The Augusta Lynx issued a news release titled "Pierson Banks on Future," but there was no way the team's owners were banking on this.
After four years with the organization and the past 13 months as general manager, Mike Pierson stunned Lynx owners and front office staff on Monday, as he resigned to become president of Emerald Coast Funding Corporation, a startup lending firm near Pensacola, Fla.
Hired by former Augusta general manager Paul Gamsby, Pierson was instrumental in building the Lynx into one of the East Coast Hockey League's most successful franchises off the ice.
Under Pierson and Gamsby, the Lynx have finished at or near the top of the league in corporate sponsorships and season ticket sales in each of its four seasons in Augusta.
Pierson also played an integral role in creating the Lynx Foundation, which has raised more than $400,000 for local charities since 1998.
"It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up and one you don't know how often is going to come up," said the 30-year-old Pierson, who grew up in the Pensacola area and has a Masters degree in sports administration from Florida State University.
'I wasn't actively looking for another job, but this is a company I've been in contact with for the past eight or nine years, and it kind of dropped in my lap," Pierson added. "I wasn't forced out; there was no pressure to resign or anything like that. This was just an opportunity to be more stable, as far as working less hours and less weekends, and to be more stable financially."
In May 2001, Pierson was named the successor to Gamsby after three years as assistant GM. Gamsby resigned to become general manager of the ECHL's Richmond Renegades.
Lynx owner Peter Gillespie said he had "no inkling" that Pierson was set to leave.
"I just found out at Nine O'clock this morning," Gillespie said from his golf course in Endwell, N.Y. "We obviously have to hire a GM. Beyond that, I haven't given it much more thought."
Pierson will remain with the club through late July, when he said owners hope to have his successor in place.
"This organization is going to be fine," Pierson said. "I'll be here to help them pick the next GM and to help make the transition as smooth as possible."