Maturi indicates Lucia’s job is still safe

The Athletics Director sat down to talk about the men’s hockey season.

Hockey vs. North Dakota

Ian Larson

Hockey vs. North Dakota

Max Sanders

Just more than a week after the Gophers menâÄôs hockey team saw its season come to a close, The Minnesota Daily sat down with Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi to talk about the 2009-10 season, the departure of Jordan Schroeder and the future of head coach Don Lucia. MS: This yearâÄôs team had the preseason Western Collegiate Hockey Association player of the year in Jordan Schroeder and was expected to rebound from a disappointing 2008-09 campaign, but they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs and missed the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. What in your eyes went wrong? JM: IâÄôm not the coach. YouâÄôre asking the wrong guy. IâÄôm a fan when it comes to that. IâÄôm not at practice every day. I get to see most of the home games and a few games on the road. For me to say this went wrong or that went wrong would be making a mistake many fans make. MS: Jordan is the latest in a line of players who have left early to sign with their professional teams. Is that trend something that is starting to concern you? JM: I think itâÄôs concerned me for a long time in college hockey. Your elite players, very few of them stay beyond two years. Not only in Minnesota. If you look at most of the elite players, they leave by the end of their second year. MS: Is there anything you think can be done to stop that trend? JM: The only thing that can be done is a different collective bargaining agreement with the NHL. It has nothing to do with the NCAA; it has nothing to do with the particular universities. ThereâÄôs a thought on the part of some people you shouldnâÄôt recruit as many elite athletes because youâÄôre better off having kids here for four years who, on [those] third and fourth years, are going to be as good on the collegiate level as that very talented kid is in his first or second year. I donâÄôt know how you say to Don Lucia or any coach, âÄòthis kidâÄôs really good, so therefore you donâÄôt recruit him because youâÄôre not going to have him for four years.âÄô You canâÄôt do that âĦ Even since IâÄôve been here, how many have we had? A dozen whoâÄôve left after their first or second year âÄî a pretty large number. MS: How have the boosters and season ticket holders youâÄôve spoken to reacted to the previous two or three seasons? JM: Not real well. MS: What do they say to you? JM: Most of them are unhappy. My response always to them is [that the team is] led by the coaches, staff and players. None of us are pleased we didnâÄôt get home ice for the playoffs, we didnâÄôt make the Final Five and weâÄôre not going to the NCAA Tournament. NobodyâÄôs happy about it. Quite frankly, MinnesotaâÄôs expectations including the coaches, staff and players are such that we should be there. I donâÄôt think thereâÄôs anybody making excuses why weâÄôre not. ItâÄôs something we should. As a result, our fan base for the most part is disappointed and upset. MS: This is the first losing season under Don Lucia in his tenure here. Do you think thatâÄôs just an exception to the rule, or are you worried itâÄôs a trend? JM: I think itâÄôs an exception. HeâÄôs been here a long time. IâÄôm not going to make excuses for Coach, and I donâÄôt think he would want me to. ItâÄôs not acceptable at Minnesota, and weâÄôre going to have to work to change it. MS: You always have end-of-season talks with your coaches following the conclusion of the season. Do you know when that talk will happen with Don? JM: Probably within the next two to four weeks. MS: Lucia has two years remaining on his contract. Have you begun extension talks with him yet? JM: [Shakes head signaling no] MS: Is LuciaâÄôs contract situation comparable to Tim BrewsterâÄôs in that you prefer to sign him to an extension rather than enter the last year of his deal without an extension? JM: I donâÄôt think hockey is the same as football. ItâÄôs a whole different breed, and for that reason itâÄôs not as pressing. MS: You said in an interview mid-season that Lucia would be the coach of this team next season unless he chooses not to. Has he given any indication that he would choose not to do that? JM: No. MS: You stand by the statement Don will be the coach next season? JM: [Nods head up and down] MS: Any final thoughts? JM: The great news is thereâÄôs a lot of passion about Gopher hockey; thatâÄôs the positive thing. I think coach Lucia understands that, and my comment to him is to stay the course, stay true to your values, stay true to what has taken you to this position in your life, which has been pretty darn successful if you look at his broad coaching career at every stop heâÄôs been. If it were somebody less experienced than Don, somebody who hasnâÄôt been through the ups and the downs âÄî because Don has, though not at Minnesota âÄî IâÄôd be more worried. IâÄôd be more worried about how he would handle the disappointing season, but Coach will handle it well. HeâÄôll regroup, and the kids will be back.