Blake Nissen

From the Little Things
to the Big Wins


Skating toward success: Sean Hogan and his coaching journey

Matt Parker / For The Post

Sean Hogan sat in his office with his eyes stuck on the two monitors atop his desk. The sounds of an instrumental version of “Silent Night” whispered throughout the chilly room in Bird Arena.

On one screen was a laundry list of unopened emails, on the other, a Google search of daycares for his newborn son, Mack.


Blake Nissen | PHOTO EDITOR

Coach Sean Hogan during the Bobcats’ game against Illinois on Feb. 9, 2018. (FILE)

As he rubbed his eyes back and forth a few times, after all, babies fuss in the middle of the night, he exhaled and smiled as he looked at the Ohio promotional poster. Hogan has reached the midway point in his fifth year at Ohio with a team that yet again holds national championship potential.

In his 12th year as a head coach in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the 40-year-old from Waterford, Michigan, has brought and created a championship culture at each of the teams he’s coached.

There is no secret formula for Hogan. While he was behind the bench, he doesn’t credit himself for the multiple wins. He’s always quick to say it was never him that won those games; it was the players.

Part of his plan for success and creating a championship culture is having player-led teams. He strives to have guys want to be there and want to do the work, not view it as a chore.

That’s what he’s had with every single team he took to a national championship.

Whether it was in Michigan or Arizona and now Ohio, a championship pedigree has followed Hogan, and his name lies in lore among the modern day ACHA greats.

This success, however, didn’t occur just overnight. But it didn’t take too long either.


The date is March 4, 2007. Players dressed in black and gold hop onto the ice and begin to go through standard pre-game warmups: simple passing drills, getting shots on goal — the same stuff every hockey team goes through prior to puck drop.

While it was the same warmup that Sean Hogan’s teams have gone through, this wasn’t just for any old game. This was for an ACHA Division I national championship and a historic one at that.

Hogan had been an assistant at Oakland starting the year 2003 and helped guide the team to back-to-back DII titles. Promoted to the head coach spot of the Golden Grizzlies in the 2005-06 season, he took them back to their third consecutive final and won.

Hogan, after he won the Division II title in 2005, believed that his team and the program as a whole could make the leap into the higher division. His belief paid off.

The Grizzlies in their first season as an ACHA DI program went 22-12-2 and capped it off with a 4-1 national title win over perennial power Penn State. The Nittany Lions, who had a 10-year streak of making the national championship, were halted in their tracks by the up-and-coming Hogan.

The potential for Oakland, which now sits at 9-8-1 in this current season, under Hogan was truly endless. After a run that featured three national championships in four appearances, the Michigan man found his rhythm in the coaching world.

Only he couldn’t stay at Oakland forever.

Following a sour season at Oakland, Hogan had the opportunity to move out west. He took the reigns of the Yellowstone Quake, a junior hockey league team. A brief stop in his coaching career, however, as he had an opportunity to volunteer coach at Western Michigan, an NCAA Division I program.

He found himself back in the head coach’s seat at the start of the 2011-12 season at the University of Arizona. While it was never considered one of the strongest programs in the country, under his direction, he turned the Wildcats around and in his last season, he took them to the ACHA National Tournament.

A new home

Leaving the desert behind him after an up-and-down stint, which ended on a high note, Hogan wanted the opportunity to return some place closer to home. He never imagined it would be at the helm of the Bobcats program.

Hailed as one of the most storied programs in all of club hockey, Ohio is arguably one of the most respected and well-revered programs in the ACHA. The winners of four national championships, including the unprecedented three-peat from 1995-97, Ohio had an open coach position. When he heard about the position, Hogan knew he had to throw his name in the hat.

Luckily for him, members of the Blue Line Boosters Club and players at the time knew that he was the guy for the job, and so the move to Athens from Tucson happened.

“I knew what kind of team we had coming back. It was something that I knew could be special and I wanted to be here.”Sean Hogan

It’s a move that he’s always grateful for.

“Honestly, there was so much green,” Hogan said, remembering when he got to Athens for the first time. “There’s so much brown out there, it was nice to see some green.”

He knew what he was inheriting when he accepted the job at Ohio. It was more than just a coaching position. He had inherited a storied program, one that hadn’t been to a national championship since the 2003-04 season when it defeated Penn State.

With the three aforementioned national titles to his name, it’s been Hogan’s personal duty to deliver another one — not for himself, but for Ohio.

In the going-on-five years he’s been at Ohio, he’s put the program back where it belongs. Finishing no lower than No. 6 in the final computer rankings, with a swift hand he’s guided Ohio into national prominence, most notably in his third season.

At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, he had an opportunity to break into the NCAA Division III coaching club. As he weighed on the decision, the pros and the cons, he knew that he belonged in Athens.

“I knew what kind of team we had coming back,” he said. “It was something that I knew could be special and I wanted to be here.”

Special is putting it lightly. The 2016-17 Bobcats took the ACHA by storm. The winners of 27 games, a third-place finish in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League regular season standings and a national tournament berth, Ohio was on a path toward its potential fifth championship.

Fresh off a 4-2 win over Adrian in the semi-final, Hogan was electric. It’s a moment that current junior forward Gianni Evangelisti looks back on and dubs as his favorite memory of him and his coach.

“He came in the locker room and was so excited I think he blacked out,” Evangelisti said via text message. “I don’t think he even knew what he was saying, he was jumping around the room in excitement. It was pretty funny and encouraging.”

That light-hearted demeanor was only temporary, however, as the last and most difficult task lied ahead.

March 14, 2017. It’s a scene that Hogan is all too familiar with, but in a good way. Wearing their white jerseys clad with green pants, the Bobcats took to pregame warmups at the Ice Haus in downtown Columbus.

Ohio was in the final moments of preparation ahead of its seventh national championship appearance. In a game where the Bobcats did everything right, they still came up short and ultimately lost 3-0, a gut-wrenching way to end a season that was filled with more highs than lows. It served as a reminder, however, that Ohio wasn’t going anywhere in terms of national attention.

A coach’s push

Despite the loss on the biggest stage, it more closely detailed that Hogan is one of the country’s better coaches. It took him three years to take Ohio to place it had been accustomed to in the program’s 61-year history.


Blake Nissen | PHOTO EDITOR

Coach Sean Hogan fist bumps Jake Houston (#11) after the Bobcats’ game against Lindenwood on Nov. 17, 2017. (FILE)

His players buy into his message and his beliefs. They say playing for him is one of the best things they’ve ever done both in terms of hockey and in life as well.

“He’s a guy that really cares about his team and players,” Tyler Harkins, a junior forward, said. “He tries to teach us life lessons throughout the course so it’s not just hockey, it’s about showing up prepared. He’s really preparing us for life beyond hockey.”

Harkins isn’t the only current Bobcat to share that sentiment. Players frequently go to their coach whether it’s to ask how to improve shifts or for a letter of recommendation. They know that their coach has their back, on or off the ice.

In post-game interviews, Hogan frequently mentions that they win or lose based on if they do the minute things correctly. In practice, he preaches habits to his players and that by having good ones, it sets you up for success.

“He’s great,” junior goalie Jimmy Thomas said. “Hockey’s a game of little things and mistakes, so you have to make sure you do the little things right.”

Thomas said that the little things and habits they practice on the ice have carried over into his academic and soon-to-be professional life. Ultimately, both in and out of Bird, Hogan has made an impact on the lives of his players and the community as a whole.

And so as he stretches back on final time before he heads down the stairs and into the locker room at Bird Arena prior to Monday’s practice, Hogan locks his fingers and places them behind his head.

With a reflective look, he says he’s proud of where he’s come from and that he never expected to be in coaching for as long as he has been. It’s taken him all over the place. He’s thankful for the lessons he’s learned, the players he’s coached, and in some ways, the players who have taught him lessons.

It’s another season with the chance to win a title. Ohio’s players know it. Its fans know it. But above all, Hogan knows.

In the coming months, the little things he preaches could help them achieve what everyone is working toward.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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