The news that Jim Madigan would step down as head coach of the Northeastern men’s hockey team to become athletic director caught many folks in the college hockey world off guard.
But in hindsight, the move shouldn’t have been surprising, as Madigan points out.
“If you look at my career, in my 35 years at Northeastern, I’ve been able to work in different areas of the school, and it’s been 6-7 year segments,” he said. “This is the longest tenure that I’ve had in any job at the school.”
His time with the Huskies started as a student, where he was a four-year letter winner under coach Fernie Flaman from 1981-85. After spending a year as an assistant at Vermont, Madigan returned to the program and served as an assistant coach from 1986-93.
From there he has been an assistant director of physical plant services (1993-99), director of athletic development (1999-2004), and associate dean and director of development in the College of Business Administration (2004-11).
Yet he also stayed active in the hockey community, serving as a scout for the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, and when the men’s hockey job opened up in 2011, Madigan was the logical choice.
In 10 years with Madigan at the helm, the Huskies reached the NCAA tournament three times — 2016, 2018, and 2019, having qualified for the postseason once in the previous 22 years.
The program also ended a pair of long-running droughts, winning the Hockey East tournament in 2016 for the first time since 1988. In 2018 Northeastern captured its first Beanpot in 30 years, then repeated the feat in 2019 and 2020.
“I’m happy with all of the accomplishments, and thrilled to be with our student athletes in that period of time, but you look back and get a little greedy, because we could’ve done a few more things,” said Madigan.
In particular there was the 2018 squad that featured a dominant first line of Hobey Baker winner and Braintree native Adam Gaudette, Dylan Sikura, and Nolan Stevens, but lost, 2-1, to Michigan in the first round of the tournament.
“There were some missed opportunities for us,” said Madigan. “This is where I’m looking forward to help all our programs and help hockey reach the next step and win some tournament games.”
Some thought Madigan might be interested in the job when Peter Roby announced in May 2017 that he would be stepping down the following year, but it was not a consideration.
“I think we were just really starting to establish our program — myself, coach [Jerry] Keefe, coach [Mike] McLaughlin — we had won the 2016 Hockey East championship, but we still needed to accomplish a lot more,” said Madigan. “I thought, back at that point, we had a good foundation for men’s ice hockey.
“For me it was still unfinished business with the hockey program and our student athletes. I thought we were on the cusp of doing something really exciting and continuing to advance our program. Which, in hindsight, we did.”
Jeff Konya was tabbed to replace Roby in January 2018, and when he announced earlier this month that he was departing for San Jose State’s AD opening, the school’s leadership wasted little time reaching out to Madigan. The process was quick, with Madigan named AD the following week.
“I think these last three and a half years I’ve grown as a coach,” said Madigan. “I’ve been privy to some of the critical areas of thinking in the athletic department. Jeff Konya was always willing to share with me some of the thoughts about the department, some of the challenges, some of the things that he was pulling for. He had done a great job positioning our athletic program, particularly externally with our brand and our visibility, along with our coaching staff.
“I feel fortunate that over these last three years, that I’ve grown and the department is in a really good place.”
Madigan would like to move just as expeditiously when it comes to naming the next men’s hockey coach. There’s a succession plan in place that he’ll be working through over the next few days, with an announcement possibly coming as soon as this week.
“I felt good where the staff was, and where our players were. I felt like I was leaving hockey at a good time,” said Madigan.
No word yet on if that coach will continue Madigan’s practice of jumping off the equipment box after big victories.
“Listen, I’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm,” Madigan said with a laugh. “But it will be up to someone else to jump off the tables and equipment boxes in the locker room.
“But I hope to see some other coaches jumping off those boxes because it’s an indication that we’ve had some success, whatever that event is — Beanpot, Hockey East, and ultimately the NCAA tournament.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.