Haskins: Bluegrass no greener than U

by Todd Zolecki

Clem Haskins will return to his native state of Kentucky today, but it’s not to interview for the head coaching vacancy at the University of Kentucky.
There is speculation the Gophers men’s basketball coach might be a candidate to replace Rick Pitino, who left Kentucky on Tuesday to become the new head coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Haskins held a press conference Wednesday and said alumni and friends of the school have contacted him about the vacancy. He also said he has no plans to visit the campus or talk with Kentucky officials anytime soon.
“I have not even thought about interviewing for any vacancy,” he said. “I would say that if offered or if someone contacted me, I would have to sit down with my wife and my family to make a decision.”
Larry Ivy, Kentucky’s associate athletics director, said nobody from his department has contacted Haskins about the job. Athletics director C.M. Newton could not be reached for comment.
“We are just getting the process started, and to my knowledge, no one has been contacted,” Ivy said. “I heard some prominent Kentucky alumnus did, but obviously that’s not a contact from the university.”
Haskins is from Campbellsville, Ky., and played and coached at Western Kentucky. He plans to spend the next three weeks on his farm in Campbellsville where he sells and trades cattle and horses. He hopes to relax in that time.
The past 10 months have been hectic for Haskins. He was an assistant coach on the U.S. Olympic team last summer, and he guided the Gophers to a 31-4 record and their first Final Four appearance in school history.
Haskins said he is flattered to be considered for the Kentucky job, but added he is happy at Minnesota. In a written statement, he said he is committed to finishing his career in Minnesota.
“I have a great group of young men on my team, an excellent coaching staff and outstanding administrative support,” he said. “We would not have accomplished the things that we did this year without that.”
Gophers men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart said he plans to grant Kentucky permission to interview Haskins if the school requests it.
“It’s not a surprise to me that if you win all but one major coach of the year award nationally, that if a major opening comes up like this, that he’d be among the names that would come up,” Dienhart said. “But I don’t have a feeling where he is going with it or where it will progress.”
Dienhart said he has no plans to renegotiate Haskins’ contract to entice him to stay. Haskins has five years left on his eight-year contract.
He did, however, point to some coaches across the country who had their contracts restructured after successful seasons. Haskins is also well aware of this.
“I expect Mark Dienhart, McKinley Boston (University vice president for Student Development and Athletics) and the University to be fair with Clem,” Haskins said. “I would think that they would look at that and say what it would cost to replace Clem Haskins. And I think it would be fair in giving him a nice raise, yes.”
Haskins said it would be unfair to ask Minnesota to match any offer Kentucky might make. He said Kentucky is the No. 1-paying job in college basketball.
“I would never try to hold them up and play Minnesota against Kentucky,” he said. “If it’s money, the deal would’ve been made yesterday because no other university can match the offer Kentucky has in basketball.”