Steve Rohlik told Minnesota Duluth coaches and players Thursday that he was leaving the hockey program after 10 years as an assistant to join former college roommate Mark Osiecki on the staff at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
Osiecki and Rohlik were teammates at the University of Wisconsin in the late-1980s through 1990 and have remained close friends. When Osiecki was named Ohio State head coach April 24, his search for assistants started with Rohlik.
Rohlik, 41, a native of St. Paul, will be an associate head coach with the Buckeyes. Osiecki, 41, a Wisconsin assistant the past six years, signed a five-year contract in following John Markell, who had spent 15 years as Ohio State head coach.
“I was happy and proud of Mark when he got that job,” Rohlik said Thursday night. “When he called me, I looked at this opportunity as the best thing for me. I’m no different from any coach – you want to keep getting better in your profession with the hope of someday being a head coach. We have a unique relationship and that counted for a lot in my decision.
“At the same time it is very hard to leave UMD. Scott Sandelin gave me a chance here and Duluth has become a home for me, my wife and our three children. But I feel good to be able to walk away knowing I gave an honest effort, and that this program is in good shape. This team should be excited about where it’s headed. The sky is the limit.”
Rohlik, a Wisconsin captain in 1990 when the Badgers won an NCAA championship, was a Nebraska-Omaha assistant for three seasons before coming to UMD in Sandelin’s first season in 2000-01. He made $70,000 last season, but is expected to earn considerably more with the Buckeyes.
Rohlik interviewed at Ohio State on Monday and Tuesday with assistant athletic director Chris Schneider, said yes to an offer Thursday and then spoke with the Bulldogs.
“Steve did a great job while he was here and had a good relationship with me and our players,” said Sandelin. “I know he’ll continue to do a good job and will keep developing as a coach. It’s hard for us to see him leave, but this position was too good for him to pass up.”
Sandelin says he hopes to have the vacant assistant’s job posted as soon as possible and have a replacement named by the beginning of June. He said he already had a few phone call inquiries Thursday. Brett Larson just finished his second season as a UMD assistant.
Ohio State finished 15-18-6 in 2009-10, placing eighth in the 12-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Wisconsin was NCAA runner up, while UMD just missed getting into the NCAA tournament.
Osiecki, the son of former Burnsville (Minn.) High School boys coach Tom Osiecki (now a University of Minnesota women’s assistant), played 93 games in the NHL over two seasons and was head coach of the U.S. Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers for seven years. He met with Ohio media this week and was asked where Ohio State stands in the world of college hockey.
“Without saying where it ranks, it’s more to me about where the Ohio State brand is. There are kids in Minnesota who would come to Ohio State to play,” he told the Plain Dealer of Cleveland. “There are kids in western Canada who would come here to play. The Ohio State brand is in the same breath of Michigan and Notre Dame and Minnesota. We want to take this brand that’s been built and take it to another level.”