Athletics now a family affair

Three coaches each have a son playing underneath them at the "U" this year.

Brian Deutsch

Family Matters. It used to be a popular show on television, but now the phrase could be the unofficial slogan for the University athletic department.

Right now, Minnesota boasts a trio of fathers coaching or working with their sons – something athletics director Joel Maturi said he has never seen before at a major university.

“I think that says a lot for Minnesota, it says a lot about people wanting to be here and be part of this program,” Maturi said. “And I think it says a lot about the father-son relationship and wanting to play for dad or be a part of dad.”

The father and son tandems of Don and Tony Lucia, Tim and Clint Brewster and Tubby and Saul Smith can be seen working together on the Gophers’ ice, court and sidelines, respectively this season.

Maturi, who coached several sports in his 19 years at Madison Edgewood High School, said he would have loved to have coached his son.

“I can understand that aspect. There’s a little bit of a challenge with it, you’ve got to make sure they fit Ö that they’re good enough because in most cases they are going to be under more scrutiny rather than less scrutiny. They’re really going to need to earn their playing time, but I think (coaching a son) would be a fun thing to do overall.”

Playing for a parent is nothing new for men’s hockey coach Don Lucia.

Both of his parents were teachers, and he played football for his father at Grand Rapids High School, and Lucia’s predecessor, Doug Woog, also coached his son from the Gophers bench.

This year will be the second season that coach Lucia is joined by his son Tony, a sophomore forward, on the team and a year together in the locker room has helped the pair.

“My father and I have a great relationship outside the rink and I think that carries into the locker room,” Tony Lucia said.

Coaching his son has other added benefits according to Don Lucia.

“I know what’s going on in school, so I can kick him in the rear end more from an academic side than maybe any other player on the team,” Don Lucia said.

But in the locker room, being coach rather than dad has its disadvantages as well according to the Gophers head hockey coach.

“You probably give him less kudos than other kids because you don’t want to show any favoritism.”

Lucia said he is always guarded, “Are you treating him fairly in the eyes of the other players?”

But both Lucia’s said working together has been a positive experience, and neither Don nor his son had any real doubts about Tony joining the team last year.

“Growing up, I always wanted to play wherever he was coaching at,” Tony said. “It was kind of a dream of mine to play at this school, but at the same time, play for my father.”

So coach to coach, did Lucia have any advice for Tim Brewster when he heard Brewster’s son was going to play for the Gophers?

“I just told him, ‘if you’d recruit him if he wasn’t your son, then you should recruit him if he is your son,’ ” Lucia said. “(Coach Brewster) has been around it long enough to know the same thing.”

The Brewster’s are both in their first years at Minnesota, and Tim Brewster said there is a special bond between college coaches and their sons.

“We (college coaches) have spent so much time away from our kids with other people’s sons, I have missed so much of (my kids’ upbringing),” coach Brewster said. “Nolan is a senior in high school and I’ve missed every game Ö that really hurts.”

Presently, Nolan won’t follow his brother’s path and play for their father at Minnesota – he is verbally committed to his dad’s former team, Texas.

But coach Brewster has another idea to get his son on the field at Minnesota – he’s been pushing Mack Brown to bring the Longhorns north for the inaugural game at TCF Bank Stadium in 2009.

And coaching Clint, a freshman quarterback on the team, has been a good experience for Brewster the coach.

“I don’t treat him any differently and he wouldn’t want it any other way,” Coach Brewster said. “We’re still in that process where he’s trying to make sure that I understand that I’m the coach and not dad.”

Men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith will be joined on the floor of Williams Arena this year by his son Saul.

Although this season will also be the first at Minnesota for both of the Smiths, they’ve had plenty of experience working together.

Saul Smith played for his dad at Kentucky from 1997-2001 and won three Southeastern Conference Championships, three SEC Tournament titles and a national championship in 1998.

He was also on his father’s coaching staff at Kentucky from 2003-2004 before taking an assistant coaching position at Tennessee Tech.

“Not that coach Smith needs it, but I’m sure (it’s nice) to have a family that you can lean on and talk honestly and openly to,” Maturi said. “There are different kinds of aspects there, but there are similarities in the father-son relationship.”