Monday, October 26, 2015

Flip Saunders Had Everything But Time!

I met Flip at an event on the University of Minnesota campus called Campus Carni shortly after he had been named the head coach at tiny Golden Valley Lutheran College. Of course, he was with his then girlfriend, Debbie Hoeft, his constant companion until yesterday.

For those of you who were around the University in the 60's, 70's and into the 80's, you probably remember Campus Carni. It was a big Greek fundraising event with lots of loud music; scantily clad dancers and an eight-minute skit between the loud music and dancing. It was a fun time for all and Debbie was dancing with the University's Dance Line.

I worked up the courage to go up to Flip and congratulate him on his new position. I also volunteered to be an assistant coach if he liked the idea. He told me he was interested in learning more about me as we had a great conversation.

The next three years during my assistant coaching position at GVLC were a lot of fun. I made some lifelong friends and learned to play backgammon and chess from Flip and his roommates, Dave Winey, Mike "Bones" Cervony, Brad Cosgriff and Kevin McHale.

I am attaching our first team picture when we had the youngest college coaching staff in the country! Flip, Bones and I were only twenty-two, and Dan Kosmoski was only twenty-one! One of our players, Doug Moore was twenty-three and fresh out of military service. All of the coaching staff were still in college ourselves!

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

Bones is in the back row right behind Flip and Kos is immediately to the left of Bones. Several of those players went on to become very successful businessman in their own right and Dan Kosmoski has been the head basketball coach at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota starting his twenty-second year. Last year he took his Oles to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Basketball Tournament for the first time in school's history!

I am proud to say we never lost a game in that tiny gymnasium that was overflowing an hour before each game to watch our pregame, synchronized warm-up program inspired by Bill Musselman in Flip when he played at the University of Minnesota.

Flip told me once, that he believed outside of the University of Minnesota's college basketball team, we were the greatest draw in the area for college basketball! I think he was right! It was fun being in that tiny gym for the three years I helped develop some fine young men. Two of them became All-American Junior College players and number 11; Hurdis Burns led the nation in scoring most of his sophomore year! He ended up in second or third averaging just less than thirty points a game. That was before the three-point shot!

Later that year, we won one game 144-68! Our last five players scored 44 points in 10 minutes because we were already at 100 and let them play for an extended period of time.

It was a fun time for me because I knew I was learning from a good coach who was on his way to the NBA one way or another. He took a long way in getting there, but Flip finally was putting the pieces in place to make the Minnesota Timberwolves a contending team.  He was putting together a winner he just needed a little more time.

He took a chance on me and I loved every minute of it. Flip's favorite story about me he has told many times was in one game he was arguing at an official's call and the referee told him to sit down and not argue anymore calls. If he stood up one more time the referee was going to throw him out of the game!

Flip turned to me and said, "If I get upset again, you go out and argue with the ref because you can't stand up!" He laughed every time he told me that story. 

I never thought I would be writing this blog because Flip was one of those coaches who was going to retire late in his life after the fire in his belly was gone. I do not think that fire would have ever left him. I know he was excited about his new draft choices, returning veterans and trades he had made.

I know Sam Mitchell will be a very good replacement. It will just not be the same.

I believe this picture Kevin Garnet posted says it all when he stated, "Forever in my heart."

As always, click on the image to make it larger:

My best wishes go out to Debbie and their four children. It is still hard to believe he is gone!

I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I Love October!

If you like sports like I do, you may be in seventh heaven like I am! With the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs in full swing, the NFL nearing its halfway point and college football on every Saturday I am able to watch football or baseball every day.

College basketball will be starting soon as will the big guys in the NBA. I start my thirty-sixth straight season as a season ticket holder for Minnesota Gophers basketball team next month and I am excited to see what happens this year after a frustrating season last year. I just heard there is new information about the growing scandal at the U and hope it does not interfere with new allegations regarding the basketball program.

It is fun to be in The Barn those nineteen or twenty nights every winter when the place gets rocking! It is what keeps me in Minnesota!

Back to October: as you well know I tend to get sidelined when I start writing! With the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets dueling it out in the Eastern League Championship Series I am torn between which team I want to see win. Of the two New York teams I like to see the Mets do well; however, it has been over 100 years since the Cubs won the World Series and I am rooting for them to play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

On one hand, I would like to see the Royals win after coming so close last year. I also like the fact they are the champions of the American League North Division, which is where the Minnesota Twins play. That is a whole another story about how well the Twins improved from last year. I believe they are setting the groundwork for an exciting future with the hiring of Paul Moliter as their manager and the rookie players stepping up to play a great part of this season's success. I believe next year they will be very fun to watch. The fact they were in the Wild Card race until the second to last day of the season was a good indication of what is to come.

Meanwhile, the NFL has provided many exciting games already with a record number of overtime games already this season. Parity is definitely back in the NFL, which is the way it should be. Right now I can watch one, two and sometimes even three games in one day! 

Since I cannot play anymore, I have a lot of fun following and even coaching from bed while I watch a game. You may know I have been bedridden since June and have only recently been allowed to sit up for two hours at a time. That forces me to watch television while lying down. I use these prism glasses to watch the games. If you have never seen a pair of these classes, they allow me to watch at a 90° angle. I look straight up and can see the television at my feet. Here is what they look like:

As always, click on the image to make it larger.

I need to end this, as my two hours are almost up. I will lie down, take a nap and wait for tonight's baseball game. Have I mentioned yet how much I like October?

I look forward to your comments.