Former U coach Musselman dies

Editor’s note:While this issue is supposed to be one of unabashed stupidity, we couldn’t ignore the fact that Bill Musselman, a former U basketball coach and Timberwolves coach, died Friday. Though we couldn’t scrap our plans for a fun issue, we did decide to run this column in his memory. He is remembered in a letter we received from Dr. R. Galen Hanson.

At 2:45 a.m. Friday, Bill Musselman died, and his death takes from us a most unique spirit amongst us, a winner, a writer, a teacher-coach and an unforgettable man. Certainly, his vocation, that of basketball coach, was one he built at every level — secondary, small postsecondary, major university and pro ball. He remained, always, foremost, coach Musselman.
But I remember him too, for other things. I did not know him well, nor did we become what you’d call friends. But when he was head coach of the Gophers and I was in Minneapolis teaching, I was introduced to him. From then on, he greeted me during his Gophers years and, in addition, was most kind and gracious to my parent; he would wave at us from down the row in his Memorial Stadium football seats. Once or twice, I was honored to sit down for a one-on-one lunch with him at what was, then Bridgeman’s in Dinkytown. So memorable were those brief luncheons, I will always remember remarks he made.
As a faculty person — besides doing teaching of my own — Icontinued to enroll, always, in postdoctoral courses, believing as passionately as I do that education is either continuing education, or not education at all. Therefore, Itook some of my meals in a campus dining hall, where, on occasion, I was impressed always with the lessons he was teaching his players.
I know that before he left the U of M there were difficulties in his basketball program there, and that, of course, is a part of his journey. However, as Abraham Lincoln said, if you look for the bad in someone you will find it, and if you look for the good, you’ll find that, too. I found much good in the Bill Musselman I knew however briefly and occasionally in his University of Minnesota years.
Bill was a winner at whatever he did. One time, as I sat by the court, with a basketball nearby him, he said, “Doc, watch, I’ll make three jumpers in a row from here.” And he did.
He called to my attention the book he wrote on basketball back when he coached Ashland College, in Ohio, that book named for the small number of points opposing teams were able to garner against his stellar defense. He dedicated that book to his mother and spoke of her work ethic and influence upon him. So, he was a writer too.
Finally, though I wasn’t able to speak in-person to him in the intervening years, I know instinctively I would have addressed him, “Coach.” He was that — and master teacher of the intricacies of his game, basketball.
By far — far and away — the memories I will always have of coach Bill Musselman is that he is one of the most unforgettable people I have ever met: winner, writer, teacher, coach. Always.