Since this is my 1st blog entry, I thought I would share a little bit about myself, so you know more about the person who’s blogging about Gopher Basketball. When Myron Medcalf asked me to write this, I was flattered and then wondered, why would anyone want to read my thoughts? I’m just a fan like each and every one of you that’s reading this, and that’s exactly why they wanted me to write this. I’m a fan, I’m completely biased, I am not objective when it comes to Gopher Basketball because I love it more than just about anything in this world.
I’m the girl that revolves my vacations, social calendar, work travel, school, and just about everything around Gopher games (Gopher Football games too). It doesn’t always work, and I actually have a bit of a panic attack if I am out of town during a game, or for some odd reason, can’t watch it, but the Gophers mean everything to me. I try to explain it to my girlfriends like this: they have their children that they love more than anything, and make a #1 priority, and Gopher Basketball is my baby. After they look at me like I’m crazy, I think they understand where I’m coming from. I figured you may want to know where this love/obsession all began, so I’m giving you just a few of the many reasons that I fell in love with Gopher Basketball:
· The Barn – I love the Barn. For everyone that thinks it’s old and outdated, I will challenge you and say it’s amazing and has so much character. When I arrived on campus in 1996 from Racine, Wisconsin, I’d say it took me a good 2 years to become a whole-hearted Gopher Football fan. Growing up in the Badger state, and having Camp Randall as your home field, left the Dome and the atmosphere there, with much to be desired. It was different with The Barn, it had me at “hello” (excuse the cheesy Jerry McGuire reference). I absolutely loved it, as have loved college basketball since I was 12 years old. I love the lighting, the raised court, the smell of it, the sound of the shoes on the court, the aroma of popcorn filling the halls, and the fact that many consider it to be in the top 5 most intimidating places to play college basketball http://www.lifewhile.com/lifestyle/18489356/detail.html http://www.cbssports.com/b/page/pressbox/0,1328,4165358,00.html . When The Barn is rocking, there’s nothing like it. It can become so loud that you can hardly hear yourself screaming. Since then, they’ve done a nice job or renovating the locker room, adding a new scoreboard, floor, etc. Being from WI, I wish they would never tear down classics like Lambeau and Williams Arena, I’m all about updating them, but I would take it any day over a stale Kohl Center.
· Dan Monson – I know what you’re thinking, what? Yes, I said Dan Monson. I had the pleasure of being on the Inaugural Barnyard board (and served on it for 3 years) with Coach Monson leading the Gopher Basketball team, and he could not of been more appreciative to me, the Barnyard board, and what we did for the program. It made me an even more loyal fan to have a coach that was genuine, and really cared about the program. Coach Monson may have not been the best fit with Minnesota, but he cleaned up the program, which is what he needed to do. I also don’t think that many understand that with many years of sanctions, it was much more difficult to recruit and win here. Not saying we couldn’t have done better during his era, we certainly could have, and had the talent to do so – but he gets a lot more flack that he deserves (I know many of you will beg to differ, and I see where you’re coming from, but this is just how I feel). I’m glad he found a home at Long Beach State, and it seems to be a great fit for him. I look forward for him to making a run in the tourney sometime soon.
With that, he also brought in Jim Molinari – Coach Mo was the defensive specialist for the Gophers, and ended up being the interim head coach when Coach Monson resigned. I had never met a man that loves college basketball as much as I do, until I met Coach Mo. He lived and breathed the game, recruited 24/7, gave absolutely everything to the program, and on top of it all, he did things the right way. Next to my Dad and Brother, Coach Mo is probably the best man I’ve ever known, and he was someone I really wished would have found a place on Tubby Smith’s coaching staff. He ended up on his feet as I knew he would, as the Head Coach at Western Illinois, which also brought him much closer to his family. I am honored to call him a friend, and I know that if I ever needed anything 5, 10, or 20 years down the road, he would be there for me in a heartbeat. I really doubt many coaches are that grateful to the people who run their student sections.
Dusty Rychart and other walk-ons. I’ll admit it, I love walk-ons. I especially like it when they end up earning scholarships and impacting the team in a positive way (like Dusty). From Wade Hokenson to Randy Chall, Justin Lorang, Ryan Saunders, Jamal Abu Shamala, Rob Schoenrock, Jeff Hagen and Brent Lawson. Love them all. These are all guys that wanted to play for the Gophers so much that they passed up opportunities to get full scholarships to play at Minnesota. I have to say that Dusty is my favorite of all time. This is a kid that very few believed in, and had it not been for the academic scandal, he may of never been able to prove himself. As he had his breakout game in the NCAA tournament v s. Gonzaga, he was able to showcase his talent and heart. The rest is history, the Gonzaga coach came to Minnesota (Dan Monson), Dusty earned a scholarship, a starting spot, was a fan favorite, has continues his successful career overseas in Australia for over 10 years (which is quite the difficult task), and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word about him. He’s represented our school with class, and has accomplished more than any thought he would, except for Dusty himself.
The Gopher Basketball fans that have become my good friends,and I’m not talking about the kind of “close, personal friends” that Sid Hartman has, I’m talking about lifelong friendships. I don’t know what it is about Gopher Basketball fans, but they are top notch people. I’m not talking about the ones that just jump on board after Tubby Smith got here, or after a winning season – I’m talking about the ones that endured the two 3-13 Big 10 conference seasons in the past decade. I feel like Gopher basketball fans are very loyal, educated, interesting and I have made some of my closest friends through www.GopherHole.com, on the basketball board in particular. I now have season tickets with a few posters on GopherHole, I have shared holidays with some of them, attended high school and Howard Pulley summer league games with them, had them to my home to watch road games, have gone to road games with them, the list goes on and on. Bottom line is, I love people who love Gopher basketball…and even if we have nothing else in common, I can probably talk Gopher Hoops for at least a few hours with another fan.
The 2004-05 NCAA Tournament team. This was the year after the mass exodus, we had gone 3-13 in the Big 10 the previous year, and that was lead by Kris Humphries. This team was suppose to be horrible, I believe most picked us to finish 10 out of 11 Big 10 teams…and we finished 5th in the regular conference schedule, and made it to the NCAA tournament, edging out other bubble teams like Indiana, who Mike Davis reminded us was a #4 seed (many times). This was just such a special team. We literally had 3 returning players, everyone else departed, so we were lead by two walk-ons, Jeff Hagen, Brent Lawson, and a lightly recruited 5’9 point guard, Aaron Robinson. The rest of the team was all freshman, aside from junior college transfers Vincent Grier, J’son Stamper and walk-on Zach Puchtel. Adam Boone and Maurice Hargrow had both transferred to Minnesota, but were sitting out this year. This was the essence of team, they played unselfish ball, played hard defense, and played with heart. If you had the opportunity to see all of their games, they always made it a nail-biter, but ended up pulling many tight wins out, as good teams do. Plus, they were so likable. Not a bunch of 4 and 5 star recruits out of college, but guys that stuck with the program when it was at a low, and impressed everyone. Since my realm of Gopher knowledge only extends over the past 14 years, this was my favorite team. I think part of the reason why it was so special is because as a Gopher fan, it is about the journey. That season was even sweeter, because the previous one was so sour. I know it would be great to be a Michigan State fan, never worry that your team is on the bubble, only having to worry about what seed you’ll get, have one of the top coaches in the nation in Tom Izzo (possibly the top coach), and go to the Final Four all the time….but I wonder if those wins are as special to them as they are to us? Ok, bad example, that would be pretty awesome, but you get my point. You don’t ever truly appreciate a beautiful day if every day is beautiful. That’s must be why I live in Minnesota and love the Gophers…but I savor every minute of a gorgeous day and a basketball game.
If you’re still awake and reading this, I commend you…and promise you that my other blogs will be much shorter (well, at least I will try to be more concise). I actually had to cut my list off, as I could have written for days on how much I love Gopher Basketball, and am honored to be able to share my thoughts with you on their failures, success, wins and losses…it’s all about The Journey.