Coach’s wife backs up team, husband

Sarah Mitchell

Having smelled an upset, Gophers junior Mitch Ohnstad trudged out of the men’s basketball locker room Saturday. Ohio State, a top-10 team in the country, finished its regular season with a victory moments earlier.
Darci Monson walked behind Ohnstad, placing a hand on his back. In a season where all the team has is each other, the coach’s wife has stayed in the background, keeping spirits up.
“She’s real supportive. She’s great,” Ohnstad said. “I think all the guys on the team have a good relationship with her.”
Darci has been Minnesota’s player off the bench. She too has weathered the highs and lows in Dan Monson’s first season with the Gophers.
Unfortunately for Darci, the theme of this year has been mostly hardships.
ù Minnesota is still waiting for the NCAA to hand down sanctions for the academic scandal that unraveled during last year’s first round of the NCAA tournament.
ù Joel Przybilla left the team for the NBA several weeks ago, leaving his former team with virtually no inside game. Minnesota has not won a game without him.
ù The Gophers have not won a game since they upset Indiana on Feb. 9, and own a six-game losing streak.
In the Big Ten, Minnesota has mustered just four league wins. The Gophers are second only to Northwestern, a team that was shutout in conference play this season.
“It’s hard because the record doesn’t show a winning season, but the players that are there are really good people and the staff is really good,” Darci said. “It’s just a growing period and that’s going to happen.”
As the team makes its transition, so does Darci. Born and raised in Spokane, Wash., the move she and Dan made as newlyweds halfway across the country was overwhelming.
The academic scandal surrounding the program Dan was preparing to take over added some apprehension. But Darci came anyway.
“I really trust Dan and I trust his judgement,” Darci said. “I know if the roles were reversed, he would support me so it was easy to make that decision.”
Darci sacrificed her job as an elementary school counselor, a position she held for five years, as they said goodbye to family and friends.
It’s been a difficult, but still enjoyable season for the pair. While Dan tries to pull the team back together, Darci is there to pick up his and the team’s spirits.
“I’ve been really blessed that way. All of a sudden basketball isn’t everything and for so many years for me it was,” Dan said. “Now to be able to go home and have somebody to share it with has really changed me.”
Darci will be watching from the sidelines today, when the 10th-seeded Gophers take on seventh-seeded Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
As she has all year, Darci will be rallying for Minnesota when the Gophers tip off at 3:30 today.
“Dan and (Hawkeyes coach) Steve Alford have become good friends and you never like to play your friends. You wish you could play somebody else,” Darci said. “But we’re very hopeful. Minnesota deserves that. It would be nice for them to win a game for them.”

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]