Here in Minnesota, we play a version of that game practically any time a coach of any repute is hired, particularly in the college ranks.
P.J. Fleck hired.
(Will P.J. Fleck leave?)
Yes, the fretting has already begun when it comes to Fleck, and it’s silly. It’s not that it couldn’t happen — which is why our insecure imaginations run wild — but for all the worrying history tells us that it rarely actually has happened here.
We could blame Lou Holtz for this, since his departure from the Gophers to Notre Dame in 1985 seems to have triggered this obsession.
Or we could blame ourselves since it’s been THREE DECADES since that happened and it’s only happened with one other high-profile Gophers coach: Brenda Frese, who bolted the U women’s basketball job and took a gig in Maryland. (In defense of Holtz and Frese, both won national championships at their new schools).
Everything else has been a waste of energy. So much energy. Remember …
Dan Monson: At the same time Frese left the Gophers in 2002, Monson looked poised to take the head job at Washington. He ended up staying, issuing a statement that read in part: “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. We have unfinished work to do and I’m excited about the future of this program.”
Glen Mason: The former Gophers football coach was involved in so many rumors we lost track. He was asked about it during the 2003 season and told the Star Tribune, “I can’t control it so I don’t worry about it. I would much rather be rumored for that than be rumored to be fired like some coaches are. Let’s face it: If your program needs fixing, I’m one of the guys you’re going to call.”
Tubby Smith: Like Mason, Smith seemed to be mentioned in every rumor. It didn’t help that he said things like this in 2009 when asked if he was going to be Minnesota’s coach the next season. “I never say never, but I’m here. … So I just say, at this time, I’m very happy here.”
Jerry Kill: After back-to-back eight-win season in 2013 and 2014 there was some sentiment that Nebraska was interested in Kill for its vacancy.
Richard Pitino: Rumors that the basketball coach might leave for Alabama are part of the reason Pitino landed a new contract at Minnesota. Were they legit? His father, Rick, said they were on the Jim Rome Show: “Richard was seriously considering making that move,” Rick Pitino said.
Smith, Monson and Mason were eventually fired. Kill resigned due to health problems. Pitino is still here, leading a build-up of the men’s basketball program after tearing it down.
If Pitino or Fleck leaves someday, it will likely be as a result of doing something spectacular with the Gophers instead of just something decent.
Given decades of history in men’s basketball and football, that might be a nice problem to have.