Opinion: Motzko Exit Handled Poorly
Let me start by saying I do not begrudge Bob Motzko for leaving SCSU to take a job with the University of Minnesota. As equal as the on-ice product may be, there's no arguing that the Gophers job has a higher profile, boasts better facilities and recruiting tools and obviously came with a significant pay bump for Motzko.
In his 13 years with the Huskies, Motzko was not only a great hockey coach, but also a pillar of the community. He formed relationships with alumni, fans and the media while elevating SCSU to national prominence as a hockey program.
If Herb Brooks birthed the DI era and Craig Dahl grew it into respectability, Motzko was the coach who put the program on the map.
However, something just doesn't smell right with the way it all went down, beginning with Don Lucia's exit as Minnesota's coach just days before the NCAA Tournament.
Lucia has been at this long enough to know that a number of local coaches would immediately be under speculation to take over the Gophers job. The timing of his resignation could not have been worse.
There was no harm in waiting just four more days to announce the resignation, as the U of MN could not speak (in theory) to prospective candidates until their season had ended. Minnesota State-Mankato coach Todd Hastings, Duluth coach Scott Sandelin and SCSU coach Motzko were all immediately under the microscope following Lucia stepping down.
The Huskies fell to Air Force in the opening round of the tournament in Sioux Falls despite being the top overall seed. Huskies forward Robby Jackson admitted during an appearance on Granite City Sports that the Lucia news was a distraction for SCSU at the tournament, saying the team was even talking about it at the pregame meal.
Less than 24 hours after that loss, SCSU Athletic Director Heather Weems was contacted by Minnesota AD Mark Coyle and was told that a conversation with Motzko was imminent.
On Monday night, Motzko did not appear on his weekly Coaches' Show at the Green Mill. As it turns out, he told Weems earlier that day that he would take the Gophers' job.
On Tuesday he declined to appear for his weekly radio spot on AM 1390. Later Tuesday he was officially named coach of the Gophers. He met with the team after the news had already leaked on social media.
The next thing we knew, Motzko was wearing maroon and gold and seemingly not looking back.
Since then, he has said very little about his actual reasons for taking this job, and has repeatedly used the reasoning that the players were going to leave him at some point and that he always felt like he had one more move left in him.
Of course the players were going to leave. They typically have no choice, unless they leave early to go pro. The coach has a choice, unless they under-perform to the point they get fired.
He did tell Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times that he felt the job presented a challenge that he could not pass up, and that he felt he was the right person for the job.
I would argue that coaching at cash-strapped St. Cloud is a far greater "challenge" than coaching at resource-rich Minnesota. I would also lament the fact that Motzko was capable of continuing to build the Huskies into a national powerhouse.
From some fans' perspective, Motzko leaving for the Gophers sent a message to fans and recruits that Minnesota would always be a superior program to SCSU.
I think if the situation was handled differently, fans may have a different perspective on his exit. Perhaps if more time had passed between the tourney loss and his taking the job, there wouldn't be such a foul stench left behind.