A conversation with Jim Resch quickly revealed the strength of his roots in southwest Minnesota. This came with several mentions of the three-hour commutes (with one stop) made to and from Lakefield to Minneapolis-St. Paul by Jim, his wife, Brenda, and various family members.
In Jim’s descriptions, these trips were always made to or from “the Cities.” And it was comforting to know that on the prairie, where high schools have shrunk, consolidated or gone away, and the number of farmers has dwindled, one thing that hasn’t changed from my days growing up in Fulda (32 miles northwest of Lakefield) in the 1950s and into the ’60s:
We’re still either “going up to the Cities” or someone is “coming down from the Cities.”
None of that “Twin” stuff in the southwest corner, unless you’re talking about Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew or Willians Astudillo.
So, it was, that daughter Teresa — the third of the four Resch children — had come down from the Cities in June 2013 to visit Jim on his 61st birthday.
“She was sitting right here on the couch where I’m sitting now,” Jim said on his cellphone this week. “And she got the call from Masai. One thing I remember her saying was, ‘Yes, I’m interested, but I’m not going to come up there to be a secretary.’
“That was Teresa right there … not loud but confident.”
Masai Ujiri had been hired as the executive vice president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors on May 31, 2013. Legend has it, the first call in an attempt to make a hire was to Resch, not for clerical work or office management but to be part of the basketball operation.
Resch left a job that she was enjoying thoroughly — senior operations manager for Ultimate Hoops at Life Time Fitness — and signed on with the Raptors. By May 2017, Ujiri was team president, General Manager Jeff Weltman was leaving for the Orlando Magic and changes in the front office led to Resch being named vice president for basketball operations and player development.
And two years after that, with Ujiri’s bold moves of bringing in Kawhi Leonard in a trade and firing a Coach of the Year (Dwane Casey) in favor of Nick Nurse, the Raptors became the kings of the Great North and the NBA on June 13.
Resch might have been the first woman hired by the progressive Ujiri, but a dozen women now work for the Raptors or their G League affiliate, Toronto 905, in basketball ops, team services, training and communications.
“The job has evolved in six years,” Teresa Resch said by phone this week. “It’s tricky even to describe it. There’s a new book called ‘Range,’ and it’s about generalists — people who do more than one thing, several things, for a business, for an organization.
“I’m one of those. My job is to try ensure that everybody that touches the Toronto Raptors can compete in a championship organization. I’m looking out for the organization, whether that means we’re hiring the right people, or taking full advantage of the people that we have.”
OK, that’s a bit mysterious for a 73-year-old sports columnist stuck in his ways, but it sounds as if Resch is the main liaison between the Raptors’ basketball and business operations. She’s not scouting players; more trying to assess what positive impact that a player (and others) can have on the Raptors beyond wins and losses.
That’s sort of the Resch family view, going back to the days when the four kids — Jeff, Sue, Teresa and Jason — were athletes, excellent students and cutthroat competitors in 4-H and FFA livestock competition.
Jim and Brenda had a house in Lakefield, but they both had grown up on farms.
Brenda Freeman came from the Starbuck-Glenwood area. And Jim still will tell you enthusiastically: “Brenda was the Minnesota Angus Queen and Minnesota Lamb Queen.”
The Resch kids hung out at Grandpa John Resch’s farm near Jackson and raised their animals there.
“Mostly lambs and hogs,” father Jim said. “The black-faced lambs that they showed were tremendous. Uncle Dave was able to buy a ram from Michigan State’s stock, and that busy ram created what we call our Michigan State line.”
That’s why the ewe lamb Teresa showed in 1994, her first year eligible by age to show at the State Fair, that brought home a 4-H champion’s trophy was named “Spartinia.’’
Teresa was a 6-foot-1 middle hitter and a standout on the Jackson County Central team that won a state volleyball title in the fall of 1999, her senior season. Resch also played for a state tournament team in basketball.
Resch was an all-North Central Conference volleyball player at Augustana. She also worked an internship in the conference office in Sioux Falls. This was 15 years ago and the NCC was being broken up, but Teresa received sage advice from league commissioner Mike Marcial:
“There is plenty of opportunity arriving for women in sports organizations. If you want that, go to grad school and get an MBA with a sports connection.”
Resch received her MBA from St. Thomas, the one in Miami. Teresa took every sports internship (mostly unpaid) that she could find in Florida. Her break came when she was working for Disney World Sports, and the NBA draft combine was held at the Orlando arena called the Milk House.
She met and impressed enough NBA people to be hired by the league office. She worked for the NBA from 2007 to 2011, with an emphasis on the “Basketball Without Borders’’ program.
“I met Masai at our Euro camp,’’ Resch said. “He was a clinician. And when he was there, he was involved and interested in every aspect of what went into these camps.’’
Resch returned to Minnesota in 2011 to take the Ultimate Hoops job with Life Time Fitness. John Thomas, ex-Gopher, NBA player (including Raptors and Wolves), longtime international player, was hired to lead the training for Ultimate Hoops.
He’s now working with the Wolves — a threefold job, making him a generalist. Earlier this week, Thomas and Resch were sitting at tables next to one another at the NBA Awards Show in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Teresa’s attention to detail is incredible,” Thomas said later. “She’s smart, calculating, strategically fantastic with numbers, and has great vision toward the future. I don’t know Masai, but the fact he was quick to hire Teresa told me he was a sharp guy long before the Raptors won a championship.”