Mike Souza reached the end of the line in his playing career in 2011 after spending the majority of his life climbing the ladder to one of the highest levels of hockey in the world.
The Wakefield, Mass., native had played on two Frozen Four teams at the University of New Hampshire before spending another 11 seasons playing professionally in the AHL, ECHL and Europe. Souza had rounded the corner into his 30s, and his perceived value on his Italian team, Bolzano, was that of a mentor to younger players, someone who could help just as much in practices as games.
Souza wasn't ready to walk away from the game that had provided him with 11 years of employment and the introduction to his wife, but he had to consider whether he was willing to climb the ladder to the top all over again — this time in the coaching ranks.
Souza contacted his former coach, UNH's Dick Umile (Melrose, Mass.), for advice.
"He was pretty frank with me about the ups and downs," Souza said. "Coming from playing, I realized I'd have to grind it out as an assistant for a program in a transition phase. (Umile) was one of the most influential people in my life, and I wanted to be like him. Here's a guy year after year who has a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and he has a stoic nature to him. He doesn't let the kids know what's going on behind the scenes."
Umile pulled some strings behind the scenes, referring Souza to his college roommate, Mark White, the associate head coach at Brown University. White recommended Souza to Brown head coach Brendan Whittet (E. Providence, R.I.) as a potential candidate for a vacancy on his staff.
"Mike has a tremendous personality," Umile says. "People enjoy him, and he's a great competitor. He was a great player, and he did a lot for the program on and off the ice. He's quickly become very well-respected in college coaching circles."
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