Kathy Beauregard and Steve Hawkins inside University Arena to watch WMU women's basketball's senior day game.

Kathy Beauregard and Steve Hawkins inside University Arena.

This article is the third in a five-part series on the legacy of Kathy Beauregard at WMU.

Recently retired Western Michigan director of athletics Kathy Beauregard made plenty of change in coaching staffs while she was in charge of the athletic department at WMU. During the last month of her career, she reflected on some influential coaches she hired to be Broncos.

The first men’s basketball coach Beauregard hired at WMU was Robert McCullum, though perhaps his biggest contribution to WMU would be bringing along Steve Hawkins as an assistant.

“Steve Hawkins was, and still is, a teacher,” Beauregard said. “When you first see on a resume, coach (John) Wooden, you kind of think, ‘yeah, really?’ because you kind of wonder sometimes about who you put down as references. He really was mentored by coach Wooden.”

Hawkins knew the UCLA men’s basketball coach from his time coaching Los Angeles-area high schools and regularly drove coach Wooden to his basketball camps. When McCullum left WMU to take the job at South Florida, there was little doubt Hawkins would be the next head coach.

“One after the other, after the other, of the athletes, our basketball players, made appointments and knocked on my door and said, ‘you don’t need to look any further than coach Hawkins,’” Beauregard said.

Hawkins would ultimately be the head coach at WMU for 17 seasons, winning the second-most games by a head coach in WMU men’s basketball history. Bronco fans didn’t have to wait long for success with a MAC Championship in his first year as head coach.

The Broncos won another MAC title in 2014 under Hawkins along with making six postseason tournament appearances in his tenure. Both NCAA Tournament trips ended with a first-round loss.

The Bronco hockey program also has seen a special run of head coaches through Beauregard’s tenure. That started with Jeff Blashill, who she hired in 2010.

“We interviewed some other people, but there was no doubt in my mind, it didn’t take us long to (hire) coach Blashill,” Beauregard said. “The university had said, ‘okay, if you take the sport of ice hockey and look nationally at a sport that we could go after a national championship in… it’s possible.”

Blashill had a wildly successful first season at the helm, leading the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament. When Beauregard met with him to restructure his contract, he had an unusual request.

“The one thing coach Blashill said to me is, ‘could I ask a favor? My dream job is with the Red Wings,’” Beauregard said. “There was a buyout in the contract, he said, ‘is there any way you would consider, if I get a call to join the Red Wings’ staff, that I would be relieved of the buyout?’”

It was extremely rare at the time for an NHL team to hire a collegiate coach, and Beauregard agreed to Blashill’s request. That summer, the Red Wings called and Blashill became the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate.

That left the Broncos searching for a new head coach again after just one season under Blashill. Beauregard said the university wanted to show the newly-forming NCHC that WMU was still committed to hockey with its next coaching hire.

“We’d interviewed other people, we had a committee, we did all that,” Beauregard said. “(Former Bronco Jamal Mayers) called and he said, ‘you won’t believe this, but coach Murray is out of the business right now and his bucket list is, he wants to coach college hockey.’”

Mayers had gone onto the NHL from his time at WMU and played under Andy Murray with the St. Louis Blues. He encouraged Beauregard to reach out and Murray immediately showed interest.

“I asked him if he’d like to get on a plane from Minneapolis, come to Kalamazoo, and he said, ‘yeah, how about tomorrow?’” Beauregard said. “Did some more checking with him, he came in, he knew our campus, he knew our coaches’ names… he was not only interested in the hockey program but the entire athletic department.”

Murray led a decade of great success for WMU hockey including making two trips to the NCAA Tournament, the fifth and sixth times in program history of playing for a national championship. He stepped away in 2021 to give Pat Ferschweiler an opportunity to be the head coach, joining Blashill in fighting to advance Ferschweiler’s career.

“Jeff (Blashill) was willing to give away his last penny to get coach Ferschweiler here to be coach of the Broncos,” Beauregard said about Blashill filling out his assistant coaching staff. “He was adamant that (Ferschweiler) was going to be the man.”

Less than a season into Ferschweiler’s tenure, the Broncos have already reached new heights with the program’s highest-ever ranking (No. 3) in both the USCHO and AP/Coaches’ polls.

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