Norbert Teague applauds the comments of the new Gopher head menís basketball coach, Richard Pitino. Photo by Ruth Hanson
By Ruth Hanson
Somerby Golf Club welcomed long overdue sunshine and perfect temperatures on June 3. But that wasn't all.
The club staff welcomed Goldy Gopher and many coaches and other staff from the University of Minnesota. It was the 40th annual Golden Gopher Fund Rochester Golf Invitational.
Mike Grimm, the Voice of Golden Gopher football and basketball for many years, brought good news and smiles.
"Almost 70 percent of our athletes have grade points of 3.0 or better," he said. "And our women's hockey team has won back to back national championships. We have had lots of successes recently with our 750 student athletes."
He introduced Norwood Teague, who is just finishing his first year as the Director of Athletics at the University of Minnesota.
"I have never been around such a great group of coaches and such a special group of people," Teague said. "The positive vibes are around."
He introduced the newly hired men's basketball coach, Richard Pitino.
"It's good to meet all of you," Pitino said, greeting nearly 300 cheering Gopher fans, most of them wearing the maroon and gold. "I've never known such a cohesive fan base. That is unique and it means so much to me. Norbert is the best AD in the country. He is going to do great things for the U."
He said that the kids on the basketball team are looking good in workouts and are "all really good kids." He named them off, giving first one and then another credit for shooting the basketball and believing every shot would go in, for great attitudes and for being topnotch student athletes.
"They are the kind of kids you'd want to baby-sit your kids," he said.
He smiled and added that one of the basketball players is in the nationals in the high jump.
He said his staff is putting a premium on conditioning and that they shoot a lot of three's.
"We will use a lot of guys because we play so fast," he said. "You people are special and I love you. I appreciate all the pride you've got."
Brad Frost, the women's hockey coach, was next.
"We were 41-0 in women's hockey this year," he said. "We've had 49 straight wins and were breaking attendance records. We are expecting better things this season."
He laughed and said that "It's a good time to be a hockey coach at Minnesota right now. We're the only women's team to go undefeated."
He explained that one of his players will be playing with the Olympic team in February and that he had the three top players in college hockey last year.
"Nora, my goalie, was always better than your goalie," he said. "She gave up under one goal a game. We're very excited, but we probably won't go undefeated. Still, our attendance is the best in the country. Thanks for your support. We will never forget this year."
Don Lucia, the men's hockey coach was next and reported that even though his team went 26-9 people keep asking him if he is going to have a better year.
"We have a good team coming up," he said. "We will use some freshmen, but that is part of the fun of coaching."
Mike Burns, the 55-year-old men's gymnastics coach, did 22 steps on his hands as the crowd clapped.
"My guys have a 3.2 GPA," he said. "They are an awesome group. I recruit from clubs because most high schools don't have boys gymnastics teams."
Meg Stephenson, the women's gymnastics coach, was next. Her team is the national champion.
"If I could go back, this is the team I'd want to be on," she said. "Their GPA is just under 3.4 and they will graduate in four years. They are a great group of students and athletes."
Chuck Merzbacher, the women's tennis coach, said he played on the Gophers tennis team in college and had a great time in Minnesota.
Geoff Young, the men's tennis coach, said he has some international players this year.
Kelly Kremer, the swimming and diving head coach, said she has a very nice facility and expects some dominating performances.
"We have a super recruiting class," she said. "I ask them, 'Why wouldn't you want to come to Minnesota? You can't beat this state."
Hugh McCutcheon, who was the Olympic volleyball coach with an all-elite group of stud athletes, said he has a good group this year, too, with some work to do and, fortunately, a good staff."
Jerry Kill, the football coach, reported that his team is coming off a very good spring.
"We want to be proud of who we are," he said. "We have to get a football team that reflects the University and the State."
He reminded them that the Gophers went to a bowl last year.
"We have had a great off season and a great spring scrimmage," he said. "As a coach, I feel we are better than we were at the bowl game. We are fortunate to have kept our coaches. Our people are working together and half our kids have over 3.0 grades."
He laughed and said it's important for him to win because his wife isn't going anywhere.
"I hope you people come up to watch us play," he said. "That helps to build our program."