Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He previously covered the Minnesota Vikings for four years, starting in 2008. In addition, he covered college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
I knew all about Pat Summitt before I first met the legendary University of Tennessee women's basketball coach as a student reporter in 1990.
By then, her program was a national power and she had become a powerful presence in my home state. My high school gym teacher Zandra Morris played for Summitt so I heard many stories about how tough and demanding she was on her players.
I witnessed that firsthand on one of my first assignments at the UT student paper. I was working on a feature on a player, I can't even remember who now, but I do remember that Pat didn't like the tempo or energy at practice so she kicked her team off the floor early. She was not happy. I sat in the stands nervously wondering if I would get my interview or what kind of mood she would be in even if I did.
Summitt pointed at me, asked me to follow her and we went to her office. She proceeded to give me a wonderful interview. She was engaging and funny and insightful. It was, in essence, classic Summitt.
I recalled that story today after hearing news that Summitt has stepped down as coach after being diagnosed with early onset dementia last August. The news was not unexpected but it comes with great sadness for anyone who loves college basketball, or, like me, understands the impact Summitt has had on the Volunteer state.
Too often in sports we use the terms legend and icon loosely, but in Summitt's case it absolutely applies. She served as UT's head coach for 38 years. Think about that for a second -- 38 years.
She won eight national championships and 1,098 games. She led her team to 18 Final Four appearances and, according to the AP story, every player who completed her eligibility left UT with a diploma.
Pat -- that's what her players call her even -- made women's basketball popular inside my home state at a time when the sport received little support or fanfare elsewhere. She always conducted herself with class and her teams reflected her personality: they played incredibly hard, were tough and defense came first.
She is a straight shooter who expects a lot and gives even more. She cares deeply about UT and our state. She's a winner in every sense.
We always said that Pat could run for governor in Tennessee and win in a landslide because people admire everything that she stands for. Case in point: my mom isn't much of a sports fan, but she loves Summitt, Lady Vols basketball and tries to watch any game that's on national TV.
I always enjoyed watching her coach. She'd pace the sidelines with that look on her face, an intense stare that could burn a hole through you. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the Lady Vols were winning or losing. But her players love her. That's evident and it shows that coaches can be both incredibly demanding and caring if they're fair.
Summitt also has a playful side. She once dressed up in a cheerleader outfit, grabbed a microphone and sang Rocky Top at center court during timeout of a men's game. Can you imagine another coach doing that, much less a Hall of Famer?
People always have wondered whether Summitt could have coached men's basketball. Why stop there? In my opinion, she could have coached other sports too because leaders are leaders and the great ones know how to get the most out of their players. That's what Summitt did.
I haven't seen or talked to Summitt since I left UT, but I've remained a big fan over the years. Her presence in Tennessee remains larger than life and I'm certain there's a great deal of sadness back home today.
It's sad that her career ends like this, but the impact she's had on so many people and the pride she brought my state will last forever. For that, we're grateful.
Does the Wild have a brewing goalie controversy on its hands? It’s sure starting to look like it.
Josh Harding provided another strong performance Tuesday in a 2-1 overtime victory at Detroit. Making his third start this season -- all against the Red Wings -- Harding finished with 36 saves. He has stopped 110 of 114 shots in his three appearances.
The Wild practice this afternoon and it will be interesting to see if coach Mike Yeo announces whether Harding or Niklas Backstrom will start in goal Thursday at home against Vancouver.
How do you switch gears now after the way Harding has played the past two games?
Yeo attempted to temper the goalie speculation after Monday’s practice when asked what he considers the ideal split in playing time. Mind you, this was before Harding played well again Tuesday night.
“I’m not even really going to think about that right now,” Yeo said. “We’ll let [Harding] play that game. We can’t lose sight that Backs has played some good hockey for us. There were a few games in there that I don’t think we get points or we don’t get even wins without Backs in the net. So obviously it’s great what Hards did [Saturday vs. Detroit] ... and we’ll evaluate it game by game. But by no means does that mean we forget about what Backs has done for us as well.”
The Wild considers Backstrom a cornerstone of their franchise. They gave the former All-Star a four-year, $24 million contract extension in 2009 that has a no-trade clause.
With that contract, they want him on the ice as much as possible. But then what do they do with Harding? What if he starts Thursday and continues to play at a high level?
Harding has shown no rust or health problems after returning from major knee surgery. He’s playing with confidence. He went into a difficult situation Tuesday night and gave his team a chance to leave Detroit with two points.
Every player and goalie wants to play. I’m not sure a platoon system is the way to go either. That certainly worked when the Wild had Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson. I don’t think either goalie particularly liked that arrangement, but they made it work. They seemed to thrive off that internal competition.
It’s a delicate situation because you never want to pull a hot goalie, even if the other guy is making $6 million a year. But you don’t want the backup collecting dust either. It’s hard to stay sharp when you’re in the lineup once every five games.
These kinds of situations tend to work themselves out, but I’m curious to see how Yeo handles it going forward.
Bernard Berrian's days with the Vikings may be numbered.
The wide receiver was a healthy deactivation Sunday for the second time in three weeks. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked after his team's 33-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers if Berrian has a future with the team going forward.
"It’s something that we’ll talk about this week," Frazier said.
Given that statement, it won't be surprising if the Vikings release Berrian in the next few days.
Berrian was inactive for the Arizona game because of disciplinary reasons. He returned to the lineup last week at Chicago and had five catches for 54 yards.
Frazier said his decision to sit Berrian again on Sunday was not because of a disciplinary reason.
"Just a decision that I made that we’ll probably get into later in the week, one of the decisions I made," Frazier said.
I wrote my column from the Vikings 34-10 victory against Arizona on Donovan McNabb's rough performance and the boos he heard throughout the game.
It really was a strange environment at the Metrodome. The Vikings led 28-0 after one quarter, but fans were irate with McNabb and his errant passing. McNabb insisted he's not worried about the fan reaction, while coach Leslie Frazier said he didn't hear the boos. He was smiling when he said that.
Also, Frazier said after the game that he deactivated Bernard Berrian because of a disciplinary matter. Frazier said it wasn't related to the Twitter controversy from last week or Berrian's comments about "being open" for four seasons, but he didn't give any more specifics.
It will be interesting to see how that situation plays out this week. Devin Aromashodu is a better receiver than Berrian at this point in my opinion. He's made several nice plays the past two games and deserves more opportunities.
A few other thoughts:
-- Jared Allen and Brian Robison wreaked havoc with their pressure off the edge, combining for four sacks. I continue to be impressed with how Robison has stepped in for Ray Edwards this season and played at a high level. And Allen is playing at a Pro Bowl level after a disappointing 2010 season.
-- I thought cornerbacks Asher Allen and Chris Cook did a pretty good job for the most part in coverage. Cook looks like he's gaining a lot of confidence after struggling last season because of his knee injuries.
-- The Vikings finally got some playmaking from their safeties. Jamarca Sanford had two interceptions and Husain Abdullah made several nice tackles.
-- Adrian Peterson always runs hard, but he steamrolled rookie corner Patrick Peterson on two of his touchdown runs. Peterson pushed the rookie Peterson backward five yards at the end of his third TD run.
Say this much for Gophers coach Jerry Kill: He doesn't hide his true feelings on things.
Kill provided another unvarnished assessment of his program Tuesday in reviewing the Gophers 58-0 thrashing at Michigan and their 1-4 start. Here is a sampling from his 30-minute press conference:
"[Fans] want to blame me or yell at me, I'm OK with it," Kill said. "But I'm doing everything I can. I can't -- I learned a long time ago -- I can't tackle anymore. I'm too old to do that. But I've got to get people in place to do it.
"But people do have to understand we have what we have, and all I can do is work with it, and we slowly try to change the culture. It's maybe frustrating for fans. It's frustrating for coaches. You're talking about guys that have been successful, and worked hard all their life.
"What did I tell you in this room about a month ago? I said you find out about people through adversity. When things are really, really bad, how do people handle things? I'm getting to find out about our football team. I'm getting to find out about everything. How do you handle it? How do you deal with it?"
Kill said his program needs to develop a tougher "fight-back mentality" when things go wrong. Kill has heard more criticism from fans the past two weeks because of the team's poor performances, even though the Gophers lack of talent across the board is undeniable.
Kill was asked if the past few weeks have presented a harsh reminder of just how far this program has fallen and the monumental rebuilding job he faces.
"We're embarrassed," he said. "We let the state of Minnesota I mean, that's not how it's supposed to be done. I told our whole team. I said Bud Grant would be ashamed of us. You've got to respect the game and respect the game by playing it hard and playing it the way you're supposed to. I didn't say them. I said us. We're all in it together.
"We've got some kids here that have been through a whole lot. It isn't their fault. They've had head coaches dismissed during the season. Some of them have been under -- they had another coach, and they've had coordinators, and they've had assistant coaches and different academic people. They've had so much adversity that they don't know. Then when stuff hits, what's going to happen next? That is what our attitude is.
"I care enough about them that if I had children -- I've got two daughters -- and if they were going through all of that, what am I going to do? Am I going to kick them out the door, or am I going to go in there and try to save them and get them going? I'm going to try to save them and get them going. The ones that want to be saved.
"But, as my daddy said, you can't lead a horse to water and make them drink. They've got to want to drink and most of them want to drink. Shoot, we just need something good to happen. To have something good happen, you've got to go make something happen. You can't stand there and wait for it to happen.
"But, again, let's not blame the kids. We're the coaches. That's our job. I've always been able to motivate kids and so forth to play hard. I think that's a little bit of frustration.
"As a player, when things go bad, what are you going to do? Crawl under a shell and say it's going to happen again or are you going to do something about it? We have to learn to do something about it, coaches included. We've got to make them hang in there."