May 9, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Matt Walsh casually left a "For Sale" sign on the kitchen counter Tuesday night when he got home from his day at the Kohl Center. It was a place he knew his wife Ann would see it. Not surprisingly, the sign piqued her interest and she asked Matt what was going on. He mentioned to her that he was thinking about selling something and after tossing around a few things, like his rarely-used bicycle and the family van, he made his way to the basement to continue unwinding for the day.
From what Matt says, it took Ann about seven minutes, not that he was counting, to come running down the stairs and exclaim, "You got the job!?"
The Walsh family had talked about what would happen if the day came when Walsh could take off the interim label from his title and become a full-time assistant coach for his alma mater. Currently living in Janesville, one of those discussions centered on whether a move closer to Madison would make sense, which is why Matt used the "For Sale" sign as the hint.
The family's living arrangements may now be in question, but they know where Matt will spend much of his time next hockey season.
It now becomes a seamless transition for the Badger men's hockey program as it moves towards its first season in the Big Ten Conference.
"I think having Matt with us since November, we were able to see first-hand how he interacts with college students and the work that he does on the ice," said Head Coach Mike Eaves. "It became clear as time went on, that he was very capable of doing the job here.
"We also got to know him as a man, we got to know his family and it all matches up really well.
"We went through due diligence in the process," explained Eaves. "We had many people apply. I talked to a handful of people who I thought might be serious candidates and chatted with them, but in the end it all came back to Matt and what he did for us this year."
Walsh will continue his duties coaching the defensemen, while also getting more involved in recruiting.
"Since the end of the season, this has been a question mark," explained Walsh. "I felt like I could do this and I wanted to do this. The interim position was good for me. It was like an internship where I got to really know what the job is like.
"Hockey has been a passion of mine for a long, long time and now I get to continue to help the program like I felt I did throughout the course of the year. I think going forward, the details I can work on with the players, especially the defenseman, and building on the relationships we've built to get what we need done will help make the players successful, the team successful and the program successful."
Walsh's Badger coaching career began last Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving and the day of the start of a Kohl Center series against Minnesota State. Following the weekend, the Badgers owned a 1-7-2 record.
After a full week in his role as interim assistant coach, Walsh and the Badgers skated 11 consecutive games without a loss and the squad began a four-month surge that culminated in a WCHA playoff crown and an NCAA tournament bid.
There were various factors that combined to fuel the turnaround, but as the coach of Wisconsin's defensemen, the Badgers went on to lead all WCHA teams in league games with a 2.29 goals-against-per-game average. The team's 2.12 goals-against-per-game average in all contests was good enough to rank sixth in the nation.
A member of Wisconsin's 1983 NCAA championship team as a freshman defenseman, Walsh played for the Badgers from 1982-86, winning the WHA-TV Jim Santulli Seventh-Man Award his senior season.
As Coach-in-Chief for USA Hockey's Central District since 1995, Walsh had been responsible for coordinating seminars for USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program over a six-state area. In 2003, Walsh represented USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program at an International Ice Hockey Federation World Development Camp, where he presented to coaches from around the world.
"From being entrenched in the Central District for USA Hockey, there are a lot of people you get to know here," said Walsh. "And from working on a national level, whether it is with the coaching program, or the select festivals, you get to know people all across the nation. If I can add a few different areas and contacts for recruiting that maybe we haven't been involved with before and that helps the program, that is a benefit."
Throughout his time with USA Hockey, he has served as an evaluator for various USA Hockey Select 15, 16 and 17 teams. He also co-coached Select 15 and 16 district teams.
Head coach of Team Wisconsin from 1991-96 and again in 1998 and 1999, the Madison, Wis., native was also an assistant coach for the team from 1988-90. The team is made up of the top 20 seniors from Wisconsin.
From 1994-96, Walsh was head coach of the Stoughton High School squad.
"Wisconsin hockey is something I've been a part of since going to hockey games when I was eight years old," Walsh concluded. "Now to actually come full circle as a coach here and try to improve the program and make it the best in the nation -- that is the goal."