As bonin21 said on The Gopher Forum, “Two national championships, four WCHA regular season championships, three WCHA Final Five championships, four Big Ten regular season championships and one Big Ten playoff championship. It was a good run.”
But not good enough.
After 19 years at the helm of the Golden Gophers, Don Lucia is out.
Lucia’s run is similar to that of former DU bench boss George Gwozdecky who steered the University of Denver program for 19 years. He won back-to-back national championships in 2004 & 2005 en route to a sterling 443-267-64 record. Gwozdecky led the Pioneers to 12 straight 20+ win seasons (the ‘Tenzer Streak’ now sits at 17) and five consecutive NCAA appearances when his contract was not renewed by the Pioneers. Lucia had 457 wins and his own streak of six consecutive seasons with 20+ wins came to an end this year. He also led the Gophers to five out of the past six NCAA Tournaments.
The noise surrounding Lucia’s inability to make a postseason run, Minnesota recruiting woes, and falling attendance all played a role in his dismissal. And, no doubt, the rapid emergence of Penn State frustrated the tradition-rich Minnesota program. Finally, the addition of a strong Notre Dame program to the B1G shook Gopher fans as the Irish captured both the regular season and conference titles.
Unlike Lucia’s dismissal, George Gwozdecky’s ‘non-renewal’ came as a shock to many DU fans who were frustrated with early NCAA playoff exits but pleased with Gwozdecky’s overall results. Lucia still had one year left on his Minnesota contract.
There is an excellent article by Minnesota Public Radio which details the falling fortunes of Gopher Nation. First-year Northern Michigan head coach Grant Potulny, a former Gopher Assistant coach, is an early fan favorite to replace Lucia. Potulny spent eight seasons at Minnesota, where he helped the Golden Gophers capture six regular-season conference titles and qualify for five NCAA tournaments. But there are certain to be a number of coaching candidates who will be lining up for the job.