Wolves turn to former AHL coach of the year Granato

The AHL’s Chicago Wolves today named Downers Grove, Ill., native Don Granato as the team’s new head coach.

The 40-year-old Granato becomes the sixth head coach in Wolves history and just their second since joining the AHL in 2001-02. He replaces John Anderson, who departed the team after 11 years to become the head coach of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers.

“When we began our search for a new head coach, we wanted a person who embodied the ‘Five C’s’ that we felt were important to continue the growth of the franchise, while maintaining our expectation of excellence: confidence, conviction, communication, character and championships. After the extensive interview process, it was clear that Don was the perfect man for the job,” said Wolves general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

“He is a person that is very confident with undertaking the job at hand and with the high standards of excellence demanded of all Wolves employees. He has strong convictions on how the game should be played and on how to lead people, and is an excellent communicator with a proven history of teaching and developing talent. Don is also a person of extremely strong character and has a very well rounded coaching and playing career with extensive championship experience.”

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Granato brings 12 years of coaching experience to the Wolves bench, which includes winning the ECHL’s Kelly Cup as head coach of the Peoria Rivermen in 1999-00.

Granato then led the Worcester IceCats to the AHL regular-season title in 2000-01, compiling franchise records in wins (48) and points (108). He received the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as AHL coach of the year that season, his first in the league.

Granato served as the IceCats’ head coach for five seasons and reached the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of his first four years. He compiled a record of 192-144-46 (.563) with Worcester before departing the team for health reasons late in the 2004-05 campaign. Granato returned to coaching in the 2005-06 season as an assistant coach for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.

The brother of Colorado Avalanche head coach Tony Granato and U.S. Olympian Cammi Granato, Don most recently served as a pro scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He began his head coaching career as bench boss of the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers (1994-97), and led that team to back-to-back national championships in 1996 and 1997 before moving to the ECHL’s Columbus Chill (1997-99) and taking the helm of the Rivermen in 1999-00.