In watching the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers play in the first round of the NIT tournament Tuesday evening, I couldn't help but think of former coach Clem Haskins. In fact Clem’s 1993 squad won the NIT championship, probably the only accomplishment not expunged from his coaching record.
Back in the day, Haskins was quite sensitive to criticism of his program. His biggest pet peeve was the media pointing out his team’s poor road record. Despite playing like a Final Four squad at Williams Arena, the Gophs often failed to reach a Mendoza line (a/k/a .200) winning percentage away from “The Barn.” So when the U of M opened the ’93 postseason with two wins at Target Center, Clem declared those victories “road wins.” In his mind, any game away from Williams Arena should be considered an away contest.
Fast forward to 1999. The Gophers got into the NCAA tourney as a #7 seed in the West Region, taking on #10 Gonzaga. They ended up traveling to Seattle for their first round contest. Since Gonzaga University also resides in the state of Washington, Clem suggested the Bulldogs were handed an unfair advantage being so close to home.
Yes, to this day I still miss Clem’s priceless logic. Even though the campus of Gonzaga University is approximately 300 miles from Seattle, it was as good as a home game for the Bulldogs. Ah, but if Clem’s team played five miles from the U of M campus, they were toiling on a neutral court.