Gophers women's cross-country coach Gary Wilson announced in September that he is retiring at the end of this season after 28 years. The finish line, then, is in sight. The Gophers will compete one more time under Wilson on Saturday when they run in the NCAA championships for the eighth consecutive season. En route to that meet in Louisville. Ky., Wilson took time Thursday to chat with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand.
Q How does this feel, and has the end really hit you yet?
A It really hasn't. It's hit everybody else [laughs]. My wife [Suzy] was almost in tears [Wednesday] because I said, 'Well, I just had my last practice.' I've been fine with it. I guess I have to start worrying more about this because everyone else is worried about me. For me, it's been a great career. I've worked with some wonderful kids this year. I'm sure it will hit at some point that 'this is it,' but right now it's fine.
Q When you think back on your career in terms of the evolution of college athletics, what do you think about the most?
A I think the most striking is that the kids are the same ... but there's more and more entitlement by some parents. 'My daughter this, my daughter that.' I really don't [care] what your daughter did. She has to do it here. But we've been lucky. We get to pick our kids.
Q How have you been able to maintain a high standard of success at Minnesota?
A Our philosophy is to get enough good, solid kids around you -- not talking about talent, just ethics and attitude. Eight of the 10 kids we brought [to NCAAs] either came here as walk-on athletes or with very small scholarships. There was no entitlement. They all wanted to earn their spot.
Q Do you have a specific memory from your time at the U that stands out more than the rest -- a special year or day?
A Well, certainly this year has been great with the kids' attitudes. Certainly our first Big Ten title in cross-country, when we won by one point , is always going to be a great memory.
Q What made you decide now is the time to retire?
A I've had it in my head and plans for about 10 years. I wasn't sure exactly the date, but ... I've always said I wasn't going to be one of those coaches where everyone was too afraid to say, 'Do you think this might be time for you to go?' Sometimes you can overstay your welcome. I wanted to go out on my terms. I mean, I could have stayed forever, I suppose. But about five, six years ago, you go into a kid's house and you're 60 or 62 and they look at you like you're 108. They're thinking, 'You're going to die soon, why would I want to come there? Or you're going to retire.' Two years ago, we started telling recruits I was going to retire and Sarah Hesser is going to take over.
Q Any big retirement plans?
A I have two wooden boats. I enjoy traveling. I have a motorcycle. The only thing I tell everyone is that I'm basically going to take a sabbatical for a year and not do anything. Maybe I'll get bored. Maybe I'll find all sorts of things to do. I'll kind of hang out. I can waste a whole morning for sure. Then I'm going to have lunch. Maybe take a nap, and by that time it will be 5 o'clock.