Monson probably wishes he had taken that Washington job

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 30, 2006 - 11:10 PM

In April 2002, Dan Monson appeared set to leave the Gophers for the Huskies. He was talked out of it then, but now he is being shown the door at the U.

I wonder if, when Dan Monson told his wife, Darci, on Thursday that he no longer was Gophers men's basketball coach, that she didn't remind him what a mistake he made when he didn't take an attractive offer to move closer to home as coach of the University of Washington, a much better job than what he had here.

In April 2002, Monson told his assistant coaches he had accepted the job, then he let then-athletic director Tom Moe and associate AD Jeff Schemmel talk him into staying.

It was a big mistake on his part, because most of Monson's family lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Joel Maturi has been thinking of making a coaching change since the end of last season. In fact, the Gophers athletic director had the blessing of school president Robert Bruininks to fire Monson at the end of last season.

A lot people in the administration were expecting Maturi to fire Monson following the NIT loss at Cincinnati last season. But Maturi, being a good guy, didn't have the heart to make the move, and some of the boosters who were putting pressure on the administration to make a change weren't very happy.

The 90-68 loss to Clemson on Wednesday didn't help Monson's status. The final blow might have been the way he handled players in his postgame talk with them. Some people close to the program said Monson, who normally is a really poised individual, might have lost his cool.

Yes, one thing a famous coach told me many years ago was one of the worst things is to have is an athletic director who is around all the time before the game, after the game and constantly in contact with the players. Well, Maturi is that type -- he and his wife, Lois, even went to Orlando on Thanksgiving to watch the Gophers in their tournament -- and was in the locker room after the Clemson loss, and at that point, no doubt he decided it was time to make a move.

The result is that Maturi, after getting the blessing of Bruininks for a second time to discharge Monson, let him know at an early morning meeting Thursday.

Monson shocked his staff by letting them know shortly after the meeting with Maturi.

Mark Dienhart, the athletic director who hired Monson here, will tell you that it's not as easy as you might believe to get a top-notch college basketball coach with a good job to come to Minnesota. Dienhart had a lot of people turn him down before Monson took the job.

Maybe it was time for Monson to go. But I've been around a long time and I've never heard of a college basketball coach being fired before the conference season even started unless there was some kind of legal trouble or such. Yes, Jim Dutcher quit in midseason, in January 1986 when then president Ken Keller cancelled a game and made other moves. And then the players that faced sexual assault charges were found not guilty.

It's all about money

Maturi walked around the question when asked if gate receipts and other income had anything to do with the decision to fire Monson. Yes, fire, not resign.

For the 2005-06 season, men's basketball revenue was about $11.4 million -- almost double the $6.8 million of men's hockey. That money includes what the university receives for national television and NCAA tournaments.

So with season ticket sales down the past three years and with that lost revenue, let's face facts. Monson was fired because he wasn't taking in the money he would if the program was winning more.

The only positive thing with the firing of Monson, if there is such a thing, is that Jim Molinari -- a winner at Bradley who got a bad deal there and got fired -- now gets another opportunity to prove he can coach.

Jottings

Former Wolves coach Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor have still not settled their differences over what the team still owes Saunders, and it might go to court. ... The reason former Wolves and Detroit assistant Don Zierden has not been named coach of the Lynx is that he is trying to arrange to get his compensation from the Pistons he thinks he deserves before signing another contract.

In the Sagarin college football ratings, where strength of schedule is a factor in how teams are placed, the Gophers are 36th, ahead of Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana.

The Gophers have lost two football commitments in defensive lineman Josh Allison of Lake Orion, Mich., and linebacker Ricardo Thompson of Cincinnati Withrow because at present they can't qualify scholastically. ... The Gophers are in need of linebackers but still they didn't offer scholarships to two from Class 5A state champion Eden Prairie: Blake Sorensen, who is going to Wisconsin, and Bryce McNaul, who is headed for Northwestern. Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant describes Sorensen as a multi-talented kid who he considered his best running back, best defensive back and best linebacker. "We tried to use him as many ways as we can, and he's been able to perform in that role for two years for us," Grant said.

The Vikings have only two sacks in their past three games after getting 21 in their first eight.

Matt Spaeth, the Gophers tight end who will miss the Insight Bowl because of shoulder surgery, was named to the Rivals.com All-America team.

Gophers men's hockey coach Don Lucia describes senior defenseman Mike Vannelli "as one of those who wasn't the most highly recruited player. He was a good player coming out of juniors, but I'll tell you what, in his four years, he's improved so much, and I can't say enough about him -- what a great job he's done as captain of this team. And it's not very often you can have a father-son combination of being a captain of a Gophers sports team [Tom Vannelli was a Gophers center from 1974 to '77]. Mike has not only been a great leader in the locker room but on the ice, and sometimes when you wear that 'C,' that might wear on you and maybe you don't perform as well on the ice because you're so worried about everything else, but Mike Vannelli has just been terrific on the ice as well as in the locker room leading our team."

The Gophers men's basketball team has signed a contract to play in a tournament in Las Vegas next season, similar to the tournament they played this year in Orlando.

Cretin-Derham Hall's Zach Weis has signed a letter of intent to join the Gophers men's swimming team, where he joins his brother, sophomore Adam Weis.

The Charlotte Bobcats have released former DeLaSalle and Michigan State basketball player Alan Anderson.

The Twins didn't keep Terry Tiffee on their 40-man roster, so the infielder signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.

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