Reusse: Past Gophers basketball teams deserve to be celebrated by today's standards

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Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune
·4 min read
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The current state of men's college basketball causes this recommendation to long-standing Gophers fans: Put aside all sheepishness for the successes that have occurred in the half-century since Bill Musselman turned Williams Arena into the place to be in Twin Cities sports in the winter of 1971-72.

The brawl with Ohio State that occurred on Jan.25, 1972, wasn't exactly a public relations triumph for Musselman, the young coach brought in from Ashland (Ohio) University, but if it's ever brought up, you can mention this reality to hockey-loving friends.

Musselman took over a largely ignored attraction and, in fewer than two months of action, he had a Barn-buster vs. the Buckeyes that attracted more media and attention in the Twin Cities than did the NHL All-Star Game being played on the same night at Met Center.

The Muss won the Gophers' first Big Ten title in 35 years in 1972, let one get away in 1973, had a team destined for greatness in 1974-75, and then was chased to the ABA by an NCAA investigation.

It has been advertised as a massive list of infractions. A large hunk involved the "green car," an Oldsmobile that a grand character and St. Cloud car dealer, Bill Klein, donated to the program. The NCAA cited a violation most every time the Olds left the parking lot.

The only way the NCAA catches a coach these days is through the FBI and, even then, most of them continue to work. I mean, Chuck (The Rifleman) Person gets fired as an assistant at Auburn for some skulduggery, and Bruce Pearl is rehabilitated as coach of the Tigers?

There's an affidavit that Zion Williamson's family received 400 grand before he went to Duke, and Mike Krzyzewski is allowed to claim ignorance and continue as the game's Sultan of Ego?

Musselman should have been given a contract extension for not actually buying all of his players Oldsmobile 442 muscle cars.

Jim Dutcher replaced Musselman and faced NCAA probation. Dutcher's second team, the Gophers of 1976-77, led by Mychal Thompson and Ray Williams, went 24-3, including 15-3 in the Big Ten.

They were ineligible for a recently expanded NCAA tournament because of the Green Oldsmobile scandal. Later, the season was declared a forfeit — 0-27 and 0-18 — when it was revealed Thompson and David Winey had sold complimentary tickets.

The Gophers should have been praised: At dozens of other schools, a player as great as Thompson would have been getting thousands placed in a bank in his Bahamas homeland, rather than reduced to selling tickets for extra cash.

Nothing is more outrageous than the deriding of Clem Haskins' outstanding efforts with the Gophers — including the Big Ten title and Final Four in 1996-97 being listed as "vacated."

Office worker Jan Gangelhoff's circulated papers for a number of Clem's athletes, including her famous report on the menstrual cycle worth at least a B in health class, and thus the season never happened?

There have been twofold changes in the 20-plus years since that alleged scandal:

One, the Gophs now brag incessantly about academic success, with Gangelhoffs unneeded as tutoring staffs guide the lads seamlessly toward B's; and two, when North Carolina gets caught with two decades of organized academic fraud, the NCAA comes up with a phony excuse not to act.

And I haven't even gotten into the idiocy of booting Mark Hall — the Ray Williams-replica on the Dutcher team that won the Big Ten title without him in 1981-82 — out of school because he made a few phone calls on a university credit card.

We're applying the standards of 2021 to many previous happenings in our land. Let's do exactly that with Gophers men's basketball and start Ben Johnson's head coaching career with these promotional winners:

Put up Clem's banners at halftime of Game 1. Retire Mychal Thompson's number at halftime of Game 2. Retire the number of Bobby Jackson, the hero of the Final Four run, at halftime of the Big Ten opener.

Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing sports@startribune.com and including his name in the subject line.