Golden Gopher Men's Basketball Coaches All-Time Golden Gopher Men's Basketball Coaches
L.J. Cooke 28 seasons 250-135-2
Known as the father of Golden Gopher basketball, Dr. Cooke was hired in 1897 to manage the physical education department and direct the new gymnasium. He is the winningest coach in school history.
Cooke was the physical director at the Minneapolis YMCA before coming to Minnesota. In his 28-year tenure, the longest for any U of M basketball coach, Cooke led the Golden Gophers to three Big Ten titles (1911, 1917, 1919) and two national crowns (1902, 1919). He coached nine All-Americans, including Minnesota’s first, center George Tuck (1902). Cooke stayed on at the U as a professor and assistant athletic director until his retirement in 1936. In 1938, the university honored him, naming the new athletics administration building Cooke Hall.
Harold Taylor 3 seasons 19-30
Taylor undertook the difficult task of succeeding Cooke in the fall of 1924. A former high school coach and Cooke’s assistant for one year, Taylor and his teams enjoyed tremendous fan support, exceeding the 2,000-seat capacity of the Armory and moving to the 6,000-seat Kenwood Armory. Despite the attendance, Taylor did not have a lot of success on the court. His best season was the 1924-25 campaign when the Gophers finished sixth in the Big Ten, and he was let go two years later for not producing enough wins.
Dave McMillan 18 seasons 196-156-0
Known as the “Canny Scot,” McMillan came to the University of Minnesota in 1927. He played basketball at Oberlin College for two years before turning pro with the New York Celtics.
After his playing career ended, McMillan spent seven years as head coach at the University of Idaho before coming to Minnesota. Known for their tight ball control, strong defense and passing, McMillan’s Gopher teams earned a share of the Big Ten title in 1937 and second-place finishes three other years. McMillan ended his first stint at the helm in the spring of 1942.
McMillan was reappointed Minnesota’s head coach in the summer of 1945. He benefited from several promising newcomers and returning war veterans and led the Golden Gophers to two 14-7 seasons. The 1947-48 season was less successful (10-10), and McMillan asked athletics director Frank McCormick to assign him different duties. One of the most popular coaches in school history, more than 300 people attended McMillan’s retirement party in 1948.
Carl Nordly 2 seasons 17-23-0
A professor of physical education at Minnesota since 1935, Dr. Nordly was named head coach in August of 1942. An all-conference athlete at Carleton College, he earned his master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia.
Nordly’s coaching style was much different than McMillan’s as he allowed his players to shoot more. He guided the Gophers for two seasons before resigning in January of 1945 to serve as a civilian consultant on athletics for the U.S. Army in Paris.
Weston Mitchell 1 season 8-13-0
Mitchell coached the Golden Gophers for one brief season before McMillan returned from World War II. Gopher star John Kundla’s high school coach, Mitchell struggled to an 8-13 record and a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten as many of the best players had enlisted in the war.
O.B. Cowles 11 seasons 147-93-0
A Browns Valley, Minn., native, Cowles was named head coach in the spring of 1948. A star athlete at Carleton College, Cowles began his coaching career at Dartmouth where he led the Big Green to seven league titles. He then coached Michigan to the 1948 Big Ten title before returning to his home state.
While at Minnesota, Cowles guided the Gophers to two second-place Big Ten finishes and coached two-time All-Americans Jim McIntyre and Whitey Skoog.
John Kundla 9 seasons 110-105-0
A former Golden Gopher basketball star, Kundla returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1959 after 11 years as the head coach of the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers. In 1995, Kundla was named to the NBA Hall of Fame.
While at Minnesota, Kundla became the first coach to open up recruiting to a national scope. He guided the Golden Gophers to six upper-division finishes and coached three All-Americans, including Lou Hudson, in nine seasons before he retired in 1968.
Bill Fitch 2 seasons 25-23-0
Fitch made a brief stop at Minnesota before embarking on an illustrious career as an NBA head coach. Fitch had spent three seasons at North Dakota and one at Bowling Green before coming to Minnesota. In 1970, he was named coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fifth on the NBA list with 999 career coaching victories, he has won two Coach of the Year awards and one world championship (1980-81 with the Boston Celtics). He spent 25 seasons as an NBA coach, most recently with the L.A. Clippers.
George Hanson 1 season 11-13-0
An assistant under Kundla and Fitch, Hanson spent one season at the helm. Hanson, who played guard for the Gophers in the 50s, led Minnesota to an 11-13 record and a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten in his only season as head coach.
Bill Musselman 4 seasons 69-32-0
In only his first season, Musselman led the Golden Gophers to their first Big Ten title in 35 years. He also led that 1971-72 team to the school’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
A virtual unknown who had coached for six seasons at Ashland College in Ohio, Musselman became known for his intense, energetic style of play and the flashy pregame show his teams put on. The coach with the best all-time winning percentage (.683) in school history, Musselman left Minnesota in July of 1975 to coach the San Diego Sails of the ABA.
Jim Dutcher 11 seasons 190-113-0
Dutcher came to Minnesota in 1975, leaving Michigan where he had been an assistant for three seasons.
A two-sport athlete at Michigan before a knee injury ended his career, Dutcher got into coaching his senior year. He then spent six seasons as the head coach at Eastern Michigan before returning to Michigan as an assistant coach.
While at Minnesota, Dutcher guided the Gophers to the 1981-82 Big Ten title. Third on the school’s all-time career wins, he resigned midway through the 1986 season.
Jimmy Williams 1 season 2-9-0
A longtime Minnesota assistant, Williams was named interim coach for the final 11 games of the 1986 season after Dutcher resigned.
An all-league performer at Ashland College, he followed Musselman to Minnesota in 1971. Known as a tremendous recruiter, Williams left Minnesota after the 1986 season and spent several years as an assistant coach under former pupil Flip Saunders with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Clem Haskins 13 seasons 111-100-0
Minnesota’s third-longest tenured coach in school history, Clem Haskins was the head coach at Minnesota for 13 years.
A standout player at Western Kentucky and later in the NBA, Haskins began his coaching career at his alma mater in 1980. In 1986, he left the Hilltoppers to become the Golden Gophers’ head coach.
Dan Monson 7+ seasons 118-106-0
Dan Monson coached the Gophers from 1999-2006. Monson, a graduate of the University of Idaho, led the Gophers to one NCAA appearance in 2005 and four NIT apperances including a trip to the NIT Final Four in 2003. Monson’s best season was 2004-05 when the Gophers posted a 21-11 record, a 10-6 record in the Big Ten and tie for fourth place in the league. The Gophers lost to NCAA finalist Illinois in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Monson, who previously guided Gonzaga to an NCAA Elite Eight appearance, coached seven games into the 2006-07 season before resigning.
Jim Molinari 1 season 7-17-0
Jim Molinari took over for Dan Monson seven games into the 2006-07 season after Monson resigned. The former head coach at Bradley, Molinari won his first game vs. Arizona State and his first Big Ten game against Purdue. An injury to center Spencer Tollackson in the second Big Ten game at Wisconsin forced the starting center to miss eight games. The Gophers were 2-6 during that stretch. Molinari was replaced by Tubby Smith in March of 2007.