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St. Thomas Academy's Vannelli brothers stepping down after this season

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 01/11/19, 7:45PM CST


The Cadets won five Class 1A state championships since the Vannellis became co-head coaches in 2003.

St. Thomas Academy co-head coach Tom Vannelli, left, addressed the team after a practice in 2007. At right is co-head coach Greg Vannelli. Star Tribune file photo

After Wednesday's practice, St. Thomas Academy co-head hockey coaches Greg and Tom Vannelli informed their team they were stepping down at season's end.

"There were some whose mouths were open because they were stunned," Greg said. "But we tried turning it into a positive by saying, 'Let's make this a strong run for all of us.'"

Greg, 65, and Tom, 64,  began coaching together in 2003. Since then, the Cadets have won five Class 1A state championships, 10 section championships and four conference championships.

The Cadets were ranked No. 9 in the most recent Class 2A coaches poll.

After this season, Greg “will contribute to key aspects of the program to ensure a smooth transition to a new head coach,” according to a press release from the school on Thursday. Greg will also continue teaching health and physical education and coach the varsity golf team at the Mendota Heights-based private school.

The timing of the announcement, Greg said, was out of respect to school administration.

"We wanted to give them a longer period of time to find someone," Greg said.

The head hockey coach opening will be posted soon, with candidates screened after the season. St. Thomas Academy hopes to name a new head coach by the end of the school year.

The brothers said they made their decision with their families in mind.

"I did a lot of soul-searching," Tom said. "I don't think people know how much work it takes to put 100 percent into a program.

"But it's been unbelievable to work with my brother and these kids in a sport I have so much passion for."

Amid their success, the Vannellis drew criticism from hockey observers and even coaches for remaining among the state’s smaller programs by enrollment in Class 1A. The chorus grew louder as the Cadets won three consecutive 1A titles from 2011-13.

The all-boys school opted up to Class 2A beginning with the 2013-14 school year. As one of the state’s top programs, the Cadets qualified for the 2A state tournament in 2015, 2017 and 2018.


The full press release:

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Jan. 10, 2019 – Saint Thomas Academy announced today that Greg ‘72 and Tom Vannelli will step down as co-head coaches of the varsity hockey team following the 2018-2019 season. While Tom will no longer be involved, Greg will contribute to key aspects of the program to ensure a smooth transition to a new head coach. Greg will also continue teaching health and phy ed at the Academy and coaching the varsity golf team.

Since 2003, when the Vannellis became co-head coaches, the Cadets have won 5 state hockey championships, 10 section championships and 4 conference championships. Through last season, the teams tallied 343 wins, 87 losses and 16 ties. The Cadets had the honor of playing on an outdoor rink at Holman Field for Hockey Day Minnesota in 2015 and annually share a top-ranked position with the best AA teams in the state. Since 2003, 30 Cadet hockey players have collectively received approximately $6 million in college hockey scholarships.

“Tom and Greg instituted new training methods that have been a winning formula and have had a profound impact on all of our athletic teams,” said Bob Slater ’77, athletics and activities director. “They understand the science behind athletic performance and have used that science with the single-minded purpose of raising the bar for Cadets hockey. Individualized off-season training has helped our athletes reshape their bodies and increase their cardiovascular endurance. Applying sound nutritional science has shortened recovery times. And in-game technology has helped maximize the use of players and adjust game strategy.”

The Vannelli family is well-known in Minnesota hockey. Tom and Greg’s father was a referee for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Both Tom and his son, Mike, were captains for the University of Minnesota Gopher hockey team. Greg was a two-time, All-American at the University of St. Thomas. Tom's younger son Rob '08, who was integral to the Cadets’ state championships in 2006 and 2008, played juniors for a year before going on to the University of St. Thomas. Rob and Mike, as well as Greg Monohan ’82, are now assistant coaches for the Cadets.

The Academy will post for the head coaching position soon, with candidates screened following the season. The Academy hopes to name a new head coach by the end of the school year.

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