The University of St. Thomas announced today that John Tauer will become its head coach of men’s basketball after serving as interim head coach for the 2011-12 season.
Tauer, who went through formal interviews earlier in April, was a four-year standout player and 11-year assistant at St. Thomas before directing a successful season as interim coach in 2011-12.
The St. Paul native and 1991 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate was appointed interim coach in May 2011 after the retirement of head coach Steve Fritz shortly after the 2010-11 Tommies won the NCAA Division III championship.
Fritz guided UST men’s hoops to a .708 winning percentage, 594 victories and 16 MIAC regular-season championships in his 31 seasons.
Tauer becomes the 22nd head coach in St. Thomas’ 106-year varsity history but just the third since 1954 following Tom Feely (1954-1980) and Fritz (1981-2011).
UST graduated four starters from its 2011 national title team, then the lone returning starter was lost last December with a season-ending knee injury. Yet Tauer was able to guide St. Thomas to a share of the conference title and the MIAC playoff championship. The Tommies, who finished 22-7, won an overtime game on neutral court in the NCAA playoffs before losing on the road to eventual national champ UW-Whitewater.
St. Thomas became the first program in 60 years to win or share seven consecutive MIAC men’s basketball championships. The Tommies’ 105 victories over the last four seasons are the most in Division III.
“I am ecstatic to be the head men’s basketball coach at the University of St. Thomas,” Tauer said. “This is a dream come true for me. This university and this basketball program are both very special to me. I started attending St. Thomas games with my parents when I was six years old, and now my sons Jack and Adam love attending our games.”
Fritz, who continued as the St. Thomas director of athletics, said Tauer is a dream candidate. “John Tauer is a wonderful fit to guide our men’s basketball program moving forward,” Fritz said. “He understands the university and our Division III philosophy. He’s earned the respect of his players and his peers in coaching and is a tremendous ambassador for St. Thomas. We know he’ll be very successful as he carries on the tradition of Tommie basketball.”
PHOTO: Steve Fritz (left) congratulates John Tauer at Monday's news conference (Mike Ekern photo)
Tauer said that St. Thomas basketball is like a family and he credits many for their contribution.
“I am indebted to Steve Fritz, who coached me for four years, and who I served as an assistant coach for 11 years,” Tauer said. “Steve has been a tremendous mentor, role model, and friend. I am also thankful for all of my wonderful colleagues in the Psychology department who have been outstanding to work with the past 12 years, and to all of the members of the athletic department who I now get to interact with and learn from on a daily basis. We are also grateful to President Dease, Dr. Mark Dienhart, Mark Vangsgard, and Dr. Jane Canney for their dedicated support of UST basketball.
“I want to acknowledge our assistant coaches. Jon Hughes, Don Johnson, Tommy Fritz, B.J. Viau, Mike Keating, and Jim Hayes have all been instrumental in our success. They contribute so much to our program, and in the development of our players. Each of them brings a plethora of skills to help our players and our program.
“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge all the former Tommies, guys who played before and after me, my teammates at UST, and the players we have coached the past 12 years. They have laid the groundwork and set the bar high for our expectations of success. They are outstanding examples of the balance of excellence between academics and athletics. Our alumni network is one that we take great pride in, and is a group of individuals that continues to give back to UST Basketball in myriad ways.
“Our priorities and mission in the basketball program have been and will continue to be Faith, Family, Academics, and Athletics. We encourage our players to honor the first two and excel in the last two as we strive to be at the top of the MIAC, to be prominent nationally, and to help our players develop and excel personally and professionally. The confluence of academics, athletics, and career preparation are a special foundation that serve as the incubator for our players to grow intellectually, socially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally during their time at St. Thomas.
“I am blessed to have had two different positions at St. Thomas that allow me to blend two of my passions -– teaching psychology and coaching basketball,” Tauer explained. “My situation has been unique in my work as a college basketball coach because the motivation research I conduct is closely tied to the courses I teach and the work we do as basketball coaches. “I am blessed to have the opportunity to coach and teach at a university so committed to developing outstanding people. As a staff and program, we share that commitment as we pursue excellence on the court, and in working with and developing outstanding student-athletes.”
Tauer, a 1995 St. Thomas graduate, was inducted into the UST Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001 and was a CoSIDA Academic All-American with the Tommies. He’s the lone individual from the MIAC to both play and coach in Division III men’s basketball Final Four tournaments and play and coach on 20-0 conference finishers. He was an All-MIAC player, first team All-West Region, and as a senior led the 1994-95 Toms to a school-record 27-0 start, including an MIAC championship with an unprecedented 20-0 record. Tauer ranks 14th in career scoring (1,219 points) and 15th in career rebounding (482) at St. Thomas, and was the school 3-point leader until 1999-2000. He ranks sixth on the all-time MIAC 3-point list. He also helped the 1993-94 Toms to a berth in the Division III Final Four.
This summer, Tauer will conduct the 18th-annual Johnny Tauer Championship Basketball youth instructional camps.