Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck sprinted into his team’s locker room following their 17-7 season opening win over the Buffalo Bulls on Thursday and crowd surfed over his players. Fleck joined The Jim Rome Show on CBS Sports Radio Wednesday and talked about getting caught up in the excitement of his first win at his new school and never taking a victory for granted.
“I will always remember that. You always remember your first win,” Fleck said of the win. “The one thing I told our players I’ve learned over a long period of time, especially when you go 1-11 at one point in your coaching career, you can never take a win for granted.
“We’ve got a long way to go, we have a young and inexperienced team, but I want to make sure they always capture that feeling of winning and you’re going to celebrate it because you worked so hard to get it. It’s very hard to get, and I wanted to make sure they understood that.”
Fleck made it clear his team must improve if they expect to compete at Oregon State this Saturday.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better, especially with going out west, making the trip, and especially with the young and inexperienced team, a lot of these guys that are playing, this is going to be their first road trip,” Fleck said. “The results will be what the results are, very similar to how we rebuilt the culture at Western Michigan, it’s the same thing. We aren’t going to focus much about the results. We are going to focus on the process of getting the results down the road, but work on the little, internal parts, the fundamentals, the details that we can control, because that’s all we can control.”
For motivation this season, Fleck has used the movie Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. In particular, the “He chose poorly” scene where the films characters must choose which grail is the Holy Grail. They quickly find out that the correct grail isn’t the bright, shiny, and beautiful grail, but rather the simple, wooden carpenters grail. The 36-year-old head coach explained how that scene pertains to his football team.
“We haven’t won a championship, with all due respect, in 50 years. That’s a long time and we have to do things way different than we ever have,” Fleck said. “And this is not an extension off of years prior to me. This is a brand new culture, a different culture, year zero of a brand new culture. And when you look at the national championship trophy, or the Big Ten trophy, its very shiny. It’s very beautiful. It looks like an easy process, because everything is so clean, shiny.
“But beyond that and behind that is the day-to-day process, the cup of a carpenter, it’s not shiny. It’s one of the things that looks like its handmade, hand-carved. It’s not perfect, and that’s what we wanted to create.
Fleck says the team now has a big national championship display case with a little, old carpenter cup in it. “That’s our trophy,” Fleck said. “Every single day we got to go win that by our effort, our how, our vision, our process, and how we respond to the results we get.”
Another change that has been made under the new Fleck regime is the school’s custom-made Nike cleats that resembles his new culture.
“We have incredible people here at the University of Minnesota, so many creative young people to be able to take our vision and culture and run with it with creative people has been a blessing,” Fleck said. “These shoes, it’s kind of something we’re going to continue to do each game as we continue to go through the weeks and years. Sample those up and offer those up out to charity and raise a lot of money and do different things with them, because they really are art, and I think it’s really neat they can put that stuff on a shoe and I have no problem wearing them, that’s for sure.”