Horton, other U assistants are let go

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 15, 2010 - 7:04 AM

New Gophers coach Jerry Kill will assemble his own staff -- likely heavy on Northern Illinois assistants. One holdover will be Thomas Hammock.

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Gophers interim head coach Jeff Horton

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Jeff Horton loved coaching the Gophers, but he's no dummy.

"I'm heading to Vegas," said Minnesota's coach for the final five games of a 3-9 season. "I'd rather be sitting by the pool or out playing golf than watching it snow."

Horton was informed Tuesday by new head coach Jerry Kill that his contract with the Gophers won't be renewed, the last assistant coach to get the bad news. On Monday, Kill met with seven of Tim Brewster's other assistants to let them know that they are being let go, too.

"It was a sad day in the football office," a university source said of receiving the official word from the new boss.

Only running backs coach Thomas Hammock, who took over play-calling duties when Brewster was fired Oct. 17, will remain on Kill's staff next season, the university source said.

For the rest -- Horton, associate head coach Tim Cross, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove and position coaches John Butler (linebackers), Tim Davis (offensive line), Ronnie Lee (defensive backs), Derek Lewis (tight ends) and Steve Watson (wide receivers) -- it's time to look for another job.

"We all know the process. You try to be proactive, reach out to coaches," Horton said. "There's a long time left to find something for next season, another month of college ball, and then there will be some openings in the pros."

Cleaning house is a normal part of a coaching change, and Brewster's assistants did not expect to be kept on. The last chance for a few extra openings closed on Monday, when Northern Illinois hired Wisconsin's defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to replace Kill as head coach of the Huskies.

NIU's decision not to promote one of Kill's assistants instead likely means most of the remaining Huskies assistants -- six of whom have coached under Kill at one of his previous stops -- will join the new Gophers coach in Minnesota after Saturday's Humanitarian Bowl.

Horton said he admires the way Kill keeps his staff together, even as it cost Horton his own job.

"I told him, 'You're a very loyal coach. In our profession, that doesn't always happen,'" Horton said. "That's a great trait. A lot of people forget who got them where they are, but he doesn't, and I really respect that."

Horton was hired as Brewster's offensive coordinator last January, giving up his job as quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions. He doesn't regret leaving.

"We had a great time here, enjoyed living here," Horton said. "If I had the same opportunity, I'd do it again."

And he'll value the experience of being a head coach again after 12 years as an assistant. The former UNLV and Nevada coach went 2-3 after he replaced Brewster, winning his final two games.

"We found out a lot about each other, this team, the way everybody was fighting through adversity," he said. "Having success in the last game was awesome. And maybe when I come back to TCF Bank Stadium, people will cheer and wave instead of boo me."

QB recruit switches to Illinois

One of Brewster's top recruiting targets, quarterback Matt LaCosse from Naperville North in Illinois, has withdrawn his verbal commitment to the Gophers, rivals.com reported. LaCosse told the website he will attend Illinois instead.

"One of the hardest things I've done is to say no to Jerry Kill and his coaches, twice now," LaCosse told the website. "I know for sure that Coach Kill will turn things around at Minnesota. I just didn't have a good feel for how long it would take."

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