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University of Minnesota this year has assistant basketball coaches now making $175,000. Last year under Tubby Smith, not one of his coaches was paid over $125,000. Remember, Jimmy Williams was not permitted to be an assistant coach for Tubby Smith for some frivolous violation. And the university battled in court paying big money to keep Williams off the staff.

Athletic Director Norwood Teague fired Smith a year ago because Smith suggested the program needed a practice facility. Now the university has hired local legend Lou Nanne to lead the fundraising efforts for the basketball facility.

Now first-year Head Coach Richard Pitino — 17-11 and loser of six of his last nine games — is dealing with the reality of the program. He was given carte-blanche upon arrival by Teague and very little second guessing. His assistant coach, Kimani Young, is an ex-felon who was caught with loads of drugs — his background was he was a bag man for basketball shoe companies in New York with AAU basketball ties. Pitino, 31 years old, also ran off a 4.0 senior student-athlete basketball player who was not even on scholarship.

I ask who has more credibility — Williams or Young? The Pitino name has not been a magnet so far for recruiting blue chip local stars.

Who can forget the ugly side of the culture of the University of Minnesota? The great Sandy Stephens in 1960 was the first Black quarterback in the United States at a major NCAA school. He led the Gophers to a national championship and the 1961 Rose Bowl. And the U of M actually misspelled Sandy Stephens’ name when they were honoring him and selling tickets to announce his jersey being retired.

The late Dr. John Williams, one of the great all-time Gophers football players, was mistakenly introduced into the Gopher Hall of Fame as a wrestler. The great Charlie Sanders — one of the best ever Gophers and a Pro Football Hall of Famer — like Stephens and Dr. Williams, also for whatever reason has not been given the respect he has earned.

 

USA gets socked in Sochi!

The United States team of 230 athletes — the most of any of the 88 countries that competed in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi — failed to deliver, coming up short with 28 total medals. Russia, the host nation that spent $51 million to host the games, won the most medals: 33. The USA failed to medal in the individual figure skating competition for the first time since 1936.

Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Shani Davis called his team’s performance “The worst Olympics ever” — speed skating was a disaster. In hockey, the USA women blew a 2-0 lead with minutes left in the gold medal game losing in overtime to Canada. At least the women settled for bronze; the USA men were a major disappointment getting shutout by both Canada and Finland. It’s clear the rest of the world has gained on the U.S.

The United States Olympic Committee pays the U.S. Olympic athletes $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze medals. The Olympic Committee also coordinates the broadcast rights, licensing and trademark income, and corporate sponsorships. Russia paid their gold-medal winners $114,000 per medal. The Russians won 13 gold medals, the most of any country during the games.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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