Voelz must wake up to basketball woes

Chris Voelz is a gambler. The University’s women’s athletics director would make Kenny Rogers proud. She knows when to hold ’em and fold ’em, boy.
Take Stephanie Schleuder. The volleyball coach wasn’t cutting it in 1994, so she got cut. Folded, you could say.
But Voelz may be playing a hand called the women’s basketball team a little too far. It’s time Voelz learned to know when to walk away, know when to run.
The Gophers women’s basketball team is pretty bad, folks. In a time of dire straits it sure is easy to hop all over the coach. And these sure are dire times.
Last week wasn’t a good one for Gophers coach Linda Hill-MacDonald. Besides looking at returning from a season in which the Gophers were 0-16 in the Big Ten, some more bad luck came down.
Late last week it was reported that the Miller twins of Rochester, Minn., won’t be coming to Minnesota to play hoops.
Don’t know the Millers? Coco and Kelly Miller, from Rochester Mayo High School, are a highly touted sister act. They headed a huge list of recruits from Minnesota this year who opted to decline offers tendered from Minnesota.
More importantly, if by some slim chance they decided to come to play with Hill-MacDonald, they offered a faint glimmer of hope for this troubled program.
But they, like every other Minnesota recruit, went elsewhere. Hill-MacDonald, in dire need of in-state recruits, came up empty. And Voelz, in dire need of a good hand, came up dry.
Hearing the news about the Miller twins didn’t make the Gambler happy. No ma’am.
“I was just hollowed,” Voelz said. “I just thought we really need to land one of (the in-state recruits). It was the best recruiting class in years in terms of talent and numbers.”
Sources say team members and potential Gophers are dismayed by Hill-MacDonald’s coaching. Kay Schmidt, who would have been a Gophers co-captain this season, quit the team last year. She now attends Minnesota-Morris. Those who know say Schmidt’s experience with the 0-for-Gophers took away her desire to play basketball.
Even without the recruiting problems, Hill-MacDonald faced even further bad luck last week.
Having lost their top returning player, Cheri Stafford, to injury, Hill-MacDonald suffered another loss. Sarah Schieber ripped up her knee and is gone for the upcoming season. Schieber’s loss brings the number of active players on the Minnesota roster to eight.
Remember, it takes five players to be on the court at one time. Right now, the Gophers haven’t got enough players to conduct a simple intrasquad game in practice.
So here was the answer. Voelz said Hill-MacDonald has made a plea to other coaches of women’s sports at Minnesota for extra athletes. Any five-year seniors and redshirted athletes in the women’s department have been sought out by Hill-MacDonald to join the mess.
Now, the Gambler knows how important a winning basketball team is to the survival of the women’s athletics department. The program gets the largest percentage of financial support because it is expected to make money.
After last season’s horrific season. Voelz and Hill-MacDonald met. A game plan was drawn up and the Gambler didn’t fire Hill-MacDonald.
“Let me say that it’s important to have a winning basketball team,” Voelz said. “Ultimately it’s Linda’s responsibility to field a team. Certainly I share her disappointment in terms of not having us where we need to be.”
But you have to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. This hand is one the Gambler may have held long enough.
“I know it’s my responsibility,” Voelz said. “I was hopeful in talking with coach Hill-MacDonald last spring that we could make enough changes and get enough recruits.”
“I’d be less than candid if I said this is how we wanted to go.”

— Kristian Pope’s column appears every Wednesday in the Daily. He can be reached at [email protected]