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What Does Mark Coyle's Hiring Mean for Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball?

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Mark Coyle was introduced as the new Athletic Director for the University of Minnesota.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Well, first and foremost, it means Richard Pitino has a new boss. This we know for sure. Mark Coyle was introduced as the University of Minnesota's next Athletic Director, replacing Norwood Teague, and more recently interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz.

If you're wondering why we have a picture of Mark Coyle behind a Syracuse logo-ed microphone, it's because he was the AD at Syracuse for a mere 11 months. The decision to hire Coyle will result in Minnesota having to pay $500,000 to Syracuse as a buyout of his contract. (I'm not sure if him leaving Syracuse says more about Syracuse or more about Mark Coyle. Either way, he's from Iowa so reportedly this is a move to be closer to family. And it's hard to argue with that.)

Coyle inherits an athletic department that's somewhat embattled and looking to transition. The University is in the middle of a fundraising effort to upgrade many of its athletic facilities (a practice gym for the basketball program is one of those upgrades). Teague kicked off the project; Goetz made progress toward the goal as the interim AD, but it's left to Coyle to cross the finish line.

He's also taking over after the embarrassment of Norwood Teague's behavior and exit. Beth Goetz served admirablyand by all accounts did a great job. (She was in the running for the permanent job. Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune wrote a column comparing her credentials to Coyle's.)

In the other notable sports programs on campus Tracy Claeys is the newly hired football coach, taking over after Jerry Kill's abrupt exit, and Coyle will also need to decide whether to extend the contract of Gopher Men's Hockey coach Don Lucia. So beyond hoops much is apparently in flux with the Gophers.

Then that gets us to Pitino and the Gopher Men's Basketball program. Richard Pitino is certainly an embattled coach, and now he must prove his worth to a new boss, one who's used to handling difficult situations. The basketball program has been a mess on the court. The Gophers lost a record 23 games last season, even though they were more competitive than their record suggests. The beacon is Pitino's recruiting class next season, led by local star Amir Coffey.

Off the court, the Gopher basketball program has been an even bigger mess and that's what Coyle will address. Whether the off the court issues are coincidences, or an indication of some larger cultural problem within the program, who knows? What's certain is that the incidents happened and regardless of the cause, they can't continue. No amount of winning absolves the lack of discipline off the court.

If that wasn't enough, Pitino himself has come under some scrutiny. An internal audit revealed that Pitino overspent on private jet travel in his second season, according to the Star Tribune. (It's worth noting that Norwood Teague approved the overages, but still not a great look.)

Also, Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune also published an article about the University of Minnesota Board of Regents taking back some power when it comes to making contract decisions within the athletic department. According to her reporting, Pitino's contract is partly the motivation for them to seek such power.

How does all this tie to Mark Coyle? Well, particularly with the Gopher basketball program, Coyle has a number of important decisions. He'll have to get at the root of the off the court issues. Are they a manifestation of a larger culture, or are they isolated incidents that just happened to fall within a short time period?

Reading between the lines, Coyle's not someone who'll make a quick decision about a coach or the direction of a program; he'll observe and get the whole picture. One thing is certain though: Minnesota will have to show marked improvement on and off the court next season.