During his tenure at Virginia Commonwealth University, Norwood Teague hired a man who would become one of the top young coaches in college basketball — Shaka Smart.
Smart, 35, led the Rams to the 2011 Final Four and back to the NCAA tournament’s second round again this year. Teague said the two developed a great working relationship in their three years together.
Teague already appears to be on his way to developing strong relationships with Gophers coaches. He met with many of Minnesota’s head coaches Monday morning and appeared to make a good impression.
“There’s nothing more important to me than to develop those relationships with the coaches,” Teague said. “It’s something that’s in my nature.”
Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill attended Teague’s introductory press conference Monday and spoke highly of his next boss.
“You get it or you don’t. He gets it,” Kill said. “He probably knows as much about what we need to do as I do. The guy came here on his own and walked around for two days. I’d say he’s done some pretty good research.”
Kill said he’s hoping Teague will support the football program and “give us the resources we need to compete at the highest level.”
The second-year head coach also said he wants upgrades to the academic center and strength programs.
Head men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith said he’s “fired up” about Teague’s hiring. Smith has lobbied for a basketball practice facility since arriving as head coach in 2007.
“I think [Teague] is the guy that can sell that dream,” Smith said. “He’s done it before, and he’s been in one of the top athletic programs at North Carolina and places where they have some great things.”
Smith also said he expects to receive a contract extension soon. Teague signed Smart to an eight-year extension at VCU in April 2011, weeks after the Rams’ Final Four run.
“[Teague] did the things that Shaka Smart needed and wanted done to retain him — which weren’t necessarily the salary but other areas, just like us,” Smith said. “We do pretty well financially, but in order to be successful, you have to recruit the best athletes.”
Fundraising for the school’s revenue sports will likely be a priority for Teague, but it’s unknown whether he’ll equally support the nonrevenue sports, which defined Joel Maturi’s tenure.
Teague said he “feels strongly” that as a Big Ten school, Minnesota needs to have a broad-based program.
“We have a strong women’s program here and men’s program, and I think 25 [sports] is the perfect number.”
Gophers head women’s hockey coach Brad Frost said he’s not concerned about losing funding or resources for his program.
“I think [Teague] understands the culture of intercollegiate athletics,” Frost said. “I’m very comfortable that he knows what he’s doing.”
Minnesota is barely a month removed from winning the 2012 women’s hockey national championship, but it struggled to fill the 3,400-seat Ridder Arena this season. Frost said he intends to speak with Teague about promoting the program.
“That’s certainly a hope … about finding a way to get more people in the seats,” Frost said.
Men’s head golf coach John Carlson said he thinks Teague’s marketing and business skills will be a great asset to the athletic department.
“I don’t feel like any of the sports are going to suffer,” Carlson said. “Actually, we’ll probably have bigger budgets moving forward.”
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