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Gophers Grab Gonzaga Coach

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

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 Connecticut.

Monson will receive a seven-year base salary of $150,000 per year and an outside package 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, and I feel that this is one of those opportunities of a lifetime," Monson said during a news conference at Williams Arena.

Monson, who had been in Portugal and Majorca during the last month while Minnesota was conducting its coaching search, said the move's timing is "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 takes 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."

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

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

Minnesota bought out Haskins' contract June 30, the coach walking away with $1.5 million.

Utah's Rick Majerus, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders and Virginia athletic director Terry Holland were also reported to be candidates for the job. Each turned it down.

Monson said he didn't mind that he wasn't the school's initial choice.

"I don't know that it's what choice I was," he said. "It's that I was the choice."

Several Minnesota players on hand for the news conference said they were glad to see Monson hired despite having voted to endorse former Washington Wizards coach Bernie Bickerstaff to replace Haskins.

"One thing I wanted was a young coach because he's ot a lot of enthusiasm," said sophomore center Joel Przybilla, one of seven players who supported Bickerstaff, father of Gophers forward John Blair Bickerstaff.

Monson, who is getting married in Spokane Aug. 7, said he would stay in Minneapolis until Friday to meet with players and hire assistants.

It was just before the Gonzaga-Minnesota game that the Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported that Gophers players were involved in academic fraud. A former office manager in the athletic department's academic counseling office said she wrote papers for players.

Gonzaga officials declined to comment Saturday on reports that assistant coach Mark Few would replace Monson.

"We'll announce who it is on Monday," vice president Harry Sladich said.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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