Clem Haskins was back on Minnesota’s campus Saturday surrounded by his former players and staff who shared fond memories about their time with the ex-Gophers basketball coach.
Haskins, 75, and his wife, Yevette, live on their farm in Kentucky, but they flew to the Twin Cities after nearly 30 of his former players came together to honor him this week at dinner and during a tailgate reception Saturday before Minnesota’s football game against Maryland.
“This really, really tugs at my heart,” Haskins said. “Just to see all the guys, see them here mingling happy with smiles on their faces — that’s what it’s all about.”
Earlier Saturday morning, Gophers coach Richard Pitino invited Haskins and several basketball alumni to watch Saturday’s practice at Williams Arena. Haskins spoke to Pitino’s team following the second practice of the season.
“Ever since he’s been here, he’s been very kind to me and invited me up,” Haskins said of Pitino. “I said a few words to the players. I’m so glad to see [former player Richard Coffey’s] son there, Amir. So many kids have gone out of the state. Now they’re staying here.”
This year was the 20th anniversary of the U’s vacated 1997 Final Four team, which had its records wiped away because of an academic scandal that led to Haskins’ resignation. Haskins hasn’t coached since he left the school in 1999. But he returned to Minnesota when the university honored his 1989 Sweet 16 team in 2014 and when his 1990 Elite Eight team was honored in 2009.
Among the players from the 1997 Final Four team to see Haskins on Saturday were Bobby Jackson, John Thomas, Trevor Winter and Quincy Lewis. Players from other U teams under Haskins included Willie Burton, Voshon Leonard, Ariel McDonald, John Aune and Walter Bond, who helped organize the reunion.
Haskins appreciates the support and the love he still gets from Gophers fans. They couldn’t wait to talk to him before the game Saturday.
“They can take away all the banners they want to, but the memories are still here,” he said. “The fans know. I get letters once a month from them reminiscing and letting me know they won’t forget me.
“Things happen, and we all make mistakes in life. I’m no different than anyone else. But you remember the good times. Those memories will last a lifetime.”