ST. CLOUD - The last time Brett Larson helped guide Minnesota Duluth to an NCAA title in 2011, it led to his hiring as head coach and general manager of the United States Hockey League's Sioux City Musketeers.
Now after serving as an assistant coach on another national championship Bulldogs squad, the Duluth native is on the move again.
Larson was named the third NCAA Division I head coach at St. Cloud State on Friday, April 13, replacing Bob Motzko, who left after 13 seasons to become head coach at Minnesota.
A former player at Minnesota Duluth and Duluth Denfeld, Larson received a five-year contract from the Huskies that will run though the 2022-23 season.
"It's always been a dream of mine to be a head coach at this level, yet at the same time it's really hard to leave the program that I love," Larson said in a statement released by UMD. "The two national championships are certainly something I'll always cherish, but what I'm going to miss most about UMD is the great people I've had the chance to coach and work with."
Larson served as a UMD assistant coach under Scott Sandelin for a pair of three-season stints from 2008-11 and 2015-18.
Larson was an assistant on the Bulldogs team that beat Michigan in overtime in 2011 for the program's first NCAA title. The second championship came last week via a 2-1 win over Notre Dame, again with Larson on the staff. Both titles happened at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"I brought him out of pharmaceutical sales to come and coach and the next thing you know he's a head coach in Sioux City," Sandelin said Tuesday of when he first hired Larson in 2008. "He's a good people person. He's really grown. I remember when he came in. He was still learning the ropes. That's the good thing about coaching. He's had some different experiences. He knows what it is to be a head coach having done Sioux City. I think that's important when you look at moving on and potentially being a head coach. It's a little different when you're sitting in that chair vs. being an assistant."
In addition to coaching the Bulldogs and Musketeers, Larson also spent two seasons from 2013-15 as associate head coach at Ohio State, serving under former UMD colleague Steve Rohlik.
The Buckeyes reached the NCAA regional semifinals a year ago and the Frozen Four this season - losing both years to UMD - using players that Larson recruited to Columbus, Ohio.
"A guy that cares, a guy that's honest, a guy that the guys buy into," Rohlik said about Larson prior to the Frozen Four. "He can walk out, sit in your living room, and you know he cares about you. You know he wants the best for you.
"He's going to go out there and work hard. He gets along with everybody. In this business, there's no off button and he's willing to do whatever it takes to go out there and win."
The Huskies are coming off their second NCHC regular-season title in the league's short five-year history and should be a contender again despite losing junior defenseman Will Borgen (Buffalo) and junior wing Mikey Eyssimont (Los Angeles) early to the NHL this spring. The team only loses two seniors - centers Blake Winiecki and Duluth native Judd Peterson.
Larson had a chance to meet with the team prior to his introductory news conference Friday in St. Cloud.
"My philosophy is we're in this fight together. I can't wait to get into the fight with you," Larson said, sharing what he told his new team. "I'm certainly not going to come in here and change a bunch of things. We're going to try and keep it rolling in the same direction, but maybe I can bring that one little thing. Maybe that one or two little things that can make the difference."
St. Cloud State, which lost the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship to Denver this year, was the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but was upset in the first round by Air Force, the 16th overall seed, in the West Regional semifinals in Sioux Falls, S.D.
St. Cloud State qualified for its fifth NCAA tournament appearance in the last six seasons, including reaching its first Frozen Four in 2013.
"As an assistant coach during both of UMD's national championships, and with a stop at Ohio State University during their program's elevation, coach Larson has proven himself a top recruiter and helped to develop multiple players during their collegiate careers and as they advance to the next level of play," St. Cloud State athletic director Heather Weems said in a news release. "Throughout our search, Brett's name continually came up as a must-contact and he is well-respected across the hockey community."
Motzko stepped down as Huskies coach just a few days after the loss to Air Force to replace Don Lucia at Minnesota, where as an assistant under Lucia he helped the Gophers win 2002 and 2003 NCAA titles.
Motzko compiled a 276-192-49 record in 13 years at St. Cloud State, winning two NCHC regular-season titles (2013-14, 2017-18), one WCHA regular-season title (2012-13) and the 2016 NCHC Frozen Faceoff.