Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 16, 2006, Herald Journal

It is time to lose another head coach

By Aaron Schultz

A few weeks back, I might have mentioned that the Minnesota Vikings should fire former head coach Mike Tice.

Well, that happened, surely because I brought it up.

Since it worked so well last time, I thought I would give it another try, but this time, I will turn my incredible influence to the college ranks.

No, not to Golden Gopher football head coach Glen Mason, but to Golden Gopher head basketball coach Dan Monson.

I have never really been all that pleased with how Monson has handled the program since taking over for the disgraced Clem Haskins in 1999.

Of course, since the scandal that cost Haskins his job, the Gopher basketball team has not been on the top of my list of favorite Gopher sports teams, but they are one of the teams I follow.

Everyone should know that the Gopher men’s hockey team, which currently is ranked second in the nation by the way, is my overall favorite team.

And the Gopher wrestling team, and even the Gopher women’s basketball team keep me more interested than the Gopher men have these past few years.

However, I really thought this season was going to be different.

Different in that they would finish in the top five of the Big Ten, keep me interested all season long, and even make me make time to sit down and watch this team.

Without question, at least in my mind, this is the best team the Gophers have had since Monson got here.

Maybe not the most talented, but with the seniors they have in the back court, I think they should be pretty good.

Through the exhibition schedule, the Gophers battled through a number of injuries, but still looked pretty good, except for that ridiculous loss to Gardner-Webb at home early in the season.

Still, everyone looked to be back and healthy for the start of the Big Ten schedule over a week ago.

This was it. After waiting nearly a decade for the Gophers to be good again, the wait would be over.

All the Gophers had to do was beat an average Northwestern team at home in the opener, and then figure out a way to top Wisconsin at home in the second game, and the whole town would be talking about them.

Especially since the Wolves stink, the Wild don’t seem to be doing much anymore, and the Twins continue to be content with what they got.

This was Monson’s chance to get the town back talking about Gopher basketball.

So, what did Monson’s team do with this golden opportunity to get all of us Gopher fans excited again?

All he did was lead his team to an embarrassing loss to consistent cellar-dweller Northwestern, and follow that up with a loss to Wisconsin in a game they had to have.

The Northwestern game I don’t even want to talk about, but I will, a little.

I didn’t see much of the game, thank goodness, but what I read and have heard, tells me that they couldn’t figure out how to beat Northwestern’s defense.

When I hear this is the case, I automatically assume that someone got out-coached. That someone surely was Monson.

Still, I made the time to sit down in front of the television to watch the Gopher–Badger game Tuesday, in hope of them bouncing back.

What I saw, at least through much of the first half, was about the saddest display of basketball I think I have ever watched on television, and maybe ever have seen anywhere.

Neither team seemed to be able to score from the onset, but the Badgers found their rhythm, and took a big lead.

Then, as if a light bulb was turned on in Monson’s head, he called for his team to go into a full-court press.

This really caused the Badgers problems, and got the Gophers going, and back into the game by halftime.

But, at the start of the second half, the Gophers fell back into their regular defense, allowing Wisconsin to extend its lead.

Seeing this, Monson ordered his team back into the press, which again worked.

The Gophers cut the lead, and eventually took the lead late in the game.

Despite the great comeback, in the end, the results were the same, as the Gophers lost to Wisconsin when the Badgers were able to sink their free throws.

My question is this, why haven’t the Gophers been playing a full-court press game all season long?

It might not be Monson’s style, or maybe it is, I really can’t tell what style he is trying to coach, but either way, the up-and-down game seems to give his team the best way to win.

Maybe Monson will figure it out the rest of the way and have his team playing this style from beginning to end, or maybe a different style will come about.

Yes, there are a lot of maybes going on with the Gopher program right now, and it all falls to the head coach.

If the Gophers turn it around, pick up a couple of tough road wins to offset these two early home losses, I will eat crow.

But my faith in Monson leading the Gophers to a turn around is not there.

In my opinion, Monson probably saved his job by making the NCAA tournament last season, and I think he must do that again this year.

If he can’t find a way to get the Gophers to the tourney, then I think his tenure as head coach needs to be finished.

This is supposed to be the Gophers’ big year, with the next couple of seasons going into rebuilding mode.

Well, if the Gophers go into rebuilding mode after a trip to the NIT, then a new head coach should be brought in to lay a foundation for the future.

Since 1999, Monson has had a chance to lay a foundation of winning, and has yet to do so, at least in my mind.

• A special note: I didn’t see the game, but Saturday the Gophers got it handed to them against Purdue to fall to 0-3 in the Big Ten.

Yes, it is time for Monson to go.