Reusse: No more recycling, please

  • Article by: Patrick Reusse
  • Star Tribune
  • December 1, 2006 - 9:53 AM

There should be a firm rule given to the coach hired to lead the Gophers men's basketball team for the 2007-08 season.

Don't recruit academic risks? That's not it. A coach fulfilling his No. 1 requirement at Minnesota -- to win -- must take occasional fliers on talented athletes with 14s on the ACT.

This is the rule that must be delivered to the new coach: No in-state kid who signs and/or plays for another Division I school will be allowed to transfer to Minnesota and play for the Gophers.

Half of the 20 starting spots in Monson's final four seasons were Minnesotans on the rebound.

Kris Humphries was here for one winter after getting out of a Duke commitment. Dan Coleman went to summer school at Boston College, then came home. Maurice Hargrow quit on Monson in midseason, briefly went to Arkansas, and was allowed to return.

Adam Boone (North Carolina), Ben Johnson (Northwestern), Brent Lawson (St. Francis, Pa.) and now Lawrence McKenzie (Oklahoma) all transferred after having played elsewhere.

The next coach should be ordered to show some pride. If you're a Minnesota kid who doesn't commit to the Gophers, the coach's message should be clear: Have a good life.

Spots on this roster are too valuable to be handed out to a player who runs into a few frustrations elsewhere.

Just look what happened to Monson's program after he turned it into a recycling center:

The Gophers were 8-8 in the Big Ten, 19-14 overall and reached the NIT semifinals following that 2002-03 season. Monson's relationship with sophomore Rick Rickert wasn't strong enough to convince him it would be a blunder to enter the NBA draft.

The loss of Rickert caused Monson to sell his soul to Humphries, who had displayed such a team-oriented attitude in a meeting with Mike Krzyzewski that the Duke coach willingly released him.

Humphries was given all the shots he could hog for the 2003-04 season. Hargrow, a junior, was so upset that he jumped ship early in the Big Ten schedule. And when the Year of Living for Kris was finished, Monson was in 10th place in the Big Ten.

In 2004-05, Vincent Grier -- a legitimate transfer as a junior college player -- came in and led the Gophers to a first-division finish in the Big Ten and to the NCAA tournament. That was the one season in Monson's eight where the Gophers actually played above and not below expectations.

Monson then surrendered his pride again and put Hargrow back in the lineup last season. A vital player quits on you in the middle of a season in crisis, and you bring him back and let him move into the lineup?

That made it official. Monson didn't have a chance. The inmates, not the warden, were running this operation.

There were two more of these Minnesota expatriates -- Coleman and McKenzie -- in Monson's lineup for his abbreviated seven games this fall.

Coleman is 6-9 and, on most nights, he plays a foot shorter. This inability or unwillingness to rebound didn't cost him playing time with Monson. And there was Coleman on Wednesday night, in Monson's last act, doing little to prevent Clemson's 24 offensive rebounds.

And McKenzie? What's he doing here?

He played two seasons with heavy minutes for Oklahoma's excellent program and its excellent coach, Kelvin Sampson. He left after the 2004-05 season -- a year before Sampson left for Indiana.

There's no reason for a player in that situation to transfer, unless he thinks he can come home and take advantage of Monson's desperation.

Was that it, Lawrence? Was it the chance to take 13 of your team's 50 shots -- as was the case against Clemson -- that led you from a strong program back to Minnesota?

Forget those nonsensical excuses about Monson's program being damaged by the recruiting limits imposed in the wake of the Clem Haskins scandal. He had enough space available for an endless supply of Minnesota kids who first snubbed him, then returned looking for more minutes and too often more shots.

This was a lazy way for a coach to put together a roster, and another good reason the result of Monson's tenure became predictable: a complete, wretched failure.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. •

© 2018 Star Tribune