Gophers assistant wants his shot at job

Matthew Cross

Gophers associate head men’s hockey coach Mike Guentzel was on his way to work last week when, for the first time, he thought about life after hockey.
He thought about finally utilizing his University bachelor of science degree in business and human relations.
These are the thoughts that run through the mind of a coach who feels he might be overlooked for a shot at one of college hockey’s most sought-after jobs.
In the fallout of Doug Woog’s resignation on Tuesday to take an assistant athletics director position, Guentzel has been a forgotten man in the replacement talks involving Colorado College coach Don Lucia and North Dakota coach Dean Blais.
Blais, who has brought UND back to national prominence during his five years there, accepted a five-year contract extension Wednesday to stay with the Sioux.

Gophers men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart said he believed Blais would stay put all along.
“It is my understanding that if the extension offer was acceptable to him, that’s where he wanted to be,” Dienhart said. “He clearly wanted to be at North Dakota.”
The contract includes a $115,000 annual salary, use of a car, a membership in the Grand Forks Country Club and a deferred $500,000 annuity. It will be paid partly through private donations made to the UND foundation.
Guentzel met with Dienhart on Monday and solidified an opportunity to interview for the job. Dienhart also assured Guentzel no hiring decisions would be made until they talked again either late tonight or early Friday.
But men’s athletics officials have made it clear they are not leaving out any options in their search for a new coach.
“I understand fully their position,” Guentzel said in an interview Wednesday. “There are a lot of people involved, and there are a lot of people enthusiastic about Gophers hockey. I’m glad people have that kind of emotion about the program; it wouldn’t be such a prestigious job if they didn’t.”
Dienhart said he is still in the process of finding candidates for the position and putting together a search committee for the interviews. He added that it took a month to hire Glen Mason, but that he doesn’t expect this job search to last that long. Lucia said Tuesday he expects the process to take between seven and 10 days.
For Guentzel, the main issue is just getting an opportunity to prove he can be a head coach.
He said he brings knowledge of the current players, the recruiting pool, coaching networks and a relationship with alumni to the job.
“Those other guys experienced success when they were granted the chance to prove themselves,” Guentzel said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
Guentzel turned down a job to start a Division I program at Nebraska-Omaha two years ago and said he opted instead to stay at Minnesota and potentially take over for Woog.
At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer that he would be a top candidate because many considered him to be one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the country after the Gophers’ final four appearance in 1995.
Guentzel said he met with Dienhart at that time and was told if the program has continued progress and success, he would be strongly considered for Woog’s replacement.
“The only variable is the program has taken a step back,” Guentzel said.
The end of this season marked the second straight year the Gophers had a losing record and missed the NCAA tournament.
Dienhart said he still considers Guentzel a strong candidate for the job.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” he said. “I told him if he wanted to be recommended for an interview with the committee that I would certainly recommend him.”
Meanwhile, within three hours of Woog’s resignation announcement, Dienhart and Assistant Athletic Director Pat Forceia touched down in Denver to meet with Lucia.
Published reports indicate the meeting went well — at least well enough that Lucia remained in Denver longer than expected and stayed the night rather than return home to Colorado Springs.
Lucia, who grew up in Grand Rapids, Minn., and still owns a home there, is expected to be in the Twin Cities later this week.
In the event Guentzel does not get the job, he said he is willing to consider working as an assistant with whoever is hired as the new coach.