Villa 7 is one of us now

  • Updated: May 10, 2013 - 6:44 AM
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Shaka Smart was hired as VCU basketball coach using Villa 7, a networking event conceived by Gophers associate AD Mike Ellis.

Photo: John Minchillo, Associated Press

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If you followed the Gophers recent men’s basketball coaching search even casually, you heard about Villa 7 — the yearly networking event for basketball coaches and administrators that was the brainchild of Gophers associate athletic director Mike Ellis.

Ellis developed Villa 7 when he was at Virginia Commonwealth; he and Gophers AD Norwood Teague used it to hire VCU basketball coach Shaka Smart. They also brought it here, and it is being held in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday and Friday.

Minnesota didn’t hire a Villa 7 alum in Richard Pitino, though Ellis called the up-and-coming coach a “Villa 7-style hire.” But more than 100 assistants have landed men’s or women’s head coaching jobs after attending.

This year’s event — invitation-only — features a new wrinkle: the inclusion of senior woman administrators from around the country. Ellis estimated about 25 women with that designation in various athletic departments are attending this year, including Minnesota’s Beth Goetz, recently hired away from Butler in part because of recommendations from Villa 7 alums.

“We wanted to do two things,” Ellis said. “Expose them to this next wave of [coaching] talent and also allow them the opportunity to access the professional development we do here.”

Goetz, who Ellis calls a rising star who will be an athletic director someday, was in on several interviews during the Gophers’ search, including with Pitino, which is in line with a recent trend.

“In general, the women at this convention are often involved in not just hiring women’s basketball coaches but also on the men’s side,” Goetz said. “To be able to be a part of identifying that talent early is really great.”

So, too, is the networking, Goetz said. Roughly 70 coaches and 60 administrators are part of Villa 7 this week, participating in everything from team-building social exercises to “speed dating” — a series of quick interviews with multiple people designed to prepare coaches for the real thing.

“We try to make them as uncomfortable as possible,” Ellis said.

He means that in the nicest possible way.

MICHAEL RAND

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