By Alex Faust, News Staff
Jim Madigan has come home. Though in all reality, he never left.
In a press conference Tuesday, Madigan was officially named the men’s ice hockey coach at Northeastern University. He becomes the program’s tenth head coach, and the second alumnus to coach the team (Madigan graduated in 1985). Dozens of colleagues and alumni attended the press conference, exchanging handshakes and hugs, beaming with pride knowing that one of their own will get to live his dream as head coach of his alma mater.
“To say this is the greatest day of my professional life would be an understatement,” Madigan said. “All along, I wanted to get back here to Northeastern University and Matthews Arena. This is where it began; this is where I wanted to come back to. I knew that this opportunity would present itself, or thought it could present itself over the last couple of years,” alluding to former coach Greg Cronin’s aspirations to return to the professional ranks.
It was nearly 30 years ago that Madigan first stepped foot on campus, and though it’s been nearly two decades since he was an assistant coach at NU, he has served in several capacities for university since. From the time he left the coaching ranks in 1993 until 1999, he worked with Northeastern’s physical plant office (where he once worked as a co-op). He then became the director of development for Northeastern athletics, and from 2004 until today, served as an associate dean with the College of Business Administration.
All the while, Madigan continued to be active in the hockey ranks, scouting for the New York Islanders and, since 2006, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The hire may be a surprise to those in the college hockey community, but to athletic director Peter Roby, Madigan was a perfect fit.
“You can’t get someone to make a donation if they don’t trust you,” Roby said, speaking to Madigan’s work in university development. “It’s not really different than recruiting – you’re selling the institution. You’re talking about someone who’s had a 30-year relationship with Northeastern, and every step of the way, he’s proven his passion, commitment, dedication and to the institution.”
Madigan has been closely in tune with the program in recent years, has spoken with current players and has been a close friend of Cronin and current assistant Sebastien Laplante, who is also an alumnus.. As a scout, he has evaluated talent for years, and has signed former Huskies to play professionally, including forward Joe Vitale and goaltender Brad Thiessen. However, he admitted that it would take time to transition to a head coaching position.
“There’s going to be a ramp-up period,” Madigan said, borrowing a business phrase. “But make no mistake about it, I’m coming to the table with a lot of hockey knowledge. I’ve been surrounded by some great, smart hockey people [in my career].”
Perhaps most important to Northeastern fans is the hope that Madigan can build on the Huskies’ recent success. Madigan won two Beanpot trophies as a player and one as an assistant coach, and he said that returning Northeastern back to competitiveness at both local and a national level is a priority.
“We want to win Beanpots, we want to win Hockey East championships and we want to get to national tournaments,” Madigan said. “I’m not here to promise anything, I’m just going to say that our goal, that’s our aspiration.”