Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about Gopher coaches

I was first in Vikings' press room...which was a mistake

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 26, 2012 - 4:09 PM

Checking in from the Vikings' press room, where it has been proven that myself, Tom Pelissero and Kevin Seifert don't have a lot going on in our lives.

We're here, waiting on what has become the most interesting pick in the draft: The Vikings' selection at No. 3.

Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman has succeeding in adding mystery to the pick. My early view on what could be an unpredictable night is this:

The Vikings really can't go wrong.

If they take USC left tackle Matt Kalil, they'll be getting a good player at a position of need.

The same could be said if they drafted LSU corner Morris Claiborne.

Or Oklahoma state receiver Justin Blackmon.

I wrote the other day that Kalil makes the most sense for the Vikings. The immediate future of the franchise depends on protecting and developing Christian Ponder, and Kalil can immediately help with that.

There has been a late wave of media support for Claiborne at No. 3, based on the premise that stopping excellent passing attacks in the NFC North is the Vikings' biggest area of need. That's hard to dispute. But the Vikings should get Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook back on the field next year, and the Vikings' defensive system doesn't place a premium on elite one-on-one coverage.

I can't really argue against Claiborne. I just slightly favor Kalil.

Blackmon is a fine prospect, but I would rank him as the third-best prospect of the three and the riskiest.

The Vikings will improve themselves with either Kalil or Claiborne. They would also improve themselves with the other possibility: A trade for the right price.

I have no idea which rumors to believe and which to dismiss, so I"m not going to break them down here. If I'm the Vikings, I trade down only if I think I can land one of the players they truly value - guessing Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon - as well as additional picks.

All three scenarios - taking Kalil, taking Claiborne or trading down - could play out very well for the Vikings.

I'll be covering the draft tonight along with Dan Wiederer, Mark Craig and Chip Scoggins.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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Wrote about Wolves' GM David Kahn the other day, and those who support him kept pointing out that the team improved this year and could have made the playoffs with better health.

You're missing the point. The point is that he's been the GM for three years and has brought in one quality starter, Ricky Rubio, who fell to him. He has yet to make one basketball decision that demonstrated professional insight. His best moves - drafting Rubio, hiring Rick Adelman and drafting Derrick Williams - were all easy, obvious, decisions.

We've got to have higher standards in this town. I had people arguing that he's fine because he isnt' that important in the organization because Adelman can make the personnel decisions.

Do you really want an older coach making personnel decisions? Isn't that how teams wind up mortgaging their future, by trying too desperately to win right away? Don't you want Adelman to at least have a smart counter-balance in the front office?

I do.

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Buckle up, people. There will be a showdown in Target Field this weekend.

The Royals beat Cleveland on Thursday and head to Minnesota with a record of 5-14, same as your Twins.

The tension will be...awkward?

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I'm saying it here and now, just as I've been saying for months: I think Andrew Luck will be a good NFL quarterback, and I think Robert Griffin III will be better than Luck.

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I'll check back later tonight when we have some news.

I'll be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely at 4:35 to talk the draft and Twins. I'll be on 1500espn at my usual time, 2:05, on Friday, and Pelissero and I will run a studio version of Sunday Sports Talk on Sunday from 10-noon, following the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30.

 

Torii Hunter excited for Torii, Jr.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 12, 2012 - 10:35 AM

Chatted with Torii Hunter this morning. Last night, he hit his head against the rightfield wall...and then hit a grounder up the middle and turned it into a double with hustle.

Most players get hit in the head these days, they are sent for tests and observation. Hunter's name was in the lineup Thursday morning before he even got to the clubhouse. Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows Hunter always wants to play.

``Man, I'm like a '64 Impala, with no seat belts,'' Hunter said. ``Old-school.''

True. After a little baseball talk, Hunter started bragging about his son, Torii, Jr. He has a lot to brag about.

Hunter says Torii, Jr., got a 27 on his first try on the ACT, and about 1,600 on the SAT. ``He has a 37-inch vertical, runs a 4.48 40,'' Hunter said.

Torii, Jr., is deciding whether to play football or baseball, or try to play both. Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Arizona have offered him football scholarships. He's considering Stanford and Minnesota for their baseball programs.

Arkansas might have had an edge before Bobby Petrino got fired. ``His uncle went there, his Momma went there, I signed there, and they have a really good engineering program, and that's what he wants to do,'' Hunter said. ``But Stanford is one of the best in that area.''

I got the feeling that Hunter was quite impressed with Stanford's campus and academics. ``We went there on a recruiting visit,'' Hunter said. ``Just 6,500 students. They have the students live with the athletes, which I like. The way they set up everything on the recruiting visit kind of sold us. We're sitting in the weeds, waiting to make the decision.''

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The Vikings just sent out a press release about long-snapper Cullen Loeffler awarding an equipment grant to Ingram High in Texas.

From the release: Minnesota Vikings long snapper CULLEN LOEFFLER and USA Football will donate a $1,500 equipment grant to football programs within the Ingram (Texas) Independent School District, which Loeffler attended as a youth.

 USA Football named Loeffler to its 2011 All-Fundamentals Team last December, honoring 26 NFL players who employ proper technique for younger players to emulate. Each All-Fundamentals Team player is awarded a $1,500 equipment grant...
I spoke with Loeffler about this last season. I'm amazed at just how many current Twin Cities athletes involve themselves in charitable efforts.
One of the most striking things about my profile of Carl Pavano last week was how guilty he feels about not doing more early in his career. He's making up for it now.
This might sound strange, given his reputation, but Denny Green made a big difference in this area. He encouraged his players to do good works on Tuesdays, the natural off day for NFL teams, and now all local teams push their athletes to get involved.
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Just got back from Ron Gardenhire's office. He has Joe Mauer catching a day game after catching a night game. Does that mean Mauer feels good?
``Didn't ask,'' Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire said this spring that his new approach would be to assume that his players were healthy and eager to play. If they want out of the lineup, they have to come to him.
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Fun game for the Twins last night. Pavano gutted his way through 6 2/3, and Glen Perkins struck out Albert Pujols with a nasty slider.
Jamey Carroll, Josh Willingham and Chris Parmalee all put together impressive at-bats.
One thing to watch: Alexi Casilla is off to one of his typical slow starts, and Brian Dozier continues to do everything within his power to earn a promotion.
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I'l be on 1500espn tonight with Tom Pelisserro, and Tom and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from the talk box outside Target Field on Sunday. The Gardenhire Show will run 9:30-10 followed by our show, which will run until noon.
Please follow me on Twitter, at @Souhanstrib.
 

New LPR, highlighting Wolves,Twins,Vikes

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 8, 2012 - 12:01 PM

Here's today's highly irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Ranking:

1. Timberwolves

They're not just the best team in town (in comparison to the competition they face), they're the most entertaining and endearing team we've seen in this town since the 2001 Twins.

Like the '01 Twins, the Wolves are not only good, they are unexpectedly good, and young, and charming. (Can I call professional athletes charming?)

Last night was the rare night I covered a Wolves game without being restricted by writing on deadline, so I got to work the lockerroom at my leisure. It's hard not to like Derrick Williams, Kevin Love, Martell Webster, J.J. Barea and Nik Pekovich. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and each other.

Rick Adelman is positioning himself for coach of the year honors. I picked the Wolves to win 28 games this year and they're much better than that. And as the Wolves rise, the Western Conference suddenly looks vulnerable beyond the No. 1 seed. Oklahoma City is excellent. The Spurs are admirable but hardly spry. The Mavericks are suffering a predictable championship letdown. Who else scares you?

The Wolves have learned how to beat Portland, the Clippers and the Rockets. I love the way Memphis plays, but the Wolves are not overmatched against them. And the Lakers are a mess. Mike Brown might be the only defensive coach who can hold down Bryant, Bynum and Gasol.

If the Wolves can make it to the playoffs without burning out Love and Rubio, they could be dangerous. Now that they're in the 8th slot, they need to make a move so they face someone other than Oklahoma City in the first round. Even moving into the 6th seed would mean a matchup with Memphis or one of the LA teams.

The Wolves are the most interesting team in town, and they're growing more interesting by the day.

2. Gopher hockey

Don Lucia is having a good year. He has a team that seems to be peaking at the right time. But he still needs to prove he can prepare a team for the postseason and guide it to big victories, like he did in the old days.

3. Twins

I'll give them this: They're better than they were last year. But they could improve by 10 games and still lose 89 and finish fourth. Which, after spending time at spring training, is about what I expect.

4. Vikings

If only they had lost that silly game at Washington, they'd have the No. 2 pick and a couple of wonderful options: Drafting Robert Griffin III or trading him. I've thought for months that Griffin has more upside than Andrew Luck. He's a greater risk, but I was not impressed with Luck's throwing motion this season, and I wouldn't want to spend the first pick in the draft on a so-called game manager.

5. Gopher basketball

The coach should be fired, and yet the Gophs rank ahead of two other teams in town. That's sad.

6. Gopher football

Nothing new here.

7. Minnesota Wild

I like Yeo. I like Fletcher. I think they're both sharp. I think Fletcher has a credible plan for rebuilding with dynamic young scorers. But right now this is the most pathetic team we've seen in this town since...last year's Twins.

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Congratulations to Glen Perkins. He's shown great humility and flexibility while rehabilitating his career and his relationships within the Twins' organization since filing a grievance against the team.

Twins signed him to a contract extension today because he's become a dynamic pitcher while proving that's he's grounded, and a good teammate, and that he's invested in the organization. It's remarkable how quicky he's gone from problem child to franchise cornerstone.

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Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will host a rare double-headed, live-and-in-studio version of Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Lots of talk about all of the above, including Tom's look at NFL free agency and the Vikings' plans, and my thoughts on my trip to spring training and a week with the Wolves.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Minnesota basketball, the good and bad, and a new LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 29, 2012 - 8:38 AM

Rick Adelman has been to the Timberwolves what Tubby Smith should have been for the University of Minnesota. He makes a difference in such obvious ways.

Last night, the Gophers held Wisconsin to 16 first-half points and still found a way to lose, because finding a way to lose is what Tubby's teams have done the last two years.

Last night, the Timberwolves beat a good team on the road, whipping the Clippers in LA with a powerhouse fourth-quarter performance, in part because Adelman has a feel for when to play his players, and because he has tremendously upgraded the Wolves' offensive intelligence and defensive tenaciousness.

Darko is not a good player, yet Adelman has used him to good effect twice against the Clippers, particularly in keeping Blake Griffin from the basket. I know Adelman won't win the coach of the year award, but I'd consider him.

In light of last night's developments, here's my latest high-irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Rankings:

1. Timberwolves

I left the No. 1 slot vacant in my last rankings because I couldn't reward the Wolves when they were playing poorly, and no other local teams had earned this spot. The Wolves, having won five of six, easily reclaim this spot. This is a likeable and surging team.

 

2. Gopher hockey

Four straight victories: That's impressive, but we all know we're going to judge this team by the way it performs in the postseason.

3. Minnesota Vikings

The last two seasons were abysmal, but I'm seeing signs of hope. The farther I get from last season the more willing I am to give Christian Ponder the benefit of the doubt as a rookie quarterback playing with a limited supporting cast. Add Matt Kalil, then find a starting cornerback and a speed receiver either in free agency or the draft, and this team could quickly make strides, especially if Ponder learns from last season.

4. Minnesota Twins

I don't think this is a good team, but there's no way it can suffer as many injuries as it did last season, and the infield defense is guaranteed to be better.

5. Minnesota Wild

Other than the Nick Leddy trade, I like all of Chuck Fletcher's moves. He's aggressive and forward-thinking and I do believe he's building a winner. I just think the young scorers he's drafted and acquired are going to have to make it to the X before the record will support that assertion.

6. Gopher football

Nothing new here, although I continue to hear from Minnesotans about how much they like Jerry Kill. If that vibe works on recruits, we may have something here.

7. Gopher basketball

And your new last-place team in the LPR: I give you the Minnesota Golden Basketball Gophers.

Tubby Smith loses games he should have won, then blames the administration, or his players, or nightlife in Minneapolis. He did take the blame for one mistake: Moving Blake Hoffarber to the point last year. Otherwise, he's a finger-pointer of the first degree.

He must go. But does the new president and his 98-person advisory committee think he should go?

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Upcoming:

I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 from Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers with Reusse and Mackey. I'll also be on from the stadium for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn on Sunday morning.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Today's LPR, plus Cris Carter, and the truth about the Wild and Gophers

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 15, 2012 - 8:58 AM

Today's Local Power Rankings, my irrelevant, transparent device for commenting on the local sports teams:

1. Vacant.

I've ranked the Wolves No. 1 for weeks, but I can't keep them in this spot after a four-game losing streak. They should win tonight against Charlotte, perhaps one of the worst teams in recent NBA history, but then the schedule gets tough again.

I picked the Wolves to win 26-28 games this season, and I still think that's about right. They're still the most entertaining team in town, but those who thought they were bound for the playoffs might have been ignoring the fact that most of the roster is a mess.

They have three worthy NBA starters right now - Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nik Pekovic - and two were drafted by Kevin McHale. There are too many talented but unreliable players on this team, from Michael Beasley to Anthony Randolph to Wes Johnson to Martell Webster.

David Kahn likes long and athletic guys, but he has had trouble acquiring long and athletic guys who know how to play basketball.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Not playing games has elevated the Vikings above all the teams currently losing games.

My reason for elevating the Vikings today: Clarifying roles in the front office, with Rick Spielman running the show and able ot retain righthand man George Paton, should make this a better organization. And while the Vikings have lots of needs, I think Christian Ponder will show marked improvement in his second season, and I think the Vikings' ability to draft high in a talented draft should dramatically upgrade the talent on the roster.

3. Gopher hockey

Yes, they got swept in Denver, and yes, there are signs that this could be another disappointing Lucia squad, but they still have a chance to make a postseason run, which puts them ahead most local teams.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

See above, under ``Vacant.''

5. Minnesota Twins

They will be better this year than they were last year. They are almost guaranteed to be healthier, to catch the ball better, and to have a better bullpen. Will they contend? I doubt it. But they should be respectable, which would be an upgrade.

6. Gopher basketball

When I watch the Gophers outplay Wisconsin and Ohio State for long stretches, I see a team with plenty of talent that doesn't always play hard, doesn't always play smart, and is often hamstrung by Tubby Smith's substitutions. Subbing in five players when the players on the court are having success is just silly.

7. Gopher football

Ran into Jerry Kill at the Gopher basketball game. He says he's healthy, and he sounded fired up. That's all I've got.

8. Minnesota Wild

This team doesn't score enough goals. It doesn't score enough goals because it lacks talent. That was my assessment entering the season and it's proven true. This franchise is still digging out of the Doug Risebrough era.

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A reader suggested this name for Minnesota athletic director, and it's an interesting one:

Darrin Nelson.

Nelson has Twin Cities ties from his days as a Viking. He's worked as an assistant AD at Stanford, the rare school capable of combining high academics, ethics and winning sports teams. He's currently an assistant AD at the University of California, Irvine.

I don't know if he's the best candidate out there, but he's a smart, experienced man.

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Cris Carter is right. Randy Moss, even if physically capable of making a comeback, has hit the wall that all diva receivers hit: He's not good enough to make up for the headaches he may cause.

I'll be writing more about this in the near future.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn from 6-8 tonight, spending the first half doing ``Talking Twins'' with Phil Mackey.

I'll be doing Sunday Sports Talk (10-noon) from the Golf Show at Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday, with Tom Linnemann co-hosting. Come by and we'll fix your slice. Or not.

Have to admit, watching Phil whip Tiger at Pebble Beach has made me want to play golf again, which is bad news for people who own houses along the right side of the fairway at any course I may visit this year.

I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

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