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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

It didn't take long for astute sportswriter from PA to get read on Fleck

David Jones is a sports writer for pennlive.com and the Harrisburg [Pa.] Patriot-Ledger. He turns out much copy on Penn State football and basketball, and also the Big Ten and the college games in general.

I actually wasn’t aware of David’s tremendous work until late on Tuesday night, but I now can say that, for me, Mr. Jones stands among the most-respected college sports observers in the nation.

Witty and insightful … an elite combination.

This revelation came when a Tweet appeared in my file that carried Jones’ traditional column in which he rated the effort of the 14 coaches at the Big Ten football preview that took place Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.

Jones listed the coaches from bottom-to-top, starting with 14-Lovie Smith, Illinois; 13-Chris Ash, Rutgers; and 12-Paul Chryst, Wisconsin.

About those three, my long-distance impression of Lovie has been his engagement with coaching the Illini rivals me with home repairs, and I couldn’t have come up with Chris Ash in 20 guesses as a Rutgers football coach, and all the boring Chyrst can do as a football coach is take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.

And then comes No. 11 on Jones’ list: P.J. Fleck.

For full appreciation of Jones’ analysis, I must include some local knowledge used by that distinguished sports writer from Pennsylvania: The York Fair is held annually in September and is the oldest fair in America, dating to 1765 in York, Pa.

This was Jones’ assessment of the new Gophers football coach:

11. P.J. FLECK (Minnesota).

“I’m pretty sure I bought 25 super-absorbent towels from this guy. He was wearing a head mic at the York Fair and he targeted me walking by and wouldn't leave me alone. So, I just eventually bought his product so he'd stop talking. Who knew he'd become the Minnesota head football coach?

“Look, I love enthusiasm. It's enthusiastic duplicity I can't stand. You know it as 'BS.' And this guy deals in it. He's a slicker version of Tim Beckman {note: formerly Illinois] who can also coach a little, so there's no telling how far he can go in this biz.

“My favorite part of Fleck's spiel as the opening act on Tuesday morning (yes, the audience was accosted with this at 8 a.m. CDT) wasn't his pretending to tell one of his four kids not to hit his sister through the TV screen (cute) or his honoring of Jim Tressel as his role model (perfect) or the detailing of legal acquisition of his 'Row The Boat' mantra from his prior stop at  Western Michigan (it was an honor to bring it to Minnesota) or his explanation of why he's having ESPNU do a reality show on the season (it was their idea).

“No, my favorite part was his description of how delighted his old offensive line coach from WMU was when he learned he'd been demoted to tight ends coach -- because he'd hired Ed Warinner who was just cut loose by Urban Meyer at Ohio State. See, the holdover guy's 'eyes lit up' when he learned that he could learn from the incoming vet. That's just the sort of selflessness he has on his staff.

That.my friends, is not a BS dispenser. That is a BS artist.’’

This was an accurate assessment on David Jones, even if it was a bit too generous toward Fleck. I mean, our guy was mentioning that he was the Gophers’ third head coach in three years, and any English-speaking humanoid would have referred to this as a need for stability.

Fleck came up with “cultural sustainability.’’ He’s a cartoon character. No wonder the rational Oregon boosters said, “Keep him away from here,’’ when Fleck tried to barge into the picture for that job last December.

They like the Ducks out there, but apparently not Daffy Duck.

Reusse: Kundla, Mikkelsen were a tandem that couldn't be topped

The Minneapolis Lakers won a championship in six of their first seven seasons, 1948 to 1950, and then 1952 to 1954. It is very likely they would have won seven in a row, if center George Mikan had not broken an ankle near the end of the 1951 regular season, and tried to play while hobbling around in the playoffs.

The Lakers lost 3-1 in a best-of-5 series in the Western finals vs. the Rochester Royals, a team that then defeated the New York Knicks in seven games for an NBA title.

What do we old-timers say on occasion? “That was before my time.’’

The glory years of the Lakers were before my time. I was 8 when the Minneapolis Lakers won their last championship, beating the Syracuse Nationals in a Game 7 on April 12, 1954.

There are glimpses of sports events before that, by my first vivid memories occurred that fall: losing 50 cents to my Uncle Harry betting on 111-win Cleveland against Willie Mays and the New York Giants in the World Series, and being located in the end zone of an overflow crowd for the Gophers’ famous 22-20 victory over Iowa on Nov. 13 at Memorial Stadium.

I had been 9 for a month by then, so maybe that’s why I still can see clearly Bob McNamara’s kick return vs. the Hawkeyes. Go, Bob, go … keep going.

The other part of this absence of memory is that the Lakers were very much a Twin Cities thing. On the prairie of southwestern Minnesota, we fretted over Gophers football and closely followed baseball in all its forms – 16 major league teams, the Minneapolis Millers, and the town-team Fulda Giants.

I knew more about what was happening with the Milwaukee Braves (once they arrived from Boston in 1953) than the Minneapolis Lakers. And while I don’t remember specific games played by Paul Giel, I recall the disappointment in Fulda when he finished a narrow second to Notre Dame’s Johnny Lattner for the 1953 Heisman Trophy.

Baseball and Gophers football … and oh, yes, the state basketball tournament. Those were the preoccupations in Fulda, while the Lakers were winning championships.

My full appreciation for those Lakers came three decades later, when I started having conversations and writing occasional columns with John Kundla and Vern Mikkelsen as central characters.

I was taken by the great friendship between a former coach (Kundla) and Mikkelsen (player) from the Lakers glory.  It was a wonderful twist of fate that, after a long wait, Johnny and Mick were inducted together into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. in 1995.

John’s friendship helped to comfort Mikkelsen when Jean, Vern’s wife of 47 years, died in 2002. Mikkelsen’s friendship did the same for John when Marie, his wife of 65 years, died in 2007.

They went in the Hall of Fame together. They were honored together by the Los Angeles Lakers in the arena for a few grand days around L.A. Kundla and Mikkelsen would talk of the generosity of the Buss family with such gratitude that you knew it was a memory that would last forever.

Mikkelsen died on Nov. 21, 2013, at his home in Wayzata, at age 85. His son John was with him. Before his death, his grandsons Kyler, 12, and Caden, 10, talked with Mick  by phone from their home in Phoenix.

“It was beautiful,’’ John Mikkelsen said.

John Kundla returned a phone call to me from his apartment at Catholic Eldercare the next morning.

“Vern died … that’s terrible news,’’ Kundla said. “He was the gentle giant. Funny, too. He bragged about coming from the Rutabaga Capital of Minnesota. What was the name of that little town?’’

Askov.

“That’s right,’’ he said. “With the Lakers, we had a play called Askov that we ran all the time.’’

Kundla continued with family, other friends and bingo rivals at Catholic Eldercare. He reached 100 on July 3, 2016, and the milestone was marked with large stories in newspapers and prominent sports Websites around the country. The New York Times went full out with a piece on John a couple of weeks before he turned 100.

I offered this warning to John when visiting for the Star Tribune’s piece on his 100th birthday: “I wrote a column on Edor Nelson, the football coaching legend at Augsburg, on his 100th birthday, and Edor died a couple of weeks later.’’

John laughed and said he would try to avoid that jinx He made it another year, 101 on July 3, but there had been recent health setbacks and on Sunday, surrounded by much of his large family, John died in the early afternoon at Catholic Eldercare.

Karen Rodberg, John’s daughter, described the peacefulness of the event for her deeply religious father, and it sounded beautiful.

Mick and Johnny … grand friends, grand gentlemen.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Sioux City at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at L.A. Dodgers

    9:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Sioux City at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Lynx at Atlanta

    6:30 pm on FSN, 106.1-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Saints at Sioux City

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Oakland

    9:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • D.C. United at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29, 1500-AM

  • Saints at Sioux City

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Oakland

    8:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    2:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Oakland

    3:05 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Seattle at Lynx

    6 pm on FSN/NBATV, 106.1-FM

  • Saints at Lincoln

    6:45 pm on 1220-AM

  • Saints at Lincoln

    6:45 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at San Diego

    9:10 pm on FS1, 96.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

  • Chicago White Sox

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    2

    7

  • Cincinnati

    NY Yankees

     

    - F

    2

    4

  • Houston

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    5

    0

  • Milwaukee

    Washington

     

    - F

    8

    0

  • Oakland

    Toronto

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • LA Angels

    Cleveland

     

    - F

    7

    11

  • Kansas City

    Detroit

     

    - F

    3

    1

  • Baltimore

    Tampa Bay

     

    - F

    4

    5

  • Miami

    Texas

     

    - F

    4

    10

  • Colorado

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • Atlanta

    Arizona

     

    - F

    8

    3

  • Minnesota

    LA Dodgers

     

    - F

    2

    6

  • NY Mets

    San Diego

     

    - F

    6

    5

  • Boston

    Seattle

     

    - F

    5

    6

  • Pittsburgh

    San Francisco

     

    - F

    3

    11

No NFL games today

No NBA games today

No NHL games today

No MLS games today