Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey earned All-Big Ten honors yesterday. Well deserved awards for two of the best players to play for Richard Pitino over his 6-year tenure as Minnesota’s head coach.
Which got me wondering what would it look like to compile an “all coach team” for each of the last three Gopher coaches. Dan Monson, Tubby Smith and Richard Pitino have combined for 20 seasons of Gopher basketball. We obviously love to celebrate when we have multiples of 5 and I think we can throw out the Clem Haskins years for a couple of reasons. One, many of the best players should have never been admitted and even if you get past that...I think those teams would dominate. Willie Burton, Voshon Leonard, Kevin Lynch, Bobby Jackson...were not only all-time great Gophers but combined for more NBA seasons than all Gophers since. And all of them belonged to Clem, along with a few other guys drafted in the first round.
But what fun to compare the tenures since Clem by looking at the All Coach teams of each head coach. In the case of players who crossed over I first gave them to the coach who had them longer (Dan Coleman played 3 for Monson, 1 good one for Tubby, but Monson gets credit for recruiting and developing for most of his career). If the player had 2 for each, he goes to the coach who had him for the final 2 years.
Dan Monson (1999 - 2007)
Best B1G Finish: 4th (2004-05)
NCAA Tournament Record: 0-1
Monson was given 8 seasons in the wake of the scholarship reductions and other NCAA sanctions. In those 8 seasons Monson was able to get to the NCAA Tournament just one time and was let go early in his 8th season. He did have some great players, highly drafted players and then he had some difficulty winning with those players (for various reasons). While he did manage to navigate Y2K but 1 NCAA Tournament in 8 seasons wasn’t enough.
But here is who we think would constitute the All Monson team.
G - Vincent Grier - 1st team All B1G, - 2nd team All B1G
G - Michael Bauer
F - Kris Humphries - 1st team All B1G
F - Rick Rickert - 1st team All B1G. - 2nd team All B1G
F - Joel Przybilla
Bench - Dan Coleman
Bench - Kevin Burleson
Two things really stand out for this 8-year run. Damn, did we have some posts! Rickert, Humphries and Przybilla all were drafted and the latter two names combined for 26 NBA seasons. But Monson also really needed to find some guards, or he might have had a much longer tenure.
Now to be fair, those big men presented some personality conflicts and some of these teams struggled internally. So it is not just as simple as saying that if he had a guard or two, they would have been in the hunt for Final Fours. But damn, did we have some big men.
My least favorite player of the Monson years is Dusty Rychart, for the record.
Tubby Smith (2007 - 2013)
Best B1G Finish: 6th
NCAA Tournament Record: 1-3
Taking a high-level look at the Smith years, it was better than Monson’s and in his six seasons he took the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament half of the time.
G - Al Nolen
G - Blake Hoffarber
F - Austin Hollins
F - Rodney Williams
F - Trevor Mbakwe - 2nd team All B1G (x2)
Bench - Lawrence McKenzie - 3rd team All B1G
Bench - Damian Johnson
Now we move from strength along the frontcourt to being really strong on the wing. Tubby was never able to land that big man to be a force in the Big Ten. Ralph Sampson III, Mo Walker showed flashes but never showed any consistency for various reasons and the Tubby Smith years saw it’s best players in the range of SG to SF.
In my head I associate Andre Hollins with the Tubby era, but according to the rules I set forth, he falls to Pitino since he played his final two years for him.
Good guard play always helps win at this level and Tubby had much more of it than Monson. That fact and not having recruiting restrictions certainly helped him to a more productive record and a few NCAA Tournament appearances.
My least favorite player of this tenure is Chip Armelin.
Richard Pitino (2013 - current)
Best B1G Finish: 4th
NCAA Tournament Record: 0-1 (with game pending in his 6th season)
Pitino’s teams have been very up and down. The highlights include winning the NIT in his first year and having a really good 2016-17 season where the Gophers finished 4th in the Big Ten and earned a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament. But his tenure also includes a couple ugly seasons like the 8-23 year where they finished with just 2 Big Ten wins.
G - Nate Mason - 1st team All B1G
G - Andre Hollins - 3rd team All B1G
F - Amir Coffey - 3rd team All B1G
F - Jordan Murphy - 1st team All B1G, - 3rd team All B1G (x2)
F - *Reggie Lynch
Bench - Akeem Springs
Bench - Daniel Oturu
Bench - Dupree McBrayer
This looks like the most balanced team of the three with one of the best point guards, power forwards and small forward that we’ve seen over these 20 years. But Pitino’s recruiting of talent is really marred by misses as much as his hits. Misses and a couple off-court issues that led to transfers makes one wonder how his teams would have worked out with more sustained talent at guard. But you have to also give him full credit for Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy.
So, I like this group an awful lot. There certainly may be some recency bias here, but this group is really really good.
Joey King gets recognized as my personal least favorite player of this era. He, much like Dusty would not have been playing were there not a couple years of major recruiting misses that left these guys as the best (read, “only”) viable options.
*internal discussion that Lynch should not be included due to the nature of his off the court issues. This is valid and we are in no way celebrating Lynch in this space, but he is being included more as a comparison of the talent brought in by each of the coaches in their tenures.
While looking at the three teams above it is interesting that I would probably put the Tubby Smith All-Coach team clearly in third place. Yet he was the most successful of the three. Pitino’s team vs Monson’s team would be an interesting one.
For even more fun, here would be my All-20-year Team.
G - Nate Mason - Pitino
G - Amir Coffey - Pitino
F - Jordan Murphy - Pitino
F - F - Kris Humphries - Monson
C - Joel Przybilla - Monson
Bench - Andre Hollins - Pitino
Bench - Trevor Mbakwe - Smith
Bench - Al Nolen - Smith
There is clearly room for debate about who belongs on these teams and where. Please do share you opinions below.