The Gophers made a surprising run to the NCAA tournament in 2005 -- the only time the program reached the tournament under Monson. But that season was sandwiched by two 10th-place Big Ten finishes. Those finishes prompted criticisms over Monson's ability to recruit top-flight players.
"After you lose [momentum], it's hard to get the ball going in the other direction," said Monson, who leaves Minnesota with a 118-106 record and a 44-68 Big Ten record. "If the stigma of your program isn't going in the right direction, it's a really tough uphill climb."
As the Gophers struggled this season, it became increasingly clear within the college coaching community that Monson's days were numbered.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo spoke with Monson during the day Wednesday. "He said he hoped the AD [Maturi] would keep him the year and see what he could do," Izzo said. "But I could tell he was doubtful of that."
Said Iowa coach Steve Alford: "I think he is a phenomenal coach, a great friend of mine, a great person. It's just one of those sad days in the profession when you see a colleague lose his job."
Maturi said "anybody who's interested in the job would be a candidate" to become coach for 2006-07. He would not detail what he will look for in the next coach, but he will have several months to scout candidates.
University alumni are likely to push for Detroit Pistons head coach Flip Saunders, but the former Gophers player and Timberwolves coach would have to take a significant pay cut and said Thursday he wasn't interested in the job. Former college coaches Steve Lavin and Rick Majerus also could be in the mix, and the list of hot young coaches includes Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Rob Jeter, Southern Illinois' Chris Lowry, Butler's Todd Lickliter and Wichita State's Mark Turgeon.
Monson said he "absolutely" wants to coach again, although accepting what happened on the court was difficult Thursday.
"The toughest thing would be to just come to the realization that, you know, somebody else might have more success at going to the next level with this," Monson said.
Jeff Shelman firstname.lastname@example.org