Both the Michigan State Spartans and Wayne State Warriors have made coaching changes this week and both involve former MSU forward Damon Whitten.
Thirteen-year NHL veteran and former Michigan State hockey standout Jason Woolley will join the Spartan hockey staff as the team's volunteer assistant coach. Woolley will replace Whitten, who left the Spartan program to become an assistant coach at Wayne State.
"I know that I can help this team," said Woolley. "I have been there and done that. It gives me some credibility with these guys to take in what I'm talking about. It might be a lot of little things, but little things can add up to big things. I think I'll be able to help not only the defense but the forwards as well.
"It's very special to be involved here. I'm thrilled to be at Michigan State. To be honest with you, it is a honor. I'm going to take full advantage of it. I want to make one thing clear; I'm not here to threaten anyone's jobs, I still have a lot of hockey left in me."
In 2003-04, Woolley appeared in 55 games, posting four goals and 15 assists for 19 points. Back problems hampered him from mid-February until late in the season when he officially went on the injured reserve with a fractured vertebra. He returned to the ice in time for the Western Conference Semifinals as he played in four games for the Red Wings against the Calgary Flames.
"I have so many memories of my days at Michigan State," remarked Woolley. "I bought a house here, my wife is from here and after every season, I come back and spend as much time with the hockey program and the university as I can."
Whitten, on the other hand, is a Brighton native who will be moving downtown.
"Damon will bring a great deal of knowledge and a winning attitude to our program," said WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson. "His two years of professional experience will serve our young players well. We are excited to have Damon join our staff as an assistant coach. His tutelage under coach (Ron) Mason as a player and coach (Rick) Comley the last two years at Michigan State will benefit our program tremendously."
Whitten joins the WSU staff after serving as the volunteer assistant coach at Michigan State since the fall of 2003. A left wing for MSU from 1997-2001, he competed on teams that advanced to two Frozen Four's (1999 and 2001), captured three CCHA regular-season titles (1998-1999-2001) and won three CCHA playoff championships (1998-2000-2001).
Whitten received the MSU's Blue Line President's Award as the top scholar-athlete in the senior class. He was also a two-time nominee for the Hockey Humanitarian Award and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten At-Large honoree.
"It's a great opportunity and a foot in the door into coaching," said Whitten. "It is what I want to do. After taking the advice of MSU athletic director Ron Mason, current MSU head hockey coach Rick Comley, and current MSU assistant coaches Tom Newton and Brian Renfrew, they told me I have to do it.
"I'm excited about what is going on at Wayne State. I had a chance to watch them play earlier this year. They had a good start to their year and good things are happening down there. It's a really exciting opportunity for me."
WSU had been without a true assistant coach since Erik Raygor left at the beginning of the season to pursue private business in Wisconsin. Willie Mitchell was then promoted to associate head coach.