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Monday, July 26, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 159

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Rice's Willis Wilson going nowhere, Dan Monson hired as Minnesota's new head basketball coach

Cougar Sports Services

Dan Monson was hired Saturday as the University of Minnesota's new men's basketball coach one month after the school bought out the contract of former coach Clem Haskins following an academic fraud scandal.

It was reported that Willis Wilson was being interviewed for the Minnesota position earlier last week. Wilson has been coaching UH's cross-town rival Rice since 1992.

Wilson was most likely being considered for the job because of his impressive run with the Owls for the past seven seasons. A true Rice Owl at heart, he has been a part of the university's basketball tradition for 16 years as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

It is believed that Wilson turned down the Minnesota job after being interviewed.


 
 
 


Willis Wilson, Rice's seven-year haed basketball coach, was interiewed for the vacancy at the University of Minnesota, but reportedly turned it down.

File Photo

Monson, 37, led Gonzaga to a 52-17 record and consecutive West Coast Conference titles in two seasons as coach. His last Gonzaga team eliminated Minnesota from the NCAA Tournament last season, then advanced to the regional final before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut.

Monson will receive a seven-year base salary of $150,000 per year and an outside package that is worth another $340,000 annually.

Monson signed a 10-year deal with Gonzaga in April, but he assured Gophers fans that he wouldn't take the next available opportunity.

"It was well-known there with my administration that if I had an opportunity of a lifetime, that I have certain goals in my profession to move up," Monson said during a news conference at Williams Arena. 

"I feel that this is one of those opportunities of a lifetime," he said.

Monson, who had been in Portugal and Majorca while Minnesota was conducting its coaching search, called the move's timing "terrible.

"To be honest with you, it doesn't get much worse for me personally," he said. "But there is no good time to leave."

Monson takes over just weeks before Minnesota makes an exhibition trip to Europe, and less than three months before practice begins Oct. 15.

The basketball program also faces an uncertain future. The academic fraud investigation by independent investigators is expected to wrap up in September, and the university could face NCAA probation or sanctions.

Monson seemed resigned to some type of penalty.

"I know with this probation, the next coach here has to do things the right way," he said. "In that regard, I know I'm coming into a place that expects me to run my program the only way I know how."

UM president Mark Yudof said he was confident Monson could restore respectability. 

"I think coach Monson is outstanding," he said, "and he's the right person to grow the basketball program and take us where we want to go, and take us there (in)what I'll call 'the right way.'"

Minnesota bought out Haskins' contract June 30 for $1.5 million.

Utah's Rick Majerus, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders and Virginia Athletics Director Terry Holland were also reported to be candidates for the job. 

Each turned it down.
 

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