Monson’s staff anchored by new assistant coaches

by David La

Minnesota coach Dan Monson and his men’s basketball team are heading straight into the upcoming season amid uncertainty of what’s to come.
Undaunted, Monson rests his faith in the hand-picked staff.
In a July press release, Monson spoke of his excitement to welcome assistant coaches Mike Petersen and Bill Walker to Minnesota.
On Wednesday, Monson replayed his tune note-for-note, praising the job done by his staff members. Of the 14 team practices this season, Monson said he left the gym 12 times saying, “We got better today.”
How much his team improves in the years to come falls on the shoulders of Walker, a recruiter with a solid track record.
While at Missouri-St. Louis, Walker boasted that a player was selected to the conference all-freshman team five-straight years. Two players from that group were named freshman of the year.
Walker can’t wait to dive into the deeper pools of talent available to a program like Minnesota’s.
“This is the best,” Walker said. “There’s no prospect in my mind that’s now off-limits.”
While he admits to being inexperienced at recruiting the top high- school prospects, Walker is confident his formula can crunch even the biggest numbers.
“The kids are the same,” Walker said. “You talk to them, and you find they have the same concerns. Kids are kids, pretty much.”
Though a still-undecided future hangs over the Gophers’ program, Walker is keeping his thoughts to the future.
“We’re saying to kids, ‘We’re moving ahead,'” Walker said. “And I think the University tried to show that with the self-imposed sanctions.
“To quote Yogi Berra, `The past is behind us.'”
Coach Petersen comes in after recently guiding the women’s basketball programs at New Mexico State (1992-96) and Texas Christian (1996-99).
He remains the only collegiate coach to have both an NBA and WNBA player under his tutelage. He coached Terrell Brandon while at Oregon and Anita Maxwell during his stint at New Mexico State.
“I’m really impressed with the attitude and the approach of the kids in our program,” Petersen said. “They bring a very fresh approach to practice everyday.”
Junior John-Blair Bickerstaff cites Petersen’s dual-gender coaching experience as a plus, but ultimately looks at the coach’s personality as the bottom line.
“He came in, and I knew where he stood from the beginning. He wants to get you better, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. A guy like that you want to be around.”

David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]