DULUTH — Mike Randolph, one of the state's most successful high school hockey coaches, has resigned amid an investigation.
Duluth school district spokeswoman Katie Kaufman confirmed the resignation Wednesday of Randolph, who coached the Duluth East boys' hockey team for 32 years.
In response to a records request filed by the Star Tribune in early May, the district Tuesday said Duluth East hockey coach was under investigation by outside firm Terch & Associates, a human resources consulting firm in Duluth. The nature of the inquiry stemming from complaints was not revealed. Randolph's attorney, Tim Andrews, declined to comment Wednesday, but said Randolph was expected to hold a news conference Friday. Randolph did not return a Wednesday call.
Randolph's record includes leading the team to 18 state tournament appearances, two state championships and six second-place finishes. He coached the teams that played in the storied five-overtime state tournament game against Apple Valley in 1996, as well as a 2011 triple-overtime game against Eden Prairie. His teams have won 658 games, the third-most in Minnesota high school hockey.
Former Duluth East player Dave Spehar, who scored three hat tricks in as many games in the 1995 state tournament, called Randolph a "genius" with a "tremendous hockey mind" who plays to the strengths of his teams.
"It's a sad day but I knew it was coming sooner or later," Spehar said of Randolph's resignation. "Why? The parents. Honesty is the first step toward greatness and Mike was willing to have difficult conversations with players. But the parents have made it to where it's tough for mentors to pass along great lessons to players. We're going down a dangerous road and I think you'll see that reflected in the product."
Randolph's teams were tough to play against because he was as invested in every shift as his players, said Andover High School hockey coach Mark Manney.
"It's hard to think about not seeing him coaching up there next season," Manney said. "I've learned over the years that if parents want to get you out, they can. And the more success you have, the more susceptible you are. Every day you coach, you wonder when it's going to be your last."
In 2003 the district did not renew Randolph's contract after allegations he mishandled funds and parent complaints about playing time. He was reinstated the next year. Mike Miernicki was athletic director at Duluth East at the time.
Randolph has always been a "controversial figure," Miernicki said. "When you have to make choices on first line, second line, who makes the team, you are going to make enemies. That goes with coaching, especially in an expensive sport like hockey."
When Randolph was hired in the late 1980s, the hockey team had made just five state tournament trips in 39 years, said freelance hockey writer Karl Schuettler.
"He was the one who really took this program and brought it over the hump," Schuettler said, with early investment in young players.
"He really built this machine that could attract players … building intense loyalty and brand around the school," he said. "That has been something coaches everywhere have tried to replicate."
The Duluth district said the final cost of the investigation hasn't been determined.
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