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Norwood Teague Makes His First Mark on Gopher Athletics, His Next Hire is the One that Matters

One more year?
One more year?
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Up until March 25th, Norwood Teague has been living in the honeymoon phase of his new job. Taking on the Athletic's Director role in late June doesn't leave you with much time to make your mark before the athletic's calendar and academic school year begins. He has certainly made some internal moves with a handful of hiring and firing within the athletic department staff. He replaced the head of athletic communications. Perhaps his biggest public change was paying $800,000 to get out of the North Carolina game this fall, but that was largely at the request of Jerry Kill.

But today he made a move that will forever have his name on it and this hiring decision may not make or break his tenure but it will certainly be one of the major moves he will make. This could sit at the top of his resume or at the top of his obit.

Since the news broke this morning there has been a lot of harsh reaction from the national media, while the move was largely accepted as the right move locally.

The argument really goes along the lines of wanting to see a program accomplish more and expecting more than mediocrity vs. unrealistic expectations. You can have a program that "expects" Final Fours every year, but there are only a few who won't be disappointed 99.9% of the time. Athletic Directors (and fans too) have to fine the right balance of expecting great things while not venturing into unrealistic territory before it is warranted.

There was very little reason to believe that Tubby Smith was going to take the program any further than he already has. And Norwood wanted to make a move. Many will ask if it was the right move and regardless of your opinion on the matter I'm telling you the only answer to that question depends on who he hires.

Would you rather have had Glen Mason or Tim Brewster for 2007-10? Forgetting all other scenarios, wouldn't you rather have had mediocrity and some bowl games over a couple of 1-11 seasons? The point is, if Teague makes a bad hire here, then this was a bad and expensive move. Of course he may make an outstanding hire and this go to the top of his resume as a gutsy move by a guy who has a plan and knows what he is doing.

Some are thrilled by today's events but swapping out a mediocre coach for the next great one is never as easy as we want it to be. This from ESPN's Eamonn Brennan is one of the better national stories on today's events where recognized that it was time for Minnesota and Tubby to part ways, BUT...

Frustrated Minnesota fans clapping along during this post should at least brace themselves for the other side of the coin: Minnesota is not a particularly desirable job. There are no practice facilities to speak of. It is cold. The Barn is charming, but 17-year-olds typically prefer futuristic and flashy to charm. Recruiting against the rest of the Big Ten is hard enough already, but now that Iowa is locking down more and more in-state talent and Iowa State is becoming a resurgent power under Hoiberg -- not to mention the huge money Nebraska is investing into its program right now -- well, let's just say Gophers fans ought to be realistic about what to expect. The ceiling is limited. It's a challenge.

There are some challenges, there are some benefits here at Minnesota. Teague has a big task ahead of him to sell the right guy on Minnesota. This is not the most desirable job available right now how the rest of the world views this job is vastly different than how many around here view it. Historically we make the NCAA Tournament a third of the time. Smith took this program from a bottom-tier Big Ten team and made the Tournament 3 of the last 5 seasons, with a win this year. While we may want more, someone who looks at this job objectively and in comparison to other open jobs may wonder why they should come to a program where those kind of results are going to get you fired. This firing was bold but it may make candidates think twice or at least ask questions they may not be asking about other institutions.

But it was Teague's decision and the handling of a basketball coaching search is not foreign to him. Based on his time at VCU and based on the foresight of he and Mike Ellis in creating the Villa 7, a basketball coaching search seems to be 100% in his wheelhouse. I firmly believe two things. Teague has a plan and hiring a basketball coach is something he is well suited to do. Because he nailed the Shaka Smart hire at VCU guarantees nothing. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future success. But he has laid plenty of networking work this his involvement in the Villa 7 program. This gives me some hope.

What is this Villa 7 you keep hearing about? From the program's web site.

In 2004, Villa 7 began as a forum where athletic directors could share ideas and meet with the country's elite assistant basketball coaches.

Approximately 20 athletic directors and 30 carefully selected assistant coaches attended the first meeting in Las Vegas. Each group recognized the benefit of the forum, and expressed interest in developing a multi-day symposium.

The success of the first symposium, held in Charlotte, N.C., led the Center for Sport Leadership at VCU and Nike to form a partnership based on this identical rationale: that we can positively affect the future of college basketball and help prepare the next generation of college basketball leaders.

What makes this interesting from a Gopher perspective is that this was the brainchild of Mike Ellis (Sr. Associate AD to Teague). So over their years at VCU Ellis and Teague were orchestrating this yearly conference/symposium for the best assistant basketball coaches in the country. This is where a relationship was cultivated with Shaka Smart. And if you look at the success stories on their site, there are a number of other former assistants who are succeeding as head coaches around the country who are Villa 7 graduates.

  • Shaka Smart
  • John Groce
  • Andy Enfield
  • Josh Pastner
  • Buzz Williams

Just to name a few recognizable graduates of the program.

Again, what does this mean for Minnesota? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. This whole thing all comes down to who will Teague hire! I really appreciate that Teague appears to have a plan. He doesn't want or feel the need to get help from a search firm. Why? Because he has a plan and he knows what to do in this situation. Will he pick from that short list above? Chances are unlikely. But the point is he has a Rolodex of coaches to call and I believe they will at least take his call. He has a plan, he has to sell this University to the right guy and then hire him.

Today was a big announcement and a bold move. Agree with it or not but the one that really matters is the next decision.