Amo Bessone - Coaching Career - Michigan State

Michigan State

Following the 1951 season, Bessone accepted the head coaching position at Michigan State University after Harold Paulsen resigned. Bessone would remain at MSU for the next 28 years.

When Bessone arrived at Michigan State, the ice hockey program was just beginning its third season and its youth was evident with a 6-25 record over two seasons. The Spartans struggled with six losing seasons before Bessone turned things around in his seventh season as coach. In 1957-58, Michigan State enjoyed its first winning season. The following season, Bessone guided MSU to a Big Ten championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans lost the 1959 national championship game in overtime to North Dakota.

Following 1959, Michigan State became a charter member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), which was a reincarnation of the loosely affiliated Midwest Collegiate Hockey League and Western Intercollegiate Hockey League that disbanded following the 1957-58 season. Bessone and MSU struggled during the first five seasons of the WCHA.

Again, Bessone turned things around with a winning season in 1964-65. The following season, Bessone coached Michigan State to an improbable NCAA National Championship.

MSU began the 1965-66 season 4-10, but rebounded winning 12 of their last 15 games including both WCHA playoff games which earned MSU a spot in the NCAA tournament. In the national semifinals, Bessone squeaked out a 2-1 victory over highly-favored Boston University. In the national championship game, Bessone and the Spartans faced Len Ceglarski's Clarkson team that owned the national-best record of 24-2. Michigan State shocked Clarkson with a dominant 6-1 victory sealing MSU's first national championship. Len Ceglarski and Bessone shared the Spencer Penrose Award as the national coach of the year in 1966. The national title and coaching award cemented Bessone's legacy as a coach. To this day, Bessone's 1966 Michigan State team remains one of the biggest underdog stories in NCAA ice hockey history. The total number of team victories (16) and team winning percentage (.551) is the lowest of any NCAA ice hockey champion. MSU made the NCAA tournament again with a strong WCHA playoff finish in 1967, but lost in the national semifinals.

Bessone began the 1970s with six straight winning seasons. As MSU hockey was building momentum, the 7,000-seat Munn Ice Arena was opened in 1974 just south of the old ice rink, Dem Hall. The peak of the momentum came in 1975-76 when Bessone guided MSU to its best WCHA conference finish. Michigan State was on the verge of earning an NCAA tournament berth when Minnesota knocked MSU out of the WCHA playoffs in triple overtime. Minnesota, who had finished below Michigan State in the conference, received an NCAA tournament bid instead.

The loss proved devastating to Bessone and the MSU hockey program. The Spartans suffered three straight losing seasons following 1976.

Bessone announced his retirement effective at the end of the 1978-79 season. He finished his coaching career with a 5-3 victory over archrival Michigan completing the weekend series sweep of the Wolverines. His success at Michigan State helped form a loyal group of MSU hockey supporters dubbed "Amo's Army." Bessone holds a 387-458-22 career record in 31 seasons.

Read more about this topic:  Amo Bessone, Coaching Career

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