Former Gophers point guard Al Nolen will be the new radio analyst for the men's basketball team, the team announced Monday.
A member of the Gophers from 2007-11, Nolen replaces longtime radio analyst Spencer Tollackson, who announced this summer he was leaving the position after 13 seasons to focus on his family. Nolen and Tollackson were teammates under former U coach Tubby Smith.
"I am excited to be back in the Barn," Nolen said in a statement. "The opportunity to be a color analyst for the men's basketball team during coach Ben Johnson's era, as well as to work alongside and learn from an on-air talent such as Mike Grimm, is a dream come true."
Grimm, the voice of the Gophers football and men's hoops for 18 years, cherished his chemistry with Tollackson. But he's thrilled to be working with Nolen, who he remembers as a solid leader for the Gophers.
"He's one of the better perimeter defenders Minnesota's ever had," Grimm told the Star Tribune. "I'm going to miss Spencer. There's no doubt. We've become really good friends. I'm really excited to develop that kind of similar relationship with Al and have it come through on the air."
After graduating and having a brief pro career in the NBA G League and overseas, Nolen got into training and coaching locally. He worked as an administrator and coach for eight years in the Twin Cities, including at Park Center where current U guard Braeden Carrington won a state title and was named Mr. Basketball.
Nolen's biggest impact came with the Al Nolen Foundation, which provides athletic, academic, nutrition and mental health support for at-risk youth in Minnesota's inner cities. The former Henry standout started the foundation three years ago.
Members of the Gophers men's basketball team spent time with children at one of the foundation's events this summer, including Minnesota natives Carrington, Dawson Garcia and Pharrel Payne.
Grimm hopes Nolen's presence on the Gophers radio will help him create even more awareness for helping Twin Cities at-risk youth and grow his foundation. Gophers football radio analyst and U legend Darrell Thompson's Bolder Options has been making an impact finding mentors for kids for 30 years.
"In Al's case, he had kids showing up every day in the summer for seven or eight weeks," Grimm said. "Hopefully, he can take a page out of Darrell's book not just creating a friendship on the air with listeners, but to help impact the community. No doubt Al's on a great track to continue that."