Former Duluth East hockey coach Mike Randolph spent the better portion of a news conference Friday thanking the people involved in his 36 years coaching high school hockey.
But Randolph, who resigned this week amid a Duluth school district investigation into complaints that it has not yet specified, likened his departure to those of other successful coaches in recent months and cited disgruntled parents as the source of the conflict.
"We all know what's going on here," Randolph said to a room full of supporters at the Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Center. "Coaches across the state are being run out by parental pressure."
He cited two other coaches specifically — Brainerd coach Dave Aus and Lakeville South coach Janne Kivihalme, who both resigned in April. Neither has said publicly why they resigned. Aus was best known for leading Blaine to six consecutive state tournament appearances, and Kivihalme's team lost to Eden Prairie in two overtimes in the Class 2A championship in April.
"Up until recently, it's been rewarding and fun," said Randolph, 69. "But when the negatives start to outweigh the positives, it gets to be exhausting and no longer worth the time I put into it. I've given my all each and every year. But without administrative support, it's a losing battle that is tiring and takes the joy out of it."
Randolph, saying he did not want to "focus on the negative" did not take questions.
Randolph's teams have won 658 games, the third-most in Minnesota high school hockey. He led teams to 18 state tournaments, with two championships and six second-place finishes.
"Given the long relationship he's had with the district and its administration, it's unfortunate he feels he wasn't supported," Duluth schools superintendent John Magas said Friday. "I wish him luck and respect his decision to retire."
Magas earlier in the day offered a statement that said the district 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."
As a high school player for Randolph, the first year was a "culture shock," especially if you've been "sheltered by your parents," said Hunter Paine, a 2019 East graduate who will play for the Air Force Academy next year. He attended the news conference in support of his former coach.
"People don't realize, especially at this age, that if someone yells at you they actually care," Paine said, and it was because "he wants me to get better."
Youth hockey coach Dave McLean also attended the event in support. He said his sons played under Randolph, and while he wasn't always happy with Randolph's decisions, he never questioned him.
"It's impossible to give every parent the opportunity they think their kid should have," he said.
In his remarks, Randolph said the number of "supportive parents always far outweighed the others," from those who clear rinks of snow to staffing concession stands.
"Thank you for trusting me with your kids," he said. "It was so much fun to coach them, but just as importantly to get to know them as people."
Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450