Legendary former Vikings coach Bud Grant is going back to his roots. On Wednesday, he will be honored in Superior, Wis. — where he was a three-sport high school athlete — by the Hometown Hall of Famers, presented by Allstate and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Star Tribune's Michael Rand caught up with Grant on a number of subjects earlier this week:
Q You've received the highest award in football by being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I imagine earning an honor based on your high school prowess is still special.
A It is, because when we're that age we have young, fertile minds. I happened to be in high school during [World War II], and in high school you create memories you have forever. Someone will say, 'Do you remember that [Vikings] game in 1977,' and I can't remember any of it. But if you say, 'Do you remember that game from high school," I remember every one of those. You're imprinted in high school more than any other point in your life.
Q You played football, baseball and basketball in both high school and at the University of Minnesota. How important was it to you to play three sports?
A I happened to be in a position in Superior where I could play three sports, and when I came to Minnesota I had the understanding they would allow me to play three sports. Kids now don't have the same amount of time. You have coaches that think baseball is 10 months a year. Hockey is 11 or 12 months a year. You have to go to the weight room every day to be a football player, and that takes away from the other sports.
Q I read that as much as we know about your long football career and basketball background with the Lakers, your first love might have been baseball. Any regrets there?
A Going back to the 1940s, you have to remember baseball was No. 1. Everybody knew Babe Ruth. Everybody played baseball and knew baseball. You know what No. 2 was? Boxing. … But even today, not many guys jump straight to the Major Leagues. You have to go through that ladder to get up there, and I found out pretty quick that I didn't particularly want to ride those buses to play baseball. I could play in the [NBA] and play with the Lakers and win a world championship.
Q You coached your first game for Winnipeg in the CFL at age 29. Any advice for new Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino, who is only 30?
A There are so many things involved now in terms of recruiting a kid, keeping him in school, your desk has things on it every day. There are so many elements that go into coaching that have nothing to do with on the field or court. I think Pitino has that background with his dad, the jobs he's had and the people he's dealt with. I feel he'll do a really good job at Minnesota.
Q The last time the Vikings had three first-round draft picks before this year was 1967, your first year as coach. How do you think they fared this year with the picks?
A Hopefully they'll be as good! We had Clint Jones, Gene Washington and Alan Page with the first three picks. If they turn out as good as those guys, we'll have a leg up going in. … We already have good players, and these guys augment them."