An Inside College Hockey story on Monday dealt with the future of Don Lucia. The author asked athletic director Joel Maturi if he still had confidence in his coach.
I could have told you beforehand what Maturi would say. Maturi's vote of confidence was the predictable answer. Even if he felt 100 percent the other way, he has to support his coach.
Why? There are still eight games to play. And the fate of this team has not yet been resolved. If Maturi blasts his coach or even suggests he has doubts about him, then the A.D. could get some of the blame if the team collapses in the stretch run.
If would be foolish for any A.D. to put himself in that position, to undercut his coach with a lot of hockey still ahead. This team could still get hot, rattle off some wins, maybe even climb to fifth place, get home ice for the playoffs, win the Final Five, make the NCAA tournament. All of that is rather unlikely but as long as it is possible Maturi is not going to badmouth his coach.
I'm going to ask Maturi the same questions when the season is over. Will he say the same thing if the Gophers don't make the Final Five this year? What will he say when UMD, St. Cloud and Bemidji State are in the NCAA touranemt -- and maybe at the regional at the X -- and the U is not there?
That's when the alumni, fair-weather fans and critics will be their loudest. Not that I am hoping for this to happen, but it's possible it could this season.
The most telling quote in the INCH story from Maturi was this: “I can tell you that Don Lucia will be coaching Gopher hockey next year unless he chooses not to,”
Whoa. Why would Lucia choose not to? Lucia is 51, tells everyone he loves his job, says his health is much better. Why even bring up the idea he might choose not to coach. Not many people retire at 51.
Maturi seems to be opening the door just a little to the idea that Lucia might resign.
Seems unlikely. The one ace in the hole Lucia has is the next recruiting class. It is being ranked the nation's best . He is briinging in at least four USHL all-stars and a high school player projected to be a first round NHL draft pick this year in Nick Bjugstad.
Any coach has to be excited about working with that group.
As for Maturi's support of Lucia, I have one other comment: Show me the money?
Maturi is giving football coach Tim Brewster a contract extension so recruits know he will be here, where is Lucia's extention? Lucia has only two years left on his contract. Shouldn't he get an extension, too?