GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine made a coaching change Wednesday, announcing the retirement of longtime men’s hockey coach Jeff Beaney.

Ed Harding, a former USM player and assistant coach, is taking over as interim coach. The Huskies’ next game is Friday.

While the school announced that Beaney stepped down, the choice was not his, according to USM Athletic Director Al Bean.

“I have to own the decision,” Bean said. “We’ve been talking for a while … it was time for a change in the program. That’s really the basic answer to why now.”

Beaney said his retirement was “rushed.”

“It would have been my preference to finish the year,” he said. “I wanted to go out at the right time, like any coach wants to go out on their own terms.”

Beaney, 55, was in his 30th year with the program, his 28th as head coach. The Huskies have rarely contended and are 1-9 this year, with nine straight losses.

“The program needs to move ahead,” said Bean, who declined to get into specifics. “I’m not going to tell you a lot. It’s a personnel issue, a tough issue.

“Jeff has done a lot of good things here, helped an awful lot of guys grow. I certainly thank him for his commitment.”

Beaney said the past few seasons have been rebuilding ones – “we had to push the reset button. The last few years have been pretty tough. But we have a great foundation.”

USM has not had a winning record since 2008 (14-9-3). That team began the season 10-0-1 and was ranked seventh nationally before fading.

In Beaney’s tenure, the Division III Huskies were 260-380-50 and never won a league championship. USM reached the ECAC Northwest title game in 1993 and lost to UMass-Dartmouth.

Since the Huskies moved to the stronger ECAC East league in 1995, they have never played for the championship, reaching the league semifinals four times.

“We moved up a league and took it on the chin,” Beaney said.

Beaney, a graduate of New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, was an assistant hockey and lacrosse coach at Colby College for one year before joining USM in 1985 as an assistant hockey coach. He became head coach in 1987.

Beaney was the 2005 ECAC East coach of the year after the Huskies went 15-10-2. USM was seeded third in the league tournament, but lost in the quarterfinals.

Beaney said he wants to be positive in his departure.

“It’s been a good time, a lot of good relationships,” Beaney said. “And they got a quality person (in Harding).”

Harding captained Beaney’s first team at USM, leading the Huskies from 1985 to 1988. He later served as an assistant coach under Beaney for four seasons. This fall, Beaney was inducted into the USM Hall of Fame.

Harding, a Greely High graduate, began his coaching career at Greely in 1990. He is best known for his time as coach of the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Harding was with the Maniacs until 2009.

Harding has also coached at North Yarmouth Academy (2010-11) and with Casco Bay Youth Hockey and the New England Wolves junior team.

Harding, 49, said he first talked to Bean on Tuesday night, met with him Wednesday morning and then ran his first practice at noon.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said.

Harding said he hopes to remain the coach after this year. He will apply for the job when the university begins its search for a new, permanent coach.

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