, everything about the team as it is now constituted, has been built by the man who is now hanging on too long. 

He has earned the right to make this mistake.

Don't make this mistake. Hang them up, Red.

Ron Utah

April 3rd, 2017 at 1:06 PM ^

No one earns the right to drive the program into the ice.  Coach worship is a dangerous thing, and your Bowden example is evidence of its folly.

Warde's choice is simple: what is more important, person or program?  His integrity as an AD, or allowing a "once-great" coach to finish on his terms?

Make no mistake--this is NOT about "loyalty."  Red loves Michigan, and the only loyal thing to do is to do what's best for Michigan, not what's best for Red.  We don't honor or favor people by enabling them to do damage to things they love most.

I Like Burgers

April 3rd, 2017 at 1:37 PM ^

And the real problem with allowing someone to retire on their own terms, is what if they are an cantankerous old coot with a "I'll retire when I'm dead" mentality?  Or they've spent a lifetime building something and don't want to walk away from it? What do you do then?