Hartman: Grant learned much from coach Gagliardi

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2012 - 8:54 PM

The leader of football power Eden Prairie, a coach and player at St. John's, was greatly influenced by the legend.

Nobody thinks higher of John Gagliardi, who retired Monday after coaching the St. John's University football team for 60 years, than Eden Prairie High School football coach Mike Grant, who played for Gagliardi from 1975-78 and coached under him in 1987 and '88.

Grant was coaching at Forest Lake High School before taking a leave of absence to join Gagliardi's staff for those two years. When Grant was ready to return to Forest Lake, he recalled being called in by the president of St. John's and being told he shouldn't leave because the president believed Gagliardi was going to quit and Grant could be the next head coach.

Of course, Gagliardi coached 24 more years before retiring. Grant returned to Forest Lake until 1992, when he took over at Eden Prairie and has since won seven large-school state football titles.

Grant never would have considered the St. John's job while Gagliardi was coaching, but now that he has retired, Grant said if offered the job, he would be interested in taking it under the right circumstances.

"Yes, I'm interested in talking to them, yes you can say that," Grant said.

On whether he could help the Johnnies compete with St. Thomas, Grant said: "I wouldn't take the job if we couldn't. I recruited hard for St. John's. St. John's can recruit itself in a lot of ways. You know a lot of kids just want to go there. Now we have alumni that played for them and they want to send their kids there.

"If I took that job, I wouldn't be going up there to have a job, because I have a great job. I'm not looking for a job. If I took the job, it would be to win a national title."

Praise for Gagliardi

Nobody has a higher regard for Gagliardi than Grant.

"One, John is one of the smartest people I've ever met," Grant said. "Intellectually he's really, really smart. So if he had been a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist or whatever, he would have been one of the best in that. He's really, really smart.

"Second, he's a great psychologist. He's very similar to my dad [former Vikings coach Bud Grant] that way. He didn't major in psychology, but they were great psychologists of how to motivate people."

Grant talked about Gagliardi's tremendous common sense about how and why to do things.

"The other thing is that because he's so smart, he was always innovative," Grant said. "He always was ahead of the curve. So if there was the wishbone offense, John would take it to the next level. He was always ahead of that and have a different or better option. When the passing game started to come around in the '80s and the spread [offense], John was at the front of that."

Asked about what influence Gagliardi had on Grant, he responded: "I think a tremendous amount. There's three people that influenced me: John Gagliardi, Bud Grant and Pat Grant. I figure I got the best of three Hall of Famers. My mom was a Hall of Fame mother and took care of everybody and treated people well. And obviously my dad and John are Hall of Famers. I figure those three people influenced me, and John was a huge part of that."

Yes, it's always a pleasure when there's a chance to write about two of the greatest people and coaches in the history of this state -- John Gagliardi and Mike Grant.

Taylor fond of Coach K

Vince Taylor, who will be on the Gophers bench Thursday as an assistant to Tubby Smith when they face Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, played three years for the Blue Devils under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"I started three years at Duke, my sophomore, junior and senior year," said Taylor, who has been with Smith the past six years.

"We went to the Final Eight and my senior year I led the ACC in scoring and was all-ACC. I learned a lot about basketball from Coach K but really matured as a man and learned -- to never set out to be average, strive and set goals and play hard and never quit -- from him.

"Determination, and just giving 110 percent every second you're on the floor and never give up. Never give up. He's a tough guy just like Bobby Knight, but after that, he'll give you a hug. It's all about competing."

Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history, has a career record of 930-291 and has taken his Duke squad to four national titles (1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010) and 11 Final Fours in his 32 years with the program.

Thursday's matchup will be only the third between Duke and the Gophers, with all the games played on a neutral court.

Coach K has faced the Gophers only once in his career, an 87-70 NCAA tournament victory in 1989 over the Clem Haskins-led Minnesota squad in East Rutherford, N.J. The only other meeting between the teams took place in 1954, a 79-73 victory for the Gophers in the Dixie Classic in Raleigh, N.C.

Spartans confident

Apparently coach Mark Dantonio of Michigan State, 2-5 in the Big Ten and 5-6 overall, believes his Spartans will beat the Gophers when they face them at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon. A headline in the Lansing State Journal read: "Mark Dantonio's guarantee: Michigan will win, qualify for a bowl.

"When we win Saturday -- and I'll say when -- we will be a 6-6 football team, we're not climbing out of the cellar at 2-10," Dantonio said at his weekly news conference.

Dantonio's Spartans have lost five Big Ten games by a total of 13 points.

Jottings

• Add Jeff Meslow from White Bear Lake among Division I football officials from Minnesota. He's assigned to work a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game between Cal Poly and host Sam Houston State on Dec. 1.

• Two former Hamline football players -- Shannon Currier, former head coach at Truman State and Concordia (St. Paul), and Chad Rogosheske, now an offensive line coach at Bucknell -- are reported to be the leading candidates for the Pipers' football coaching vacancy. Also interested in the job is former outstanding Gophers offensive line coach Gordy Shaw, now an offensive line coach at Idaho. There are a lot of people who would recommend Shaw as a great coach and recruiter.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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