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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.

Richard Pitino

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.”

Worth Noting

Is it possible ex-Gophers center Daniel Oturu has fallen in NBA mock draft projections because scouts are concerned about his history of injuries with both shoulders? NBAdraft.net, for example, once ranked the Woodbury native as a top 10 choice in the 2020 draft but now projects him as the last player to be chosen in the first round, going at No. 30 to the Boston Celtics.

All-Big Ten junior Gophers point guard Marcus Carr, who withdrew his name for the draft this summer, needs to improve his shooting to draw more serious interest from NBA teams.  He made .393 percent of his field goals last season (.361 on three-pointers).

Liam Robbins, the Drake transfer who will replace Oturu, is drawing interest from Gophers fans and he should including for his shot blocking.  Last season Robbins ranked No. 4 nationally with a 2.91 blocks per game average.  Oturu ranked No. 21 averaging 2.45.

Various media reports last week had Rick Pitino, father of Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino, watching the U.S. Open from his nearby house at Winged Foot Golf Club.  Pitino is also a member of the historic club in suburban New York City.

Here is another indictment of the Vikings’ ineffective offensive line that has contributed to two quarterback sacks and a 0-2 record: Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. have to focus on blocking to help the interior crew, rather than receiving (they have two catches each).

Look for the Vikings to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2013 with a win at U.S. Bank Stadium against a mediocre 2-0 Tennessee Titans team.  It will be a miracle if Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski beats the Vikings with a field goal after booting the game winner twice in the last two minutes of Tennessee’s opening games.

In the latest S.I.com NFL power rankings the Vikings, a preseason favorite to win the NFC North Division, are at No. 23 among 32 teams.

Front Office Sports reports FOX is willing to spend $2 billion to maintain its rights to Sunday NFL games that include exposure in the nation’s three largest TV markets, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  The present deal cost $1.08 billion.

Twins closer Taylor Rogers earned the save last night in Minnesota’s 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers that pulled the team within a half game of the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central Division race, but he gave up a run and is struggling this season with a 4.34 ERA (last season 2.61).

Minnesota is 10-1 in September Target Field games and a MLB-best 22-5 playing at home this season.

Bloomington-located Total Sports Enterprises is promoting an October 2 private signing of Joe Mauer items.

Former University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler turns 64 today.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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