DU’s Secret Sauce: Coaching Depth

Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics

DU added yet another National Coach of the Year winner this past week. Head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart was rewarded for her work with DU Gymnastics. Kutcher-Rinehart joins eight other Denver coaches who have won the award in their respective sports of hockey, swimming and diving, nordic and alpine skiing, soccer, and lacrosse.

When talking about DU head coaches, you have to talk about a deep bench and talent development. When Jim Montgomery left for the Dallas Stars, David Carle moved down the bench and immediately earned a trip to the Frozen Four.

When Jessie Mahoney left to coach volleyball at his alma mater in Boulder, assistant coach Tom Hogan moved into the role and led his team to three consecutive regular-season Summit League titles and NCAA Tournament appearances.

When men’s soccer coach Bobby Muuss left Denver to lead his alma mater, Wake Forest, assistant Jamie Franks slid into the role and went on a two-year regular season unbeaten streak that included a trip to the Final Four.

And, the worst kept secret on campus is lacrosse assistant head coach Matt Brown, Bill Tierney’s replacement in waiting.

Kutcher-Rinehart’s assistants, Linas Gavieka and Jay Hague, were named National Assistant Coaches of the Year and, if asked, she will quickly tell you they were a major reason for Denver gymnastics growth and success this past season.

The same goes for nearly all the other head coaches and assistants at the University of Denver –  a department filled with coaching talent.

Hiring top-notch head coaches and assistants, started by Peg Bradley Doppes and continued today under Karlton Creech, is why Denver will win the Directors Cup yet once again this year and stand as the best athletic department in Colorado and the best non-football athletic department in the country.

The secret is a deep bench – of coaches. Shhh…don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret.

2 thoughts on “DU’s Secret Sauce: Coaching Depth”

  1. Indeed. Coaching (and the recruiting of great players that they oversee) are probably responsible 75% of DU’s success, which is underpinned by the money DU spends to keep these coaches happy and successful.

    And make it 10 Coaches of the Year. DU’s tweet missed Ralph Backstrom, who led Denver to a Frozen Four in 1985-86, and won the Penrose Award as National Coach of the Year that season.

    The coaching problem in the modern D-I era for the Pioneers is men’s basketball coaches, most of whom have failed here:

    Marty Fletcher 1997-2001 .300 winning percentage
    Terry Carroll 2001-2007 .444 winning percentage
    Joe Scott 2007-2016 .525 winning percentage
    Rodney Billups 2016-Present .433 winning percentage

    In general, you get what you pay for…

    A big part of this failure rate is that DU does not pay top dollar for men’s basketball coaches, as they do for coaches in other sports. It is pretty much impossible for DU to fork out millions for a top men’s hoops coach, as other top schools hoops schools are able to do.

    With the budget they have, Pioneers can only get young coaches who haven’t made big bucks yet (e.g. Billups), a middle-aged coach moving up in divisions or laterally within D-I (i.e. Joe Scott or Marty Fletcher) or an older coach who will take what DU offers.

    In short, finding good D-I hoops coaches who are willing to come here appears to be a very tough assignment. There are some schools at the Summit League level who have managed to do it, but most of them don’t stay long…

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