Men’s hockey coach Lucia agrees to terms of 7-year deal

David La Vaque

Don Lucia spent 12 years coaching men’s college hockey teams outside Minnesota. Now it appears he will coach in his home state for at least 11 years.

Lucia, a Grand Rapids native, has agreed to a seven-year contract that will keep him behind the Gophers’ bench through 2009. The contract, finalized Tuesday, will begin this year. Lucia’s base salary will be $150,000, a figure that will increase to $200,000 over the life of the contract.

Lucia’s base salary for his current contract is $132,000 per year.

In addition, Lucia, 44, will earn bonuses for academic and athletic achievement, as well as other income from camps and media supplements.

“This is where I want to be,” Lucia said. “I believe I have the best job in college hockey.”

In the fourth year of his original six-year deal, Lucia said the NCAA title his team won in April – the program’s first in 23 years – accelerated the timetable for renegotiation.

But the process was slowed by a number of issues in the University athletic department. A new president and athletics director search, a department merger and the drive to save three sports from elimination all delayed Lucia and the University from coming to the table more quickly.

“From the start I told Don to be patient,” athletics director Joel Maturi said. “He said he wasn’t worried. Both sides wanted this done; it was probably more my fault it couldn’t have been done sooner.”

Maturi said the final signatures could be put on the contract as soon as this week, maybe before Maturi joins Lucia and the Gophers on Thursday for the team bus ride to Duluth.

In his fourth season at Minnesota, Lucia has won an NCAA title, coached two All-Americans, a Hobey Baker Award winner and posted a record of 96-47-15 to date.

“Don has impressed the state of Minnesota,” Maturi said. “Everyone is proud of what he’s done and how he’s done it.”

David La Vaque welcomes comments at [email protected]