HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

December 4, 2006

One ‘M’ down, two more to go

By Jesse Menden

The Minnesota sports scene is filled with people whose last name starts with the letter ‘M.’

Of course, there is the M & M boys of the Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Most Minnesotan’s hope they will be around for many years to come.

And then there is the trio of M’s at the University of Minnesota. There is athletic director Joel Maturi, football coach Glen Mason, and then there is, or should I say was, Dan Monson.

Monson, the coach of the men’s basketball team, resigned Thursday after just over seven seasons as the coach of an underachieving basketball program.

I think many Minnesotans hope the other two M’s would go with him.
The Gophers have struggled mightily in the two most high-profile sports nationally: basketball and football.

Maturi has overseen these programs for several years now, and the teams have not gotten better. Finally, even though it is several months too late, Maturi has made a bold move.

But the firing of Dan Monson was long overdue.

His teams won in the Big Ten 37 percent of the time. Here are the finishes in the Big Ten for Monson in his tenure since his first season in 1999-2000. The Gophers finished 10th, 9th, 6th, 6th, 10th, 4th, and 10th.

They only made one appearance in the NCAA tournament, when they lost to Iowa State in the first round in 2005.

Overall, Monson won 53 percent of the time, even though the Gophers are a Big Ten school and often play opponents from lesser conferences.

Monson came over from Gonzaga in 1999, and it appeared to be a trendy pick. He had just taken a team that nobody had heard of and put them on the map.

In doing so, he beat Clem Haskins and the Gophers in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in 1999, which turned out to be Haskins’ last game.

Gonzaga went deep into the tournament that year, and everybody in Minnesota was excited to get Monson.

At first, it was difficult to judge Monson’s work at the ‘U,’ with the extreme sanctions that were put on the team.

But it became apparent in the last few years that he was not the right fit for the Gophers. To his credit, he did heal the scarred name the program had before he came here.

It wasn’t that his coaching skills were bad, but it was the recruiting. He took a program that was very good and made it into a laughingstock for high school basketball players in Minnesota.

Braham’s Isiah Dahlman was the latest Minnesotan to defect to another major NCAA program.

Monson did not have one decent recruit that stayed for their entire four years. For the good players he did grab, Minnesota was their second choice, and they just fell into his lap.

The Gophers finished 10th in the Big Ten last year. Athletic Director Joel Maturi reportedly had permission to fire Monson, but could not pull the trigger.

Because of that, fans have to suffer through a wasted season because of the incompetence of both Monson and Maturi.

If I could get a coaching job anywhere, Minnesota would be my overwhelming choice.

Instead of firing coaches who can’t get the job done, he gives them raises. There is nothing like rewarding somebody who is average at their job.

Last year, Maturi gave Glen Mason a contract extension. His teams have been average at best.

Mason’s teams are 58-50 over his tenure here at Minnesota. Sure, he has taken them to unimportant bowl games, and won 10 games in 2003, which was the most since 1905.

But what have you done for me lately?

As a Big Ten school, the football program should be more competitive than the embarrassing losses it suffered against Wisconsin and Ohio State this year.

Even the lowly Northwestern Wildcats have been to the Rose Bowl in the past 20 years, while all the Gophers can brag about is a victory in the Sun Bowl a few years back.

If the Gophers want to flounder in mediocrity, than they should stick with Maturi and Mason. But if they want to bring respect back to Minnesota’s major sports, fire the U of M’s, M&M boys.