Wednesday was Bud Grant’s 88th birthday, and the former Vikings coach celebrated it by having one of his garage sales with a lot of great memorabilia available. When I visited with him, people were lined up in the driveway.
Grant said his 88th birthday meant a lot to him, but it also was a melancholy day.
“It’s the sad part that so many of my friends, including my good friend Verne Gagne, are not here,” he said. “That’s what it means when you live this long. You’re missing a lot of friends.”
It’s amazing to think it has been 30 years since Grant coached a game. He could have continued for much longer if he had wanted.
“The Vikings said that I would be the highest-paid coach in the National Football League,” he said about their offer to have him return after he coached the 1985 season. “They would have given me the highest contract in the NFL if I had continued coaching, but I turned it down.”
Grant said he also heard about other teams wanting his services, such as the Detroit Lions, but nothing as concrete as the Vikings’ offer.
“You never know what the offers are,” he said. “There were inquiries. I had four or five teams that inquired if I would be interested in coaching. I was not interested in any of them. They were only inquiries, they were not offers.”
Grant said the thing he misses most about coaching is winning but that one of his favorite accomplishments is that everything he earned in his life, he earned through sports.
“I’ve never made a nickel out of doing anything other than professional sports, as a player, as a coach, I never made a nickel in any other profession, any other investment,” he said. “They wanted me to do color on TV and all of that, I never made a nickel doing anything other than being a professional athlete and coach.”
So he turned everyone down? “Yeah,” Grant said.
On Tuesday, local NBA fans went wild when the Timberwolves wound up with the No. 1 choice in the 2015 draft.
The current NBA draft has changed from the days when I made every pick for the Minneapolis Lakers. The team’s first pick in the 1947 Professional Basketball League of America dispersal draft was center George Mikan, because the Detroit Gems had the worst record in the National Basketball League. A local group bought the Gems for $15,000, brought them here and renamed them the Lakers, and what a bargain that was. I was in charge of all the rest of the drafts until local businessman Bob Short bought the team for $150,000 in 1957.
My scouts in those days were college coaches such as Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp, Oklahoma State’s Hank Iba and Kansas State’s Tex Winter, among others.
In those days, there was no lottery like there is today. The team with the worst record got the first choice, but there also was a territorial draft where a team got the first chance to draft players who played within 50 miles of the franchise. That led to the Lakers landing outstanding players such as Hamline’s Vern Mikkelsen and the Gophers’ Whitey Skoog, Dick Garmaker and Chuck Mencel.
The territorial draft ended in 1965, and the lottery, with all of its great television, began in 1985.
One draft I will never forget was in 1952, when former Kansas All-America Clyde Lovellette announced he was going to join an AAU team called the Phillips 66ers and not turn pro. So every team passed him up, and the Lakers, with the final choice in the first round, took him.
A recess of the draft was called with all the other teams trying to kill the draft, because it meant the Lakers had Mikan and could get Lovellette. But after league lawyers ruled the draft legal, Lovellette played a year with Phillips and then joined the Lakers in 1953.
The other draft I will never forget was in 1950, when the Boston Celtics broke the Harlem Globetrotters’ monopoly of black players by drafting Chuck Cooper of Duquesne. At the time, most NBA teams were relying on gate receipts from Globetrotters games, but the drafting of Cooper caused Globetrotters owner and head coach Abe Saperstein to cancel doubleheaders in NBA arenas.
• The big difference in the Twins’ performance this season from last season hasn’t come on the road but at home. Through 39 games last season, the Twins were 19-20 overall and were 10-10 on the road compared to 8-11 this season, but at home they were 9-10 compared to 14-6 this year. … In the AL Central, the team payroll breakdowns go like this: Detroit has a total payroll of $174.5 million, the White Sox are at $118 million, the Royals are at $117.2 million, the Twins are at $101.9 million, and the Indians are at $87.3 million.
• Gannon Sinclair, who played high school football at Eden Prairie, went to Missouri State and finished his senior season with 18 receptions for a team-high seven touchdowns. Now Sinclair has signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals, a great accomplishment for the 6-7, 270-pound tight end.
• Chris Anderson, a Lino Lakes native who was a first-round pick of the L.A. Dodgers in 2013, is 3-4 with 4.15 ERA in eight starts for the Class AA Tulsa Drillers. … Mitch Brown, a Rochester native who was the Cleveland Indians’ second-round pick in 2012, is 1-3 with 5.00 ERA in seven starts for the Class A Lynchburg Hillcats. … Former Gopher Tom Windle is 0-3 with 5.35 ERA for the Class AA Reading Fightin Phils in the Philadelphia organization.
• Former Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel is the new quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, who also have a new head coach in Rex Ryan. Cassel told the Bills website he believes this team, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2000, have a chance this year. “We’ve got all the pieces to the puzzle here to be a successful football team,” he said. “… Our offense has the best skill players in all the league in my opinion.”
• For the Team USA squad coached by former Wild coach Todd Richards that won the bronze medal last weekend at the IIHF World Championships in the Czech Republic, Wild winger Charlie Coyle finished with three goals and two assists in five games, including a goal and an assist in the bronze medal game. Warroad native Brock Nelson was the squad’s leading scorer with six goals and four assists. Edina native Anders Lee finished with a goal and four assists in 10 games. South St. Paul native Justin Faulk had three assists. Captain Matt Hendricks, a Blaine native, had a goal and three assists. Minnetonka native Jake Gardiner had a goal in eight games, and former Gopher Mike Reilly finished with an assist in 10 games.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org