Column: ‘What have you done for me lately?’ mentality alive and well

Winning comes at a high price

David Nelson

When Minnesota-Duluth head women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller exited Ridder Arena Saturday night, it might have been the last time she ever sets foot in that building as head coach.

Miller, who amassed five national titles and 15 NCAA tournament victories over 16 years with the Bulldogs, learned last December that UMD could no longer afford her services.

One of the greatest women’s hockey head coaches of all time could be jobless next season — providing a friendly reminder that the “What have you done for me lately?” mentality is alive and well in college sports.

Gophers basketball fans saw this first hand two years ago when a national-championship-winning head coach got shown the door in favor of a coach who went 18-14 in his only season as a head coach.

From that perspective, the jump from former head men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith to Richard Pitino seems rather ridiculous.

But at that point in time, not many saw Smith as the coach who led a powerhouse Kentucky program for 10 seasons or someone who brought Minnesota to the NCAA tournament in three of his six seasons.

Instead, the vast majority viewed him as a coach who couldn’t win in the conference or the postseason and saw Pitino as someone who could provide a youthful spark.

Now, barring a phenomenal run to close its season, the Gophers men’s basketball team will probably miss the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.

Not one bad peep can be heard about Pitino, so it’s interesting that people aren’t so patient with head men’s hockey coach Don Lucia.

Over the course of this season, many have taken to social media to voice their displeasure with how the Gophers have played.

Multiple fans and pundits tweeted that Minnesota should part ways with Lucia, but no such talk exists regarding Pitino.

Why? Pitino ended last season cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden after winning the NIT championship.

Lucia ended his having to explain to a room full of reporters why the top-ranked team in the nation didn’t win the national championship.

No one remembers that Lucia captured back-to-back national titles with Minnesota, but everyone is quick to point out how terrible the Gophers team is this season.

It’s a blatant double standard, but expectations change for teams when winning is an assumption rather than a pleasant surprise.

For the sake of full disclosure, Miller’s production as a head coach had plateaued recently up until this year.

She boasted a contract that hovered at least $200,000 per year, something UMD could no longer afford or justify.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how the coach built a dynasty or how they turned around a struggling program.

The question every coach needs to answer from fans and administrators will always be “What have you done for me lately?”