Vikings Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant hired Pete Carroll as the team's defensive backs coach in 1985, a position he served in for five years.
"I remember interviewing him, and he was enthusiastic, which he always is," Grant said Thursday, three days before Carroll was to coach the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. "He knew a lot about football. He was primarily on defense, you know we talked about that, and he related good to the players."
Carroll was only 34 years old at the time, and he worked one year under Grant and four years under Jerry Burns before leaving to become the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets. Three years later, Grant got a call from Vikings President Roger Headrick, asking if he thought Carroll would make a good coach for the Vikings vacancy after Burns retired.
"I said I thought it would be a wonderful idea," Grant recalled. "I thought he would be a great head coach, and I was quite enthused about it. What happened was that Headrick then called the commissioner [Paul Tagliabue] — or the commissioner called him, I don't know who called who. But the commissioner wanted a black coach. He wanted a black head coach, and that's when they hired Dennis Green.
"When I got done talking to Headrick I said: 'I don't know Dennis. I do know Pete. I can't speak to Dennis.' I didn't know him that well, but that Pete, I thought, would be an excellent coach for the Vikings. He could get along with everybody, the way the setup was here he would sell tickets. The commissioner told Headrick that they thought he should hire a black coach. Headrick wanted to be in good with the commissioner, so he hired Dennis Green. But when I hung up, I thought Pete was going to get the job."
San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh also was pushing for Green, then the coach at Stanford, to get the job.
While Carroll never came back to the Vikings, he got a chance to be a head coach, first with the Jets in '94, then with Patriots from 1997 to 1999. After being fired from both jobs, he landed in college with Southern California, where from 2001 to '09 he would bring the Trojans back to prominence with two national championships.
The Seahawks gave Carroll his chance to return to the NFL, and since becoming coach in 2010 he has posted a 50-30 regular-season record with two NFC West titles and a 7-2 postseason record, including last year's Super Bowl victory.
With all of his success, Grant was asked what makes Carroll effective?
"If you're going to be a coach you have to be a communicator, he communicates good with the players," Grant said. "I mean, he has enthusiasm, and I think that carries over to players. Now all coaches don't have to be the same, but Pete has enthusiasm for his job, he enjoys what he's doing, he enjoys being around the guys, he enjoys coaching. Practice is not fun. Football practice is not fun. He doesn't make it fun, but he makes it tolerable."
Still, Grant added that coaches need one big quality, and Carroll has that: "He has the best players," Grant said. "You know? You get the best players and you're a good coach."
Remain good friends
Grant said that he and Carroll still talk regularly, though mostly about family and life instead of football.
But Grant did serve as a consultant when Carroll made the most important draft pick of his life, grabbing Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
"He wanted to draft Wilson in the second round, but the people he worked with had other ideas," Grant said. "He wanted to know what I thought of Wilson. I had only seen him play on television, I had not seen him play on a study basis. But I thought he was a great competitor.
"The thing he was most concerned about was his size. He didn't know if he was big enough. We have a lot of quarterbacks that come out now that are 6-4, 6-5, 230 pounds. And he said his concern was about Wilson's size. I told him that [Fran] Tarkenton was 5-10½ and 178 pounds. Wilson was bigger than that. And that if Tarkenton, who I considered one of the best quarterbacks the National Football League ever had, could do it, I'm sure Wilson could, too, with his maneuverability.
"Because when you're not tall you can't see over those offensive linemen and you have to drop a little deeper so you can see. I said that was not a handicap for Tarkenton, and I didn't see a handicap for Wilson, either. They ended up drafting him in the third round."
Has Grant spoken to Carroll recently?
"I talked to him before they played Green Bay," Grant said. "He was concerned, we talked about the bad weather because the forecast for that game was to be rain, hard rain, well it didn't turn out to rain hard, it rained some."
Did Grant have any advice for Carroll's second Super Bowl appearance?
"He has been there, done that, he doesn't need my advice," Grant said. "He said [earlier this year], 'We can win it all again because we have everything in place. We have a good football team.' He mentioned that he thought [Kevin] Williams could help them, and he is. Now he said, 'Of course, you have to be lucky.' Which they were, they were very lucky to beat Green Bay. They got a couple of big breaks there."
• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill said recently that he believes the Twin Cities are a good place to recruit players, because there are so many good qualities here.
• Rumors around East Ridge High School are that quarterback Seth Green, who has said he will play in college at Oregon, is going to transfer and play his senior year of high school in Texas, but Raptors coach Mike Pendino said he hasn't heard anything official to that fact. "There is talk of him transferring every year," said Pendino, who was Gophers offensive line coach in 1990-91 under John Gutekunst and has done an outstanding job at East Ridge. … Incidentally, J.C. Hassenauer, the East Ridge lineman who is now with Alabama, played in only one game as a freshman and likely would have played more with the Gophers.
•Zach LaVine scored 17 points in the Timberwolves' 110-98 victory over Boston on Wednesday, his most since scoring 19 vs. San Antonio on Jan. 10. … Gorgui Dieng had his 12th double-double of the season and sixth of January, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
• Two small-town southwestern Minnesota guys have made it big in the NFL, and are helping their teams get to the Super Bowl. Trent Kirchner, the Seattle director of pro personnel, is from Fulda. And Monti Ossenfort, New England's director of pro scouting, is from Luverne.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org