Incoming University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle has made the decision to extend men’s hockey coach Don Lucia’s contract for another two years, according to Patrick Reusse of ESPN 1500. That makes Lucia the team’s bench boss through the 2018-19 season.
The move isn’t entirely unexpected, even if there are some who haven’t been happy with the lack of national success for the program in recent seasons, particularly with the team missing the 2016 NCAA Tournament. But with Coyle just taking over in June and a number of tough coaching decisions at hand, giving Lucia a couple of years when the program has largely been successful takes one decision off Coyle’s plate.
Lucia will receive between $550,000 and $6000,000, with $200,000 of that in the "media'' category.
— Patrick (PJ) Reusse (@1500ESPN_Reusse) July 19, 2016
Lucia’s deal was set to expire following the upcoming 2016-17 campaign. Those questioning whether he’d be asked to stay on expect the team to be in the national tournament every year. The Gophers have won five straight regular season conference championships and made it to the NCAA championship in 2014, but the team has had many commits defect to other schools like UMD and North Dakota, and has also had many players leave early. The latter is to be expected with a program like the Gophers have built, but it hasn’t helped them reach the level many boosters think they should be at.
Ultimately, giving Lucia two years keeps a successful program moving forward and gives both Coyle and Lucia time to decide what comes after that, with many saying that it’s possible Lucia retires following the end of this new contract. Were that to happen, this would give Coyle ample space to assess who could be Lucia’s successor, whether that person comes from inside or outside the program..