March Madness different

Michael Dougherty

March Madness means different things at different times for Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins.
Here’s how the second week of March during the last several years has gone for Haskins :
ù Mar. 13, 1998 — Haskins’ Gophers won their first round game of the NIT 77-65 against Colorado State at Williams Arena, the first step en route to their second NIT Championship of the ’90s. Sam Jacobson scored 20 points and Eric Harris added 19.
ù Mar. 14, 1997 — Five Gophers scored in double figures as Minnesota stomped Southwest Texas 78-46 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Kansas City, Mo. Charles Thomas scored 14 and Jacobson and Bobby Jackson each had a dozen.
ù Mar. 13, 1996 — Jackson scored 17 in the Gophers’ 68-52 first round NIT win against St. Louis at Williams Arena. Reserve forward David Grim added 15 points.
But now, on Mar. 15, 1999, Haskins’ job security is under fire — along with the entire basketball program — because of allegations leveled by former University employee Jan Gangelhoff in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Wednesday.
Despite the speculation his job is in jeopardy, Haskins told the Associated Press that next year’s Gophers “will be coached by Clem Haskins.”
“I’m not going to quit, no matter what,” Haskins said. “I’m a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter.”
It might be a good thing Haskins is in the mood for a tussle, because he and the Gophers basketball program are in for a long rumble with investigators, lawyers, University officials, the media and the public — a tougher starting five than that of any team they have faced this season.
Since the Pioneer Press stories broke on Wednesday, the amount of media attention has exploded. University President Mark Yudof remarked the headlines in that paper were bigger than those when President John F. Kennedy was shot.
The Gophers were front-page fodder in the USA Today on Friday, and dominated conversation at the NCAA West Regional in Seattle, where Minnesota lost to Gonzaga on Thursday.
Former Gophers coach Jim Dutcher said Haskins’ situation is completely different than the one that forced Dutcher out in 1986, and ultimately brought Haskins to Minnesota.
After three players were arrested in January 1986 for sexual assault, Dutcher was forced to resign by then-University President Ken Keller.
Dutcher said comparing Haskins’ situation to his is tough.
“I don’t know what he’s going through,” Dutcher said. “Everybody has their own way to handle things, so I guess there’s really not much I can say.”
Although Haskins has guaranteed he will be the Gophers coach next season, Dutcher said that might not be true.
“That won’t be his decision,” Dutcher said. “He’s saying what he has to say, which is, ‘I’m going to be back.’ Time will tell whether that is true or not.”
Letting the investigation take its course is critical, Dutcher said, just as it did when the three players involved with the 1986 scandal (Mitch Lee, Kevin Smith and George Williams) were later cleared of charges.
While he still does color commentary for Gophers games on MSC, Dutcher said he isn’t in a position to properly analyze the academic fraud scandal.
“I’ve been away from (the program) for 13 years, and I’m not in everyday contact with it,” he said. “All I know is what I read.”
If published reports over the past few days are any indication, what Dutcher and the rest of the public reads will continue to be condemning but at the same time confusing.
In the Pioneer Press story, former Gopher Courtney James said members of the coaching staff knew Gangelhoff was doing the players’ course work.
But in an interview with the Star Tribune on Friday, James said Gangelhoff never did any of his work and only proofread his assignments.
Some of the most damaging quotes in the original published report came from former Gophers center, Trevor Winter, who is now with the Timberwolves.
Winter called the practice of Gangelhoff doing the players course work “common knowledge” throughout the program. Winter, however, has since said some of his comments were taken out of context.
Haskins has 240 career wins at Minnesota, just four behind L.J. Cooke for first on the all-time list. Whether or not he will be around to pass Cooke remains to be seen.
And with the long thread of problems running through the basketball program, March Madness in Minnesota might soon take on an entirely different meaning.