The excellent ESPN "30 for 30" film series from ESPN Films will include a documentary called "I Hate Christian Laettner" that is scheduled to air during the middle of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in March.
Yes, it's really called :"I Hate Christian Laettner."
Much of Laettner's reputation was crafted at Duke, where he helped lead the Blue Devils to a pair of NCAA titles before he was drafted by the Timberwolves, for whom he played from 1992 until being traded to Atlanta midway through the 1995-96 season.
The ESPN press release states: "He made perhaps the most dramatic shot in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament. He’s the only player to start in four consecutive Final Fours, and was instrumental in Duke winning two national championships. He had looks, smarts and game. So why has Christian Laettner been disliked so intensely by so many for so long? Maybe it was the time he stomped on the chest of a downed player, or the battles he had with his teammates, or a perceived sense of entitlement."
Laettner was the third overall pick in the 1992 draft -- after Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning -- and isn't remembered in Minnesota as much for his scoring prowess as the conflicts he had with other players, including a very young Kevin Garnett, and coaches.
"You need certain people to shut their mouths and you need other people to take over the team," Laettner said shortly before he was traded. "You've got to have the rookies and the young kids shut up. And you've got to have the coaches and the veterans take care of the team."
A few years back, Laettner told the Star Tribune's Michael Rand: "I did a few dumb things (with the Timberwolves) and they killed me in the press over it. ... I made some mistakes. I swore at one of our assistant coaches right in front of the media, and they slaughtered me over that. I missed a practice and they suspended me a game, and (the media) slaughtered me over that."
So even though the film will be geared toward his college days at Duke, Timberwolves fans will probably take a special interest in what's being billed as explaining "why the polarizing basketball player was—and still is—so disliked."
You can read the full ESPN Films press release here.
Let ’em have it, Gophers football fans. The view from Ohio is that Saturday is going to be one-sided in a big way. The Cleveland Plain Dealer college football writers have set the bait two ways.
First prediction: The Buckeyes will hold Gophers running back David Cobb under 50 yards.
Second prediction: The Buckeyes will roll up 50 points, “barring a snowstorm.”
Doubtful that reporter predictions make bulletin board material – do teams even still own bulletin boards? – but these guys definitely aren’t believers in Jerry Kill’s bunch.
Reporter Ari Wasserman writes that he thinks “the Buckeyes drop 50 as they continue their quest up the College Football Playoff poll.”
“After Ohio State moved the ball up and down the field with ease against Michigan State – the best team the Buckeyes will face during the regular season this year – it's hard to imagine that Minnesota's defense is going to slow it down,” Wasserman writes.
Beat writer Doug Lesmerises, using Cobb’s 41 yards against TCU as a measuring stick, predicts “Cobb won't do much because Minnesota doesn't have a passing game to threaten the Buckeyes and get them to back off stopping the run.”
Granted, this is all written under the heading of “Outrageous predictions,” so we don’t expect the PD to have these calls on their front page (and who knows better the pressure to make predictions interesting than prediction-makers?). But, Gophers fans, if you want to pass on feedback, here’s the link.
Or just post your feedback here and we’ll be sure to pass it along, politely, in the press box.
Last week, St. Cloud State went to Michigan State for one of those basketball exhibition games that's supposed to allow the bigger, better team to experiment and give the lesser team a chance to play higher-level competition. Quite expectedly, Tom Izzo's Spartans beat St. Cloud State 101-46 on Friday night.
Then came the unexpected part: On Saturday, Huskies coach Matt Reimer invited Izzo to talk to his team -- and tell the players what he really thought of their play.
Andy Rennecke of the St. Cloud Times wrote "nothing gave the beleaguered Huskies more of a shock than having ... Izzo lay into them early Saturday afternoon before they watched video of their 101-46 loss to Michigan State. Izzo, who is marking his 20th year at the helm of the Spartans, let St. Cloud State know exactly how he felt about their performance against his team. Izzo didn't hold back in calling out the Huskies' lack of leadership and their individualistic tendencies."
Izzo had reason to expect better. St. Cloud State played his team two years ago and lost 62-49.
The session was arranged by Matt Reimer, the Huskies' longtime assistant and first-year head coach, after Izzo spoke to the media Friday night.
"I think (Izzo) was as shocked as we were at our performance," Reimer told the St.Cloud newspaper. "I think he was especially shocked at the play of our upperclassmen. We showed we could compete with them two years ago. I can't thank Coach Izzo enough for what he did and to talk to our guys that frankly. He told them the way they played Friday night was embarrassing. We needed that."
Reimer will find out if the lessons will stick this Friday and Saturday, when St. Cloud State goes to Las Vegas for a tournament.
You can read Rennecke's full report here.
One of the NFL's first big stars, Minnesota native Gordy Soltau, died Sunday. He was 89.
Soltau, born in Duluth, played offense, defense and special teams for the Gophers after serving in World War II. He was teammates with Bud Grant, Jim Malosky, Clayton Tonnemaker and Verne Gagne. The Duluth Central graduate was drafted by the Green Bay Packers but played nine seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. He retired as the team's all-time leading scorer with 644 points. That's still fifth in team history.
Soltau, (No. 51 behind the runner) in 1951 against New York (AP photo)
There's also a statement from the 49ers
Kevin Love has written a piece for the recently created website, The Players Tribune, that allows athletes to write their own stories. His post -- "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" -- details the transition from playing for the Timberwolves to joining Cleveland in the trade that brought Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the June draft, to Minnesota.
Love wrote:"I can imagine how he was feeling. From the excitement of being the No. 1 draft pick to the uncertainty of where he was headed, he was poised and impressive.I know what it’s like to have your heart jump every time your phone buzzes. I know what it’s like to talk to your agent multiple times a day. I know what it’s like to read about your future from 'sources' on Twitter. I was on the other side of it. It was exhausting."
Love skips the contract drama in Minnesota and goes to the good stuff. His thoughts about playing for the Wolves and leaving Minnesota for Cleveland.
"I grew up a lot – personally and professionally – during my time with the Wolves. I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t always handle things perfectly. We are all unfinished products. It’s not easy to handle the disappointment of losing when you’re in your early twenties. There were times when I wasn’t easy to be around in the locker room. It’s hard to be a leader when you don’t have the model — and when you don’t have a blueprint for what winning in the NBA looks like."
The piece goes on to details what it's been like to be with the Cavaliers, focusing on what he learned from veterans James Jones and Mike Miller from talking to them during a trip to Brazil, where the Cavaliers played an exhibition game against Miami -- an exhibition game of raised profile because of LeBron James.
Love makes the case that things he could have learned from them simply weren't available with the Wolves: "James and Mike talked about the sacrifice needed to win in the playoffs, not just about sacrificing shot attempts or stats, but the stuff off the court. ...I thought about myself at 21, 22 years old. Hearing these guys talk about what it takes, I realized that maybe I wasn’t totally in the mindset for that level of sacrifice back then."
And his level of sacrifice with Cleveland? He dismissed talk about whether he's the second or third option on a team that includes James and star point guard Kyrie Irving. "I’ve never played in a playoff game. I came to Cleveland because I want to win. I’ll grab a broom and sweep the floors if it gets me an NBA title."
You can read the entire piece here.
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