He is the only "associate" coach at Harvard.
He is Ronn Tomassoni, the associate hockey coach. He was given that unusual title three years ago, after being with the Harvard program for four seasons. The reason is simple. To label him an "assistant" to head Coach Bill Cleary just wouldn't do justice to his job.
Even Cleary admits that the way he runs the Harvard program is more along the lines of a partnership than a hierarchy. Cleary coaches the penalty killers; Tomassoni the power play. Cleary focuses on the forwards; Tomassoni directs the defense. Cleary is the high-visibilty, big-decision man. But Tomassoni is always right beside him, another voice of wisdom from behind the Harvard bench.
"We know that every decision Coach Cleary makes, he discussed it with Coach Tomassoni," junior Pete Ciavaglia says. "He plays a very big role in the program."
Around the league, Tomassoni is known first as a recruiter, the man responsible for bringing such great talent to the Harvard program.
"He is a big factor in their luck with recruiting, he is the one who brings in all their top players," Vermont Coach Mike Gilligan says. "We've lost more than one player to him."
But although they are quick to compliment Tomassoni's skill in the recruiting game, Cleary and the Harvard players see him first as a coach.
And Tomassoni wouldn't want it any other way.
"I got into coaching to coach, to be with the team, to get involved in practices," Tomassoni says. "To tell you the truth, I think recruiting is the biggest pain. But it's an important part of the process. And I know I have to pay my dues."
He was supposed to be a dentist. At least, that's what his mother had told him ever since he was six years old. But after two years of chemistry classes--and hockey games--at RPI, Tomassoni had other things on his mind.
"I wasn't sure I wanted to look in people's mouths for the rest of my life," says Tomassoni, who switched his major to administration his junior year. "Hockey is a game I've loved since I was five years old. I couldn't help but start thinking about coaching."
An injury his junior season with the Engineers ruled out all hope of continuing in hockey. He was playing in, of all places, the Yale Whale, when he took a fall that shattered his arm and dislocated his wrist. He had surgery in New Haven that night.
"It's funny," Tomassoni says, "I told Coach Cleary that I probably came to Harvard because of that House of Horrors down in New Haven."
First, though, was a senior year in Troy, N.Y., playing under first-year Coach Mike Addesa with a specially-made brace on his arm. Addesa was impressed enough with Tomassoni's performance to invite him to stay on as an assistant the following season.
There came the initiation into the recruiting process. RPI had just decided to offer athletic scholarships, and Tomassoni was the man selected to hand them out.