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New coaches bring optimism to Gopher programs

In this age of 24-hour sports radio and fan Web sites, major college athletic teams are subject to second-guessing and ridicule from every angle. Former University of Minnesota coaches Glen Mason and Dan Monson spent their final years at the scho...

In this age of 24-hour sports radio and fan Web sites, major college athletic teams are subject to second-guessing and ridicule from every angle.

Former University of Minnesota coaches Glen Mason and Dan Monson spent their final years at the school constantly dodging criticism and calls for their dismissal.

Gopher football and basketball fans, whether justified or not, went after the pair with great fervor until both were fired this past winter.

In the beginning, replacements bring optimism and are often viewed as saviors. A fresh face can jumpstart a program and revitalize dwindling interest.

The new Gopher coaches have clearly established themselves in this manner. Excitement and positive attention returned almost immediately upon their hiring.

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It's interesting that despite sharing this common bond, their personalities are polar opposites.

Football coach Tim Brewster is the consummate salesman. His unabashed enthusiasm and energy immediately made him a popular figure among Minnesota's high-profile sports figures. Never at a loss for words and polished as a public speaker, he quickly became a media favorite with his upbeat quotes and willingness to communicate. Convincing promises of success have rallied the Gopher faithful. His pledge to lead the "Gopher Nation" to Pasadena and play in the Rose Bowl has made followers eager to get this new era started.

It should be noted, however, that he's not the first Minnesota coach to make this vow.

In the early '90's, former coach Jim Wacker forecasted similar triumphs, then led the team through five dismal years with no postseason appearances.

Brewster's dreams look a little more promising. The on-campus stadium currently under construction should provide the program a strong selling point to potential recruits.

I like the fact that he immediately established open lines of communication with the state's high school coaches. This glaring weakness of the Mason tenure caused some quality players to pursue college football at rival schools in other states.

As the new men's basketball coach, Tubby Smith brings a more sedate approach. An established professional, he lets his record speak for itself.

Winner of a national championship at the University of Kentucky, his years of success return immediate credibility to the Gopher program. Upon his hiring, the program has instantly drawn the attention of some highly sought-after recruits.

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With a dignified demeanor and a history of teams that give maximum effort, his style should be a big hit with fans in this state.

Like Brewster, he also has looked to strengthen relationships with Minnesota's high school coaches. He even arranged a private meeting with a few on just his second day in town.

How long will this honeymoon last? It's difficult to tell. Already there's been some negative publicity to create gossip.

Three football players were the subject of a rape investigation on the eve of the spring game two weeks ago, bringing immediate questions about team discipline.

Smith has faced some difficulties in trying to arrange a coaching staff, including one of his choices apparently being rejected by the university.

Both situations became the hot topics of radio shows and internet message boards upon public disclosure. The knee-jerk reaction of many was to bash the two coaches.

It's my hope these guys aren't judged too quickly. Above all else, they seem to be solid, successful people who are willing to work extremely hard to achieve their goals.

Although not right away, I'm betting they'll turn things around and bring these two sports back to the forefront.

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Let's hope Minnesotans show a little bit of patience.

Dave LeGarde is a Duluth East basketball coach and sports aficionado. Readers can e-mail questions and comments to dlegarde@charter.net .

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