Madness sets in for men’s basketball

by Michael Dougherty

It’s ironic that the first official practice for Gophers basketball coach Dan Monson and his full squad has the word “Madness” in it.
Here’s what the first-year coach has gone through since March: His Gonzaga team knocked the Gophers out of the NCAA Tournament en route to the Sweet 16.
Monson was rewarded with a 10-year contract from the Bulldogs that averaged about $200,000 a year. Life settled down for Monson until Minnesota come knocking on his door with a seven-year contract that averaged about a half a million dollars a year more than his new contract.
Monson was now on his way to Minnesota to replace Clem Haskins.
Then came his wedding on Aug. 7 to his wife Darci; an exhibition tour through Europe with his new team; his honeymoon in Hawaii and now preparations for the beginning of the basketball season that kicks off with tonight’s Midnight Madness celebration at Williams Arena.
Amidst the whirlwind trip Monson has been on, it seems like the man would just want to sit down on his couch, watch some television and relax.
But he can’t. Why? He doesn’t even have a couch yet.
“Our furniture comes on Friday and practice starts on Friday, so we’ll probably get settled here in about March or April,” Monson said.
Monson said he and his wife are renting a place for six months and will begin house hunting after the basketball season. Right now, however, he is concentrating on bringing some respect back to a program that suffered through an academic scandal and the loss of its coach after a 13-year stint.
“These guys need things to feel good about right now, and I think Midnight Madness couldn’t come at a better time,” Monson said of his players. “These guys have some time to enjoy a couple hours of fun and pageantry before the season begins.”
The fun Monson spoke of includes a concert by Biz Markie, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Big Daddy Kane that will start at 10 p.m.
Monson’s new squad will take the floor at midnight and conduct a warm-up exhibition, a dunk contest and a scrimmage.
“Midnight Madness is for the fans and the players,” assistant coach Mike Peterson said. “After that it becomes our time.”
Peterson joins the Gophers after coaching the women’s team at Texas Christian the past three years. Also joining the new coach’s staff is Derek Thomas and Bill Walker.
Thomas was with St. Louis University for the past four years and Walker comes from Central Missouri State after three years with the Mules.
“These are people that I have known for a number of years, and they know my philosophies and they can speak for me,” Monson said of his new assistants. “That’s a huge comfort to know when you are out on the road recruiting. You know you have guys like Mike Peterson back with your players teaching them the things that they need to be successful in your system.”

Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]