Dennis Denning, the former University of St. Thomas and Cretin-Derham Hall baseball coach, died Wednesday after a series of health issues, according to a Tommies news release. He was 76.

"Coach Denning was a once-in-a-lifetime leader of men," said Chris Olean, the current Tommies baseball coach. "In reflecting back on my time with him as a player and assistant coach, his baseball knowledge and coaching skill was unmatched.

"He was able to squeeze every bit of talent out of his players, maximizing their strengths and instilling them with the belief that they could get the job done."

Denning, a St. Paul native, coached St. Thomas from 1995-2009. His Tommies won NCAA Division III championships in 2001 and 2009 and were national runners-up in 1999 and 2000.

His 522-157 overall record (.769 win percentage) at St. Thomas was the best mark over his 15 years there among all NCAA Division III coaches. Aside from his first season, the Tommies either won at least the regular-season or postseason titles in the MIAC 14 straight years and he was named D-III Coach of the Year twice.

Before that, he coached the Raiders from 1978-94. His high school teams won six large-school state championships, 15 St. Paul City Conference titles, and compiled a 379-76 record (.833).

Denning was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012, and previously into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame for his undergraduate playing career in the mid-1960s. He also was Minnesota High School Coach of the Year four times.

"Coach Denning is a legend," said Phil Esten, St. Thomas vice president and director of athletics, "not just in the St. Thomas baseball community, but the broader local and national baseball community, as well. The impact he had on thousands of people pervaded baseball, as we're all better human beings for having had the privilege of knowing Coach Denning. He'll be missed dearly, but his legacy lives in the impact he had on us all."

Spann-Ford plays it coy on plans

Gophers tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford, a fifth-year junior from St. Cloud, said that he will not participate in the team's Senior Day festivities on Saturday before the game against Iowa, a sign that he might return in 2023 for his final season of eligibility rather than enter the NFL draft.

Spann-Ford, 6-7 and 270 pounds, leads the Gophers with 31 receptions for 374 yards and two touchdowns.



Gophers basketball recruit Dennis Evans III was among the 50 players selected on the Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year watch list. He is a 7-1 center at Riverside (Calif.) Hillcrest.

Gophers women's basketball coach Lindsay Whalen completed her 2023 recruiting class after getting a signed national letter of intent from Canadian 6-0 wing Ajok Madol.