Mike Randolph resigns as Duluth East hockey coach after 32 seasons

Mike Randolph resigned this week as Duluth East hockey coach after 32 seasons, including 18 state tournament appearances.

There are few coaches in Minnesota high school sports that are more successful than Mike Randolph.

Until this week, he’d been a boys’ hockey coach for 36 seasons. He spent 32 of them at Duluth East, leading the Greyhounds to 18 state tournaments, two championships and six runner-up finishes. Earlier this week, he tendered his resignation at Duluth East.

According to a Star Tribune report earlier this week, Randolph resigned amid an investigation by an outside human resources firm in Duluth. The details around that investigation have not been made public. In a news conference Friday, Randolph said in his 32 years at Duluth East, there has not been one incident involving a player.

Randolph, fighting back emotions, declined to offer many details about the situation. He read about a 10-minute statement to media and supporters in attendance, and did not take questions before leaving to an ovation. In his own words, Randolph said pressure from certain parents no longer made his job fun.

"Sadly, there are those who tried to ruin it for others. We all know what’s going on here. Coaches across the state are being run out by parental pressure. The most recent is Lakeville South and Brainerd, and now me. This is getting tiresome," Randolph said.

Randolph referenced Lakeville South hockey coach Janne Kivihalme, who resigned from his post in April after the Cougars lost to Eden Prairie 2-1 in two overtimes in the Class AA state title game. Kivihalme spent three seasons at Lakeville South. Also in April, Dave Aus resigned as Brainerd hockey coach after seven seasons. He went 91-81-6 in seven seasons, and the Warriors finished 2020-21 with a 6-12-1 record after an early playoff exit in a loss to St. Michael-Albertville.

In a statement to Fox 9 on Friday, Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas said they accepted Randolph's resignation on Tuesday.

"We received Mike Randolph’s resignation as coach of the Duluth East boys hockey team on Tuesday, June 1 and support his decision to resign. We thank Coach Randolph for his years of service to the Duluth East High School hockey community. We understand any transition is a stressful time. We will support our students, families and staff as we search for a new hockey coach for this great program while ensuring student health and well-being are a priority for the district. We are committed to the Duluth East hockey program and its players.  We look forward to an exciting future for the Duluth East boys hockey team, and will begin the search process for a new coach this summer."

Randolph said over his 36 years as a high school coach, and 32 at Duluth East, the number of supportive parents "far outweighed’ the others. He got his start in coaching after ending his hockey playing career on the 1976 Olympic team. He then spent three years each at the College of St. Scholastica and Minnesota-Duluth before becoming a high school head coach.

It became clear to Randolph that parents who wanted a change used their stance to go to administration. That battle wasn’t worth it to him. Randolph said since the news became public earlier this week, he’s been flooded with calls and texts from former players, saying "thank you."

The program is largely known for Dave Spehar, who had three hat tricks in three games at the 1995 state tournament before going onto play at the University of Minnesota.

Randolph had a brief absence in 2003 after being accused of mishandling funds, and complaints from parents about playing time. He was reinstated the following season. When he was first hired as hockey coach, Duluth East had made just five state tournament appearances in 39 years.

"Up until recently, coaching has been rewarding and fun. But when negatives start to outweigh the positives, it gets to be exhausting and no longer worth the time I put into it," Randolph said. "I’ve given my all each and every year. Without administrative support, it’s a losing battle that is tiring and takes the joy out of it."

So what’s next for Randolph? It sounds like a lot of family time. He’s got five grandkids, all young children.

His parting words? "Have a great summer."