Dutcher Contract Targets Gopher Job
Minnesota native Brian Dutcher has negotiated a revised contract to continue coaching the San Diego State men’s basketball team. The deal includes a near $7 million buyout if he departed for another school, but it has one exception: the University of Minnesota job.
The San Diego Union-Tribune offered details of the new contract earlier this month and reported the buyout to take the Minnesota job is $1 million. The $6.95 million opt out amount, the newspaper said, drops in succeeding years and will be expensive for either the Aztecs to fire Dutcher, or for another school to hire him—except if that program is the Gophers.
Dutcher, 60, is an alum of Bloomington Jefferson and the University of Minnesota. His dad Jim Dutcher, now in his late 80s, coached Minnesota to the Big Ten title in 1982. Brian is close to his father who every season travels to San Diego to watch the Aztecs. Brian comes back to Minneapolis each summer with his family and sees not only his dad but two sisters.
“I guess he’s putting it out there that Minnesota would be a pretty good place for him to go if the job opened up,” said Robbie Hummel, Big Ten Network and ESPN college basketball authority.
Hummel, the former Purdue star and Minnesota Timberwolves reserve, acknowledged the opt out clause for Minnesota is unusual. “I’ve never heard of a coach being able to negotiate a deal like that,” Hummel told Sports Headliners yesterday. “That’s sure interesting because if that were to happen it would be encouraging for Gopher fans because he did a heck of a job last year.
“But I do believe Minnesota has a really good coach right now in Richard Pitino—given the hands he’s been dealt, whether it’s injuries, suspensions. He’s put together some good teams in the league. …I think Minnesota’s got something pretty good right now.”
In the Union-Tribune story San Diego State AD John David Wicker said the Aztecs job is a better one than Minnesota but he understands the pull to go home for family reasons if a vacancy were to occur. Brian Dutcher also spoke on the record and said,
“It’s my school. Where I went and was able to be part of that basketball program with my dad. But it’s still a buyout. It’s not like it’s free.”
Dutcher’s team was 30-2 and ranked No. 6 in the nation before COVID put an end to the 2019-2020 college basketball season. His team appeared poised for a deep tournament run. USA Today named him college coach of the year. His three-year record as Aztecs head coach is 73-26 (.737 winning percentage).
Pitino, 38, starts his eighth season at Minnesota this fall. Two of his teams have qualified for the NCAA Tournament. His first Gopher team won the 2014 NIT. His overall record is 127-108 and 48-82 in Big Ten games. Only once has his Gopher team won more Big Ten games than it lost.
Critics have suggested for awhile that Minnesota AD Mark Coyle should make a change. With the possibility of program interest declining and ticket sales slumping even more, rumors had Pitino being dismissed last March and bought out of his contract, but issues caused by the pandemic, including financial hardship at the U, may have been why a change didn’t happen.
The Gopher job could also open up if Pitino decided to take over another program. During Pitino’s tenure at Minnesota his name has been linked to other major college positions.
If Coyle did make a change some time in the next few years, you can be sure the ability of the head coach to recruit will be top of the list. Dutcher has recruiting ties in talent-rich California and helped bring the great Kawhi Leonard to San Diego State when he was an assistant coach. While an assistant at Michigan, Dutcher was instrumental in the recruiting of the famous “Fab Five” freshmen class.
Hummel doesn’t believe Pitino is spending time thinking about Dutcher’s contract. “You just gotta worry about yourself. …I don’t think he’s worried at all about Brian Dutcher’s contract.”
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