MUSKEGON, MI- Muskegon Lumberjacks Head Coach Mike Hamilton has been named the 2020-2021 USHL Coach of the Year, becoming the first Lumberjacks head coach to ever win the award.
Hamilton was selected by a vote that all member clubs participated in.
“Evan Rand with the league called early in the week to let me know I had been selected,” said Hamilton. “I was immediately excited. To be selected by your peers, to be recognized and gain the respect of the guys you compete against, is a tremendous honor.”
“It’s awesome to be the first Lumberjacks coach to win this award,” continued Hamilton. “There have been great coaches to come through Muskegon. While I’m the one accepting the award, it’s 100 percent a team effort. Jimmy McGroarty and Steve Lowe have done a phenomenal job bringing us quality players and I have one of the best staffs in the league with Josh Nelson, Cody Chupp and James Ryan.”
“I’m not a good coach without good players. The guys in the locker room this year were truly special and they deserve credit for this award. At the end of the day it’s an honor to have your peers recognize the progress we made this year. Hopefully it’s something that will help us continue to grow as an organization.”
When General Manager Jim McGroarty was asked about Hamilton and why he deserved Coach of the Year honors, he had a tough time narrowing it down to just one thing.
“Where do I start,” said McGroarty. “Mike is good at so many things. The one thing about Hammer that really stands out is his passion for the game. He has the ability to prepare his players every day at practice and have it carry over from practice to the game. At the end of the day, he’s one of the most well-prepared coaches I've ever worked with.”
“The energy the fans saw on the ice and on the bench starts with him. The players understand that Mike has their back and they feed off that.”
Hamilton became the winningest coach in Lumberjacks franchise history this year, passing Todd Krygier’s record of 92 regular-season wins. Hamilton sits just five wins shy of reaching the 100-win plateau.
Hamilton has also had success in the postseason, guiding the Jacks to their second-ever Conference Final appearance in 2018-19, a season that saw Muskegon break franchise records for wins and points in a single season. Hamilton then took the Jacks back to the Conference Finals in 2020-21, and Muskegon finished second in the Anderson Cup race this year as well.
“I met Mike many years ago and he always had a winning program with Honeybaked,” said Owner Bob Kaiser. “He was a big part of my son Bobby’s success both as a junior player and as an NCAA player at the University of Massachusetts. After my son left Muskegon and I came on board as part owner, Dan Israel told me about his vision of turning the Muskegon Lumberjacks into the best junior hockey organization in the world. It was clear to me then, as it is now, that there was one coach who could help make that happen- Mike Hamilton. Congratulations Mike, I am very happy to see you selected by the league for this prestigious award.”
Before the end of the ‘20-’21 season, Hamilton signed a four year contract extension, making him the longest-tenured coach in Lumberjacks history as well as the winningest.