Q&A with Coach Carroll

Well that was fun.

From Thursday to Sunday I got to enjoy four MIAC Playoff basketball games as my travels took me from  Concordia College in Moorhead to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. And fortunately, I got the entire Concordia-Saint John's men's hockey game on the radio on my drive across MIAC country. It was certainly an action-packed week of postseason action, and the fun doesn't stop there.

Our final MIAC Winter Playoffs begin tonight, as the puck drops on the 2012-13 women's hockey tournament. No. 5 St. Catherine swept St. Olaf to claim the final spot in the field, and the Wildcats will open the postseason at No. 4 Bethel tonight. No. 2 St. Thomas will host No. 3 Concordia in one of two Thursday semifinal games.

The other semifinal will feature MIAC regular-season champion Gustavus, hosting the winner of tonight's 4/5 matchup. The top-seeded Gusties completed just the second perfect romp through the MIAC regular season, going a perfect 18-0 en route to an unbeaten, 24-0-1 regular season and a No. 2 national ranking.

The conference championship is Gustavus' 12th overall, and the ninth in a row. This week, the No. 1-seeded Gusties will try to make it a 10-peat and win their 10th-straight MIAC Playoff title. With the Playoffs about to begin, the MIAC Media Blog caught up with Gustavus Head Coach Mike Carroll for another installment of our Championship Coach Q&A.

MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
Mike Carroll, Gustavus Women's Hockey

MIAC: First question, how does it feel to win another MIAC Women’s Hockey Championship? What are some of the qualities that helped your team win a share of the conference championship again this season? 

Gustavus Women's Hockey Coach
Mike Carroll
CARROLL: It feels good. I am sure most teams would have the goal of winning the conference at the top of their list, so in that regard, I am very proud of our team. But, it's not our only goal. We will put it on the back-burner for now and focus moving forward.

We have a group of players  that work extremely hard. We may not have all the best skaters, shooters, passers, defenders, save-makers, etc., but I am pretty confident Monday through Saturday nobody works harder for a common goal.

MIAC: Who are some of your players that have been catalysts for your success this season, especially some players that fans might not know about just from looking at the stats?

CARROLL: Well, It would not be fair to single out some and not others. It takes everyone from the top players to the role players, as it's a team sport. On top of that, our training staff and assistant coaches deserve a lot of credit.

MIAC: Your team graduated some excellent seniors a year ago, but have recorded an even better record in 2012-13. How were you able to replace some of the production and leadership your team lost a year ago? How has it felt to be ranked in the top two in the nation for nearly the entire season?

CARROLL: Every team graduates seniors, so it's to be expected that turnover happens. Those  seniors you are talking about collectively left their mark and set the example for the younger ones. They set  the table for those coming back, which really helps them step up their roles and, in turn, successfully  lead the new faces  to get on board.

It feels good to get some positive recognition from your peers, as it's a coaches poll. But, on the flip side, that's all it is. So in the big picture, it means very little.

MIAC: This year you won your 300th game, to go along with more than 300 wins as the Gustie baseball coach as well. At this stage in your coaching career, what do those milestone wins mean to you and the Gustavus program?

CARROLL: That's an interesting question, I'm not sure how to answer that. I guess for one, someone has to have faith in you to give you a chance to reach that milestone. Gustavus has given me  that opportunity. Our players have consistently  responded year in and year out, through thick and thin. On the other hand, I do take a extreme amount of pride in having a unique job. Not every women's hockey coach can say they are the head  coach in two sports.

Gustavus is going for its 10th-straight MIAC Playoff title.
MIAC: Looking ahead, give us a preview of the 2012-13 MIAC Women’s Hockey Playoffs. Last year you were able to beat a good Concordia team in the finals after a hard-fought semifinal game. What do you expect out of this year’s tournament?

CARROLL: Each year the tournament gets better and better. The Women's game continues to grow. What do I expect? We will have our work cut out for us no matter who our opponent is in the semifinals.

MIAC: Thanks a lot to Coach Carroll for joining us, congrats to the Gusties on another title, and good luck to all five teams in the 2012-13 MIAC Women's Hockey Playoffs, which begin tonight with No. 5 St. Catherine at No. 4 Bethel. Make sure to follow all the action of the women's hockey tournament on the MIAC's Playoff Page, and track all the scores and follow the action live on the MIAC Scoreboard, which will also feature links to live stats and broadcasts.

It's shaping up to be a fun week in the "State of Hockey!" Also ... fans should check out Gustavus' promotional video for women's hockey ... it's awesome.

Men's Hockey Q&A

Now that basketball has gotten the 2012-13 MIAC Winter Playoff season off and running, it's time for hockey to join the fun. The Men'sHockey Playoffs begin tonight (Friday, Feb. 22) with the No. 4 vs. No. 5 quarterfinal game. No. 5 St. Olaf visits No. 4 Gustavus tonight in a rematch of last weekend's regular-season final series, and the winner will join No. 1 St. Thomas, No. 2 Saint John's and No. 3 Concordia in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Tommies and Johnnies - longtime, storied rivals - actually shared the MIAC's regular-season championship with 21 points apiece in conference play. The two split their regular-season series. St. Thomas finished 10-5-1 in league play and Saint John's was 9-4-3, so the Tommies won the top seed in the tournament by virtue of more MIAC victories. Both teams will be on their home ice Saturday, as the Tommies host the St. Olaf/Gustavus winner, and Saint John's hosts Concordia in the other semifinal.

For the third-straight day, the MIAC Media Blog brings you another installment of Championship Coach Q&A. However, since there was two co-champions, you get to double down on a Q&A from each team's coach. St. Thomas' Jeff Boeser and Saint Johns' Doug Schueller off their thoughts on their co-championship regular season, and give us a look ahead to the 2012-MIAC Men's Hockey Playoffs

MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
Jeff Boeser, St. Thomas Men's Hockey

MIAC: First question, how does it feel to win a share of the MIAC regular season title for the second season in a row? What are some of the qualities that helped your team win a share of the conference championship? 

St. Thomas Head Coach
Jeff Boeser
BOESER: We feel very humbled and fortunate to share this title with Saint John's. Congratulations to Saint John's, they are really playing well. Our team defense and goaltending are the reasons we had the chance to get where we are.

MIAC: There was a ton of balance at the top of the standings this year, with five teams all having a shot at the title on the final day of the regular season. Was this the most balanced you’ve seen the MIAC at the top? Talk about the strength of the league. 

BOESER: I guess I've been part of the MIAC the longest, and this year eight of our nine teams had a chance to make the Playoffs going into the last weekend of the regular season ... unbelievable balance. It's the most balanced this league has ever been.

The league is a bit older now for most teams. I don't know the percentages, but it's a league where most of the players play one to two, and even sometimes three, years of juniors. They've played 60 games or more per year in juniors. The everyday grind, travel, traveling long distances and playing games makes them mentally and physically stronger, and mentally tougher. This is actually a much easier schedule than they played in juniors, with 25 games and travel - for the most part - is much easier.

That plays into the league's strength, and the coaching is so strong. All the coaches work hard and put a lot of time into recruiting. There are a lot of good hockey players out there.

MIAC: Who are some of your players that have been catalysts for your success this season, especially some guys that fans might not know about just from looking at the stats. 

St. Thomas stops a St. Olaf scoring chance at the
2012 MIAC Men's Hockey Showcase
BOESER: We do not have any superstars on our roster. We feel we have depth as far as good players who work hard. We work hard at trying to play good team defense.

Some players to watch on our team include our goaltenders: Ty Simcoe (soph.) and Drew Fielding (soph.) have both played very consistent for us. We feel we have a special defenseman in Michael Krieg (soph.). He works very hard at his strength and conditioning because he knows he has to log the minutes he plays. The heart and soul of our team is 155-pound Spencer Brendel (senior). He is our best defensive forward and top penalty killer. He also leads our team in hits.

We hope when fans watch our team, they will say that St. Thomas really works hard and they play the game the right way.

MIAC: Looking ahead, give us a preview of the 2012-13 MIAC Men’s Hockey Playoffs. Last year your team was the No. 1 seed, but lost a home semifinal to a hot St. Olaf squad. How has that experience prepared or motivated your team heading into this season's tournament?

BOESER: This year, I believe there isn't a favorite heading into the Playoffs. Whoever wins, I don't believe you call it an upset. There is only three points difference between the first-place teams and the fifth-place team. Teams are that even. Last year was last year, and a different team. All we can control - and we talk about it often - is our attitude and effort. Work hard, play hard and have fun. That's our simple motto.

MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
Doug Schueller, Saint John's Men's Hockey

MIAC: First question, how does it feel to win a share of the MIAC regular season title? What are some of the qualities that helped your team win a share of the conference championship? 

Saint John's Head Coach
Doug Schueller
SCHUELLER: It feels great for our guys and for our hockey program.  It has been some time since we have been part of a title (2005) and the guys have a lot to be proud of.  The qualities that help us are hard work, chemistry in the room and a group of guys that have all bought in to a certain way of playing the game.  We have all the guys on the same page and it is much easier to do that when you are able to show success within a system or identity.

MIAC: There was a ton of balance at the top of the standings this year, with five teams all having a shot at the title on the final day of the regular season. Was this the most balanced you’ve seen the MIAC at the top? Talk about the strength of the league. 

SCHUELLER: Our league is one of the most balanced leagues in the country.  Any team can win on any given night.  Look at Hamline and they finished at the bottom, but tied us and beat St. Thomas.  Every night is a challenge and, in a lot of ways, consistency in play wins out most of the time.  Last year was very tight as well, but not as tight at the top.  We always have had a tight league pretty much all five years that I have been here, but the log jam at the top is the tightest that I have seen.

MIAC: Who are some of your players that have been catalysts for your success this season, especially some guys that fans might not know about just from looking at the stats.

SCHUELLER: One of our best players from day one has been Phil Johnson who came to SJU right out of Duluth East High School.  He is a great player at both ends of the ice.  I would also say that our leadership has been great and not always recognized on the score sheet.  Tobias Linbro, Michal Palmiscno, Dave Mylrea, and Trent Johnson are all great leaders in their own way. Tobias could really be seen as an unsung hero, as he does everything for the team and sacrifices his body every game for his teammates.

Saint John's attacks the net against Bethel during the
2012 MIAC Men's Hockey Showcase.
MIAC: Looking ahead, give us a preview of the 2012-13 MIAC Men’s Hockey Playoffs. Last year your team lost a hard-fought semifinal game to eventual Playoff champ Gustavus. How did that experience help your team as you prepare for this year’s tournament, and how will home ice be a factor for the Johnnies? 

SCHUELLER: The game against Gustavus last year was a real tough game to swallow.  We had some great opportunities to tie that game up and we fell just short.  The experience will help us a lot as we now have that game under our belt and we know what it takes. 

Home ice advantage is always a question mark in our building, as our rink is comfortable for visiting teams because it is such a nice rink. Most visiting teams are excited to play on the larger ice sheet because they have more time and space, and it is tough to get a great atmosphere because it is a 6,000-seat facility and 20 minutes from campus.  With that said, we are 7-2-1 at home this season and we always feel confident with our white jerseys on.

MIAC: Thanks to Coach Boeser and Coach Schueller for sharing their thoughts with the MIAC Media Blog during a very busy week, and good luck to the Tommies, Johnnies, Cobbers, Gusties and Oles as the Men's Hockey Playoffs open tonight. Don't forget to follow all the action on the MIAC Men's Hockey Playoffs Page and the MIAC Scoreboard.

Hoops heats up
The MIAC Basketball Playoffs are nearing their completion as hockey begins. Tonight, No. 1 St. Thomas hosts No. 4 Carleton and No. 2 Concordia hosts No. 3 Augsburg in a pair of thrilling Men's Basketball Playoff semifinal games. Tomorrow, the No. 1-seeded Concordia women host No. 2 St. Thomas in the MIAC Women's Basketball Playoff Championship games. The men's title game follows on Sunday at 2 p.m. on the home court of the highest remaining seed.

I'm up in Moorhead for the Cobbers' men's semifinal tonight and the Championship tomorrow, then I'll head to the men's title game, wherever it may be, on Sunday. Follow all the action on the MIAC Scoreboard and Men's Playoff Page and Women's Playoff Page, and make sure to use the Twitter hashtag #MIACPlayoffs if you tweet from our games! It's a great time of year, and I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am. Safe travels to all the Playoff teams and fans, and good luck!

Q&A with Coach Rahman

The 2012-13 MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs continue tonight (Thursday, Feb. 21) with a pair of highly anticipated semifinal games. Though there were some nervous moments, No. 3 Saint Mary's and No. 4 Saint Benedict both won their quarterfinal games Tuesday to advance to tonight's round. The Cardinals will head to St. Paul to face second-seeded St. Thomas, while the Blazers are headed north to Moorhead to take on top seed and regular-season champ Concordia.

Though upsets are extremely fashionable in the college basketball postseason at all levels, it seems appropriate that the four teams left standing in the MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs are the Cobbers, Tommies, Saint Mary's and Saint Ben's. All four are in the 20-win club this season and each won at least 17 conference games, with just two game separating the talented foursome in the MIAC standings. It seems only right these four would get to have one last chance to settle the score with one another on the court.

Along with tonight's MIAC Playoff semifinal games, the newest feature in this space continues today as well with our second installment of the MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A. Concordia opens the postseason tonight after a tremendous 20-5 regular season with a 19-3 MIAC record that helped it claim the conference title by a single game over Saint Mary's and St. Thomas, and two games over Saint Ben's. Here's what Cobber Head Coach Jessica Rahman had to say about her team's success this season and a fitting "Final Four" in the MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs.

MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
Jessica Rahman, Concordia Women's Basketball

Concordia Head Coach
Jessica Rahman
MIAC: First of all, how does it feel to win the MIAC regular championship? What are some of your team’s qualities that made you so successful this year?

RAHMAN: I believe that the MIAC is such a tough, competitive league and winning the regular season championship is really a grueling test for teams. I feel excited for the team to be able to have a reward of this type for all their hard work. This year’s team is truly a team of friends that love the game of basketball and play off of each other’s talents and strengths. They have worked extremely hard at improving their own individual games and the overall play of the team. Their teamwork has gotten them to this point.

MIAC: Your team has a terrific pair of senior leaders in Trisha Sorenson and Emily Thesing. Talk about what they mean to your team, both in terms of their basketball skill, and their leadership.

RAHMAN: Emily and Tricia are both talented basketball players in their own rights. They have played a significant role in scoring, rebounding, playmaking and defending throughout their careers at Concordia. They also understand the value of hard work, and portray the necessity of that to the younger players on the team.

Emily and Tricia have been two-year captains for our team and have really grown into that leadership role. They each have their own leadership style which fits perfectly with their personalities. The way in which they have coordinated this season and worked together within each of their leadership roles has been significant in setting a great example for the younger players.  It seems that they know and understand that their leadership is not just about this season but seasons to come. They are carrying on the tradition of Cobber basketball.

Cobber senior Tricia Sorenson
(Photo courtesy of Concordia Sports Information)
MIAC: Talk about some of the other players who have been important to your team’s success, especially some players whose contributions might now always show up in the box score.

RAHMAN: The success of this team is based on those players who are willing to do the work and not really care about who gets the credit. This, “team first,” mentality has been crucial in allowing this team to get better every day.  I dare to say that this list could be very long…because I would include those kids who don’t see any playing time.

MIAC: Your team won the MIAC Playoff title in 2010-11. How will that experience help your team this week as it opens up postseason play?

RAHMAN: There are a few on the squad that got to experience that win and it has been their motivating factor to become the best players they can be. 

MIAC: It seems fitting that your team, St. Thomas, Saint Mary’s and Saint Ben’s are the final four in the MIAC Playoffs after all four teams had great seasons and battled one another. What are your expectations for the MIAC Playoffs the rest of the way, and what will your team need to do to be successful?

RAHMAN: The Playoff games will be no different than the regular-season games, in that all teams will be battling.  Each team is unique and has their special strengths. That is what makes it so competitive. No one team is exactly alike.

MIAC: Thanks to Coach Rahman for her time during a very busy week, and good luck to the Cobbers and all four teams still alive tonight in the MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs. I'm heading up to Moorhead to take in tonight's Concordia-Saint Ben's semifinal, as well as tomorrow's Cobber-Augsburg men's semifinal, and am excited for two more great nights of MIAC Playoff basketball. Remember to follow the MIAC Women's Basketball Playoffs on the event home page, and on the MIAC Scoreboard. The Championship Coach Q&A will return with another installment Friday, as both men's hockey co-champion coaches weigh in on their team's success and the upcoming Playoffs.

Q&A with Coach Tauer

Hello again MIAC fans!

The MIAC Media Blog returns today after a brief hiatus. I won't get into all the details now - I'm saving them for a Winter Playoff/Championship wrap-up - but let's just say things did not go smoothly from a technology standpoint at Swimming & Diving over the weekend. I was pretty sure I had the reverse-Midas touch, and anything I came in contact with was inevitably going to break. I bet you can probably guess now why we stopped having photo galleries after the first session...

Anyway, on to bigger and better things. Activity at the MIAC Media Blog is about to REALLY pick up with a new idea I had, that I think will be a great thing for our readers. Today's post is the first in a series of Q&A with the coaches of each of our MIAC Championship teams from this winter. Not only will it help put more of a spotlight on our league champs, but will also help preview our postseason tournaments (which began last night with women's basketball).

The 2012-13 MIAC Men's Basketball Playoffs start tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 20) with a pair of quarterfinal games - No. 6 Saint John's at No. 3 Augsburg and No. 5 Bethel at No. 4 Carleton - while regular-season champ St. Thomas and No. 2-seeded Concordia await the winners in the semifinals. Full details are available on the tournament home page, and fans can follow the action on the MIAC Scoreboard tonight, Friday and Sunday.

As I mentioned, St. Thomas will open the postseason as the No. 1 seed with home-court advantage on Friday. The Tommies aren't just No. 1 in the MIAC, they're also ranked No. 1 in the nation with a remarkable 24-1 overall record and a 19-1 conference mark. John Tauer is in his second season as UST's head coach (interim last year) and already has two MIAC titles, a MIAC Playoff title and a shot at another postseason championship this week.

Coach Tauer was gracious enough to be the first coach up in the rotation of the "MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A" series, with women's basketball coming tomorrow, the men's hockey co-champs both coming Friday and women's hockey coming next week. We'll also try to get Swimming and Diving next week, and Indoor Track and Field the week after. Here's the first installment of the series with lots of great insights from the St. Thomas coach.

MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
John Tauer - St. Thomas Men's Basketball

MIAC: The Tommies were expected to have a good team this year, but how high were your expectations? Did you think you’d be the No. 1-ranked team in the nation or clinch the MIAC regular-season title with two weeks left in the regular season?

St. Thomas Head Coach
John Tauer
(Photo courtesy of
UST Sports Info)
TAUER: Our players have been focused on this season from the day our 2011-12 season ended in the national tournament to eventual national champion UW-Whitewater. We came into the season with a vision for how we would play, trusting that the results would take care of themselves. Last year we were relatively young and inexperienced. This year we have become a veteran and experienced team and we feel confident that we can compete with anyone in the conference and the nation.

To win an eighth consecutive MIAC title is unprecedented, and an accomplishment that current and former players and coaches take a great deal of pride. The MIAC  is a well-balanced league, with solid teams from top to bottom. The schedule is demanding and the coaches throughout the league are excellent. We are thrilled to have clinched the MIAC title.

Being ranked No. 1 is a reflection of how others think, and so while it does not affect anything we do on the court, it is nice recognition of our players and program for a successful season to this point. It also sets the bar high as far as our expectations of ourselves each day in practice. Our players are intrinsically motivated to be the best they can be. Their work ethic in practice each day reflects that motivation.

MIAC: How does this latest MIAC regular season championship feel, and what has made your team so successful throughout the regular season?

TAUER: We are pleased with how we have played through most of the MIAC regular season. Our players have bought into hard work and unselfishness as our calling cards. They move the ball, defend well, and enjoy playing with each other. It's a joy to come to practice and games each day with players who are so committed to winning. Our senior leadership has been invaluable.

Will DeBerg's offensive firepower and improved defense have helped us in many close games throughout the year. Tommy Hannon provides an inside presence that allows us to be balanced on offense and tough inside on defense. Noah Kaiser is as versatile a player as I have seen this year. He can post up, initiate the offense as a point forward, guard multiple positions, all the while leading us in assists and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.

Drew Mathews is an unsung hero for us, setting an example for all players in our program about hard work, selflessness, and enthusiasm. Drew had hip surgery this summer and went through extensive rehab to be able to have a chance to play again this season with his teammates. Although his minutes are limited, Drew embodies so many of the qualities that are central to our program.

St. Thomas' John Nance
(Photo by Mike Ekern, St. Thomas)
John Nance is one of the top all-around players in Division III basketball. He can score from many areas, passes extremely well, and can defend multiple positions on the floor. John has stepped his defense up dramatically this year. In addition, he has become much more of a vocal leader. In sum, these five seniors, surrounded by a talented group of underclassmen, have worked hard together to get to a 24-1 record in the regular season.

Erik Tengwall has been a two-year starter for us and provides rock solid leadership and a steadying influence on the court. An excellent defender, Erik is strong with the ball, excellent in his decision-making, and respected by his teammates. Marcus Alipate and Conner Nord are two sophomores who are really like starters for us, with Marcus providing ball-handling, excellent shooting, and pressure defense. Zach Riedeman has played significant minutes for us all year off the bench and as a starter and he provides a scoring spark, 50-plus-percent shooting, and passion on both ends of the floor. Josh Pella and Dylan Stewart have provided sparks off the bench, as have two freshmen, Taylor Montero and Cortez Tillman, both playing beyond their years in terms of the maturity of their play.

We are at or near the top of the MIAC in most statistical categories as well as several national categories, reflecting a well-balanced attack. We don't have any players among the scoring leaders or rebounding leaders, yet we have many players who I think could be in those rankings under different circumstances. Our field goal percentage, assists, assist-turnover ratio, 3-point percentage and scoring margin are all among the national leaders. Statistics don't paint the entire picture of a team, but they certainly highlight areas of strength and weakness. I like that we are a well-balanced team that plays up-tempo with many ways to score and many ways to defend the opposition.

MIAC: Compare this team to the National Championship team of 2010-11. Are there any major similarities or differences?

TAUER: Our depth has been one of our hallmarks for the past several seasons. Before suffering several injuries this season, we were playing 12 players in most games. This depth can help wear opponents down, keep us fresh, and protect us from injuries. At one point, we had four of our twelve players in the rotation out yet we continued to play well throughout that stretch. The similarities with the 2011 team include depth, tremendous senior leadership, and a selfless approach to the game.

I also see similarities to our 2008-09 team that went 30-0 and was also ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing to eventual national champion Washington University. In 2009, Lonnie Robinson, Alex McCoy, BJ Viau, and Brett Tuma were seniors. In 2011, Tyler Nicolai, Alex Healy, Teddy Archer, Brady Ervin, and Anders Halvorsen were seniors. Experience, senior leadership, unselfishness, tough defense, and balanced offense are traits of many of the great teams we have had at St. Thomas.

MIAC: It’s your second year as the Tommies head coach after serving as a player and an assistant under Steve Fritz. What have you enjoyed the most about moving into the head coaching role, and has anything surprised you?

TAUER: In the same way that it was an honor to be a player and assistant coach, it has been a thrill for me to serve as head coach at UST. Playing and coaching for Steve Fritz was the best kind of training I could have had in preparation to be a head coach. Steve coached with principles and integrity, and this was reflected in both his record and the way his teams played for over three decades. I said when I took the job that nobody could ever replace Coach Fritz, but that I felt fortunate to have worked with him and learned so much from him. It is an honor to carry on the tradition of excellence in men’s basketball at St. Thomas, a program that I grew up watching as a child when my dad would take me to games, and now over four years as a player and thirteen years as a coach. Steve continues to be a wonderful mentor and friend and I feel fortunate that he is the athletic director at St. Thomas.

One of the biggest challenges of moving into the head coaching role is the management of the program, from budget to travel to assistant coaches. We have an outstanding coaching staff and much of our success is due to our assistant coaches who are tireless in their recruiting, coaching, and game preparation. 

Jim Hayes was a rival of mine at Hamline when we were players in the MIAC, and we coached against each other for many years when he was at Hamline and Carleton. It is Jim’s second season with us at UST and he coaches our half-court defense and coordinates recruiting. Jim has an excellent grasp of the game and his experience in the MIAC is invaluable in both recruiting and game preparation. Jon Hughes is in his 22nd season at UST. Jon coaches our full-court press and assists in game preparation and with our defense and recruiting. Jon started coaching with the JV at UST and his loyalty and dedication to our program and players over the past two decades are appreciated by coaches and players alike.

Don Johnson is in his ninth season with UST and helps in numerous facets of the program, ranging from game preparation to recruiting to offense to travel arrangements to player development. Don is the consummate team player, providing excellent perspective from his years of coaching high school and college basketball. Mike Keating was a star player for us at UST and is in his 2nd season coaching with us. Mike is responsible for film breakdown and also is critical in our game preparation, offense, and recruiting. Mike is an excellent young coach with a bright future. Along with our JV coaches, Tommy Fritz (UST ’98) and BJ Viau (UST ’09), our staff provides our players with growth and development on and off the court. I feel so fortunate to work with each of these coaches on a daily basis – they have made the transition to head coach a smooth one.

I have enjoyed the transition to head coach immensely. It is a new challenge, but at the end of the day, I have always loved team sports whether as a player, an assistant coach, or a head coach. We have a great group of players who put the team above the individual and it is a joy to go to practice each day. I love this job – it fits the old adage that if you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. The hours are long, but the rewards and opportunities to help our student-athletes make it well worth it.

MIAC: Look ahead and give us a preview of the 2013 MIAC Men’s Basketball Playoffs. Last year both the No. 5 and 6 seeds advanced to the semifinals, and we were treated to a great overtime championship game between your team and Gustavus. What can fans expect from this season’s postseason tournament?
TAUER: The MIAC is such a well-balanced and competitive league year after year that it goes without saying that the playoffs will be exciting. Last year there was a buzzer beater, upsets, and an overtime game in the finals that we were fortunate to win against a senior-laden Gustavus team. We expect a challenging game Friday night, regardless of the opponent. The third time around always magnifies adjustments and this time of the season always highlights depth and continual improvement over the course of the season.

Some of my fondest memories as a player and coach have come during this week of basketball. The national tournament is a joy to compete in, but there is a level of intensity during conference playoffs when rival teams are playing for the third time that is unique. We are excited to participate in the playoffs this week and look forward to a great crowd on Friday evening at UST!
MIAC: Thanks to Coach Tauer for being the first guest of the MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A, and good luck to the Tommies and all six teams as the MIAC Men's Basketball Playoffs open tonight. I'll be in attendance at Augsburg tonight, then on my way up to Moorhead for Concordia's women's and men's semifinal games as well, and am excited to see some great basketball and some serious Playoff atmosphere. Who needs March Madness when you've got MIAC Madness?

It's that time of year...

It's February. A month most people think of for its odd 28-day calendar and Valentine's Day. However, in the MIAC office, February is viewed quite differently. More like Armageddon.

During the month of February (and into March), we are at our busiest in the conference office. Right now, I'm working extensively with all three seasons - fall, winter and spring - while also preparing for our busiest three-week stretch of postseason events of the year. I know the Ghostbusters said you're not supposed to cross the streams, but in February, it's inevitable that tasks for all three seasons are going to overlap. Despite its hectic nature though, February is also a lot of fun, and basically non-stop excitement.

Here's a look at what I'm working on, by season...

As of yesterday, the full 2013 MIAC football composite schedule is now online. A request went out today to all volleyball and soccer coaches to submit their schedules as well, which begins a big process of compiling all the schedules and making sure all the dates, times and locations line up. I know the season won't start for seven months, but that time flies. Believe it or not, the biggest reason we try to get them done so early is officiating. The earlier we can get the schedules to our officiating groups, the easier it will be for them to staff all our games, and make changes based on their officials' availability. And yes, my eyes do start to get fuzzy after a few hours of excel documents and conflicting soccer start times!

This should be self explanatory. I spent some time this afternoon analyzing the MIAC Playoff scenarios in basketball and hockey, applying the coveted asterisks in the appropriate places and updating our Playoff Pages. It's amazing that four of the women's basketball bids have been locked up already, and there are just three teams fighting for the final two spots. Men's basketball and both hockey races are still a little more wide open, although men's basketball is the one sport to already crown its champion, with St. Thomas continuing its incredible season.

Also, we're coming up on what is likely our most involved event each year, the MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. If you're a MIAC fan and you haven't been to the conference meet, I seriously suggest checking out a session - particularly on Friday or Saturday evening. The U of M has a great pool, and it's a super exciting event from start to finish. If you can't make it to the U, check out our live webcast of all six sessions, or at least log on for a bit to get a flavor of the energy in the Aquatic Center. The event is three very long days, especially when you add in announcing our basketball and men's hockey Playoff fields on Saturday, but they are three very fun and very rewarding days, and the S&D coaches and student-athletes are a fun group to work with.

Spring has officially started in the MIAC with the first tennis matches of the season taking place over the weekend. Also, we'll be rolling out the MIAC Softball and Baseball Previews and Preseason Coaches' Polls this week. The first baseball games are a week away, with softball starting a little over a week after that. I know it feels odd to be talking tennis, baseball and softball when its barely above zero and we're getting snow on almost a daily basis, but all those teams' practices are in full swing, and the schedules will be full of matches and doubleheaders before we know it.

Quick hits...
-We're working to receive assurance from all our winter playoff hosts that we don't have any blackouts like the Super Bowl. I'm kidding, but as someone who runs athletic events as part of their job, I can't imagine what a nightmare that was for the good people of New Orleans. When Ravens' Coach John Harbaugh was yelling at a guy in a gray suit during the blackout, I was riveted, both because I wanted to know what he was complaining about, and I was thanking my lucky stars over and over that I haven't been the person getting screamed at because the lights suddenly went out in a huge game. I'm betting that guy wasn't an electrician, and Coach Harbaugh was verbally shooting the messenger. Suddenly live stat issues at baseball or webcast delays don't seem like such a big problem, so I guess I owe the Superdome a thank-you card?

-National Girls and Women in Sport Day will be celebrated tomorrow in Minnesota, with an event at the State Capitol in St. Paul at noon.  If you've never been, it's a great event that recognizes numerous individuals who have been trailblazers and advocates for the advancement of women in sports. It's great that several individuals with MIAC ties - including Augsburg's Marilyn Pearson Florian and Saint Benedict's Janna LaFountaine and Toni St. Pierre - will be honored tomorrow, especially considering its the 40th anniversary of Title IX.

If you want to know more, last week's MIAC Media Video Spotlight focused on National Girls and Women in Sport Day. Check it out here.

-Saint Benedict's Mike Durbin was on the MIAC MediaWeekly Podcast with host Mike Gallagher to talk women's basketball in the MIAC. If you missed it, or any of the first four episodes, catch up on them here.

-Feel free to leave a comment below with feedback, or email me with thoughts or questions or ideas for future blogs. I'd love to make this more interactive.

Happy February! March Madness has NOTHING on a Frantic February in the MIAC.