Among the many interesting story lines that followed Dave Thorson to Minnesota when he took an assistant coaching job under his former player and new Gophers head coach Ben Johnson is the unique position he will have as a builder of relationships and evaluator of talent in Minnesota.
Thorson was an assistant coach with the Gophers in the early 1990s under Clem Haskins, then spent 23 years at DeLaSalle from 1994-2017 before becoming a college assistant again and eventually winding up back with the Gophers.
On Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast, Thorson talked about a lot of the qualities he brings to this job — and on more than one occasion expressed just how excited he is about the opportunity.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
The thing that stands out most to me is that Thorson ran one of the best programs in the state during an era that spanned at least parts of the careers of four different Gophers coaches: Haskins, Dan Monson, Tubby Smith and Richard Pitino.
He knows what strengths or weaknesses those coaches brought to the table in recruiting because he experienced it and talked with peers about it. On the podcast I asked Thorson how he and Johnson can solidify relationships with in-state coaches and recruits.
"I think there's a great sense with Ben and I when we walk into a high school gym, of who we are as people. That's hard to do when you're not from here, for example, and haven't had experiences. I think that's the biggest difference is that you've got a Gopher head coach who knows what Minnesota basketball is all about," Thorson said. "That's an advantage that both he and I bring to the table. ... This program is going to be successful because it represents with Minnesota represents: Hard-working people (who are) selfless. That's what this program needs to represent. If we do that, the scoreboard will take care of itself."
In-state recruiting became a sore subject during Pitino's tenure in particular as the talent in Minnesota flourished but many of the best players left for other programs.
Thorson said evaluating that talent and building those relationships will be critical, and he also provided an explanation in his mind for why talent in this state seems to have exploded in recent years. He attributed it to good coaching in the state and an abundance of opportunities.
"One of the things that happened going back to the late 1980s and early 1990s is you saw a transformation to really good summer basketball opportunities. It first started with camps and then what you saw it evolve," Thorson said. "I can remember when there was (one) AAU team or a couple AAU teams. Now we could go over to Hopkins or one of these high school facilities and see literally hundreds of teams playing at different levels. Basketball has evolved in Minnesota from a participation perspective."
And now we'll see if a few more of those participants wind up playing for the Gophers.