The odds are in new coach’s favor

In March a short-handed Gophers men’s basketball team got their butts kicked before a late victory bid was squandered against tiny Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga 1. Gophers 0.
On Saturday, men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart and the Gophers got even. They hired 37-year-old Dan Monson, coach of the Bulldogs for the past two seasons, as the new head coach for a program tattered with academic fraud charges.
Gonzaga 1. Gophers 1.
Although it is not very likely Gonzaga and Minnesota will meet again in head-to-head competition, the connections between the two make for a nice rivalry: One team’s loss is the other team’s gain.
When the University suspended four players from the NCAA tournament in fear of them being ineligible, Minnesota’s loss was definitely Gonzaga’s gain. Likewise, when Monson left Gonzaga for a bigger, better opportunity at Minnesota, its loss was the Gophers’ gain.
But whatever chance of rivalry there might be between the two schools someday, the important fact is that Monson is always on the winning side. Right now, he’s 2-0.
Hence, the odds seem pretty good he can be 3-0 and make Haskins’ loss (of a job) his gain. It seems only fitting.
However, Monson hasn’t been successful because he knows how to capitalize on others’ weaknesses; he’s won because he knows how to build on others’ strengths. Monson will continue his winning ways with the Gophers if he simply applies his game preparation strategy he used at Gonzaga to the entire infrastructure of the Gophers basketball program.
Last year, Monson advanced his underdog team to the Elite Eight by focusing on a counter to the opponents’ strengths. This strategy challenges his team to take its game to a higher level and to believe that they can do better. The new coach would thus be wise to analyze the Gophers’ current strenghts — laid out by Haskins — as if they made up the opponent, and then coach the team to use its strenghts to its advantage.
Although the Gophers program does not have many strengths right now, if there is anyone who will be able to find what those are and how to gain from them, it seems to be Dan Monson.
Here are some of the gains the Gophers program already has through the hiring of Monson:
ù What was a group of players who weren’t sure if they were going to stick around after Haskins left is once again a team rallying around the coach;
ù Instead of the Gophers program getting a coach beyond his prime and a decade removed from the hardcourt (Terry Holland, who declined Dienhart’s offer last week), it now has a “rising star” and youth on its side;
ù A new coach gives back a positive, exciting identity to a program that might have become more increasingly known to potential recruits as Haskins’ Fraudulent Foursome, Inc.
Regardless of whatever sanctions the men’s basketball program will be due from the NCAA, it is time for Gophers fans to move on from any anger or depression and get pumped about the new coach. Finally, the players, the administration and the fans have the Mr. Clean needed to wipe away the mess left by Haskins.
But although Dienhart landed a huge victory for the program Saturday, it is no time to celebrate.
Will Monson once again thrive to gain from another’s loss? Only time will tell. But the odds are in his favor.

Nick Doty’s column appears in the Daily weekly. He welcome’s comments at [email protected]