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Continued: Wild GM: Coach's choice was surprise

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 12, 2009 - 10:01 PM

It should not have been a surprise to see Jacques Lemaire step down as Wild coach. He did it before in Montreal after the 1984-85 season, and after the 1997-98 season at New Jersey, when he led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 1994-95.

But Wild president Doug Risebrough said he was surprised in the way Lemaire quit, telling the Wild beat writers after a season-ending victory in Columbus that he wasn't coming back next season.

Risebrough expected that he and Lemaire would wait a couple of weeks, then have a meeting as they have done after other seasons.

"I did not know Jacques was going to quit; he did not say anything to me," Risebrough said. "I had a feeling that he had made up his mind, as he said [Saturday] with the media.

"... We had had no discussions about this. We didn't talk about it, because Jacques is all about the team ... and doing the right thing, and it wouldn't be the right thing to talk about this stuff before. But the fact that he said he had made up his mind started me to think that he knows the right time.

"I've always said this, Jacques is not only the brightest hockey mind I've ever worked with, he's maybe one of the smartest individuals. And I knew he would know when the right time was going to be. And, I've just got to say, I am so appreciative of Jacques staying as long as he did. I think it was the right thing."

Risebrough said he hadn't been looking ahead to who would replace Lemaire.

"But I can tell you, I've got a great, great perspective on what coaching is, [and who] the next coach should be, because of Jacques Lemaire."

Won't change Gaborik

Risebrough was asked if the resignation of Lemaire would have any effect on Marian Gaborik's decision to either stay with the Wild or opt for free agency.

"I haven't had any conversations with [Gaborik]," Risebrough said. "The plan was to keep him and get him back and see what we could do in making a run for the playoffs and, ultimately, he came back. And once he got his confidence, he produced for us and gave us a good chance to win.

"Marian had said he's leaning toward free agency. I think I kind of knew that when September came around and we couldn't sign him for the amount of money that we offered him [a long-term extension at about $8.5 million annually]."

With the slow economy and no doubt some fans wondering if they should renew their season tickets, this was not the right time to lose an important cog in the machine in Lemaire (although some fans think it was time for a coaching change). And then you wonder if the attendance will drop if Gaborik leaves, which right now seems to be a cinch.

As for the new coach, don't discount the possibility of Kevin Constantine -- the coach of the Wild's AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros -- getting the job. Looking back to some of Risebrough's comments when he hired Constantine in May of 2007, you have to believe he will get serious consideration.

As for Lemaire, look for him to go with a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I don't believe he thought the Wild was one of those teams. Montreal is, if Lemaire wants to take on the pressure a hockey coach is under there. And his former teammate, Bob Gainey, is the Canadiens' general manager.

Jottings

Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self said at the recent first- and second-round NCAA tournament games here that the Gophers and Kansas were talking about a home-and-home series and there was a report out of Lawrence, Kan., that it was set. But KU senior associate athletic director Larry Keating said the schools have talked, but no agreement has yet been reached.

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster was asked how Sam Maresh is doing in spring practice. Maresh is the former Champlin Park star who had open heart surgery last June and some problems after resuming workouts because of scar tissue in his left calf. "He's going 100 miles per hour," Brewster said. "He's in the mix and playing linebacker. He's doing a hell of a job. He'll definitely be able to play."

Brewster said there is a big battle at center between sophomore Ryan Wynn, junior D.J. Burris and sophomore Trey Davis. And senior Jeff Tow-Arnett, who had knee surgery last season, also will compete for the spot when he returns. The 6-5, 291-pound Wynn was a starter at right tackle last season and this spring was switched to left tackle while also working at center. Davis is spending time with the track team this spring, working in the weight events. ... Brewster added if there has been a surprise this spring, it would the kicking of junior Eric Ellestad.

The Gophers have five verbal commitments for 2010. They are Woodbury linebacker/running back Lamonte Edwards; Irondale offensive lineman Jimmy Gjere; Proviso East defensive back Antoine Lewis of Maywood, Ill.; Hartland (Wis.) Arrowhead quarterback Tom Parish, and Schofield (Wis.) D.C. Everest linebacker Konrad Zagzebski. Parish's father, Steve, and grandfather, Frosty, both were quarterbacks at Wisconsin.

Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson was asked the status of wrestler Jake Deitchler, who earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic Greco-Roman team and first said he wasn't going to attend Minnesota and then changed his mind? "He's still out at the Olympic training center in Colorado," Robinson said. "He is training right now for the world team. Then he'll back here this summer. ... He'll be in school in the fall. He will be a great one for us at 157 pounds."

Robinson said he didn't hire a replacement for top assistant coach Marty Morgan, who left the staff to train former Gophers wrestler and ultimate fighting champion Brock Lesnar, but just promoted all of his coaches. ... Robinson also said there is a chance to get a new wrestling facility built in the Bierman Building.

Jon Leuer, the former Orono star and now a sophomore forward at Wisconsin, was named to the Big Ten All-Academic basketball team.

Gopher Illustrated reports that Everette Pedescleaux, the former Armstrong Mr. Basketball candidate and multisport athlete who enrolled at Minnesota and then transferred to Northern Iowa to play basketball and football, is getting some attention from NFL teams. The 6-6, 305-pound athlete blocked six kicks in football in his UNI career.

Kit Beikmann, a senior on the Gophers men's gymnastic team, has been named a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award, which is the Heisman Trophy of men's gymnastics. ... Gophers gymnastic coach Mike Burns is president of the College Gymnastic Association.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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