With a coach's job in jeopardy any time his team doesn't put together a winning record, Brad Childress was asked how a coach reacts to negative things that happen, such as the suspension of tackle Bryant McKinnie by the NFL for four games, the questionable physical condition of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, players getting in trouble and other setbacks that keep a team from winning.

"I sleep good, I really do," said Childress, on how he reacts when things don't go well. "You control the things you can control. From the standpoint of getting those good people -- that's what you want so you can cut down on any of that type of stuff."

As far as players getting in trouble, Childress said it's been a quiet training camp.

"But that's what we expect," he said. "I don't expect there to be bumps in the road. It's hard enough to win when all the stars line up, and you just don't want anything that you self-inflict."

Concerning the loss of McKinnie, a suspension that could cost the Vikings a couple of victories, Childress has confidence in Artis Hicks. Childress coached Hicks at Philadelphia, brought him here and said he believes he can do a good job at left tackle protecting Jackson's blind side.

"He made it as a free agent there at Philadelphia, played at Memphis State," Childress said. "He was a great learner, and a great worker, and then he made himself valuable from the standpoint of playing all the way along the offensive front.

"And we kept him [at Philadelphia] -- he ended up being a starter at guard for us, gave us some service here at right guard, and he's back to his natural left side. So he's been a valuable guy since we've been here."

Childress recalled that Hicks didn't give up a sack while playing left guard with the Eagles.

An NFL executive was asked how much the loss of McKinnie will hurt the Vikings. Ranking the Vikings offensive line in ability, he said, center Matt Birk and left guard Steve Hutchinson are better players, but left tackles have so much responsibility in protecting the quarterback, you would have to keep McKinnie as one of the top three starters.

Small-school star

Eric Decker, the Gophers receiver who coach Tim Brewster ranks with the best in the country, attended Cold Spring Rocori, a school with only 800 students from ninth through 12th grade.

"It's a smaller school, we're actually [Class] 4A," Decker said. "I guess, you know, through elementary school they have a great program academically and athletically. It's starting to get better; we're getting some money raised, trying to get a new high school, trying to get a new football field. There's some great support. ... Cold Spring Brewery has been a big support for our town, so hopefully [they'll] get some money raised and keep getting better."

Decker came very close to attending St. John's rather than Minnesota.

"It was between the University of Minnesota and St. Johns," he said. "I was a Minnesota-raised boy, and I wasn't going to leave Minnesota, and St. John's being so close, it was a tough decision. But I got a scholarship offered my junior year at U of M camp, and I thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Might as well take it."


Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi is 63 years old. With two years left on his current contract, and now with a two-year extension, Maturi would be 67 if he remained for the duration of the contract. Maturi won't make any predictions on how long he wants to work. But rest assured, if his health is good, he will remain for four more years. The man has done a good job at Minnesota and deserved the extension.

There wasn't any reason for MarQueis Gray, the highly recruited Gophers quarterback, to take the ACT test again to try and become eligible this season. It would have been too late to get into school even if he received a passing score.

Mike Guentzel, who resigned as a Gophers assistant hockey coach at the end of the past season, is going to be an assistant at Colorado College starting this season.

"This is a good program," Guentzel said. "I think it will be good for me to get outside of Minnesota a little bit and chase in some different areas and have a different responsibility. It's good for my growth."

Guentzel was being paid his Minnesota salary for this year, but he probably will have to give it up once he starts work at Colorado College.

Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson said he will take his time in replacing assistant coach Marty Morgan, who is going to work fulltime training Brock Lesnar, who is rising in the Ultimate Fighting Championship ranks. "I am not going to be in any hurry," Robinson said. "I'm going to move some coaches around for now. My biggest concern is this No. 1 freshman class coming in, and I want to make sure the freshmen get off to a right start without a lot of distractions." As for Morgan, Robinson added: "You know, the university really hasn't done anything to take care of Marty."

Rodney Williams, the outstanding Cooper basketball star, has decided he will enroll at either Minnesota or Santa Clara. His interest in Santa Clara is because former Gophers assistant James Ware is on the Santa Clara staff, and he and Williams have a good rapport. However, chances are good Williams, who is doing well academically, will wind up with the Gophers.

The NCAA Division I basketball committee, meeting in Indianapolis on Wednesday, decided for now to keep Minneapolis and nine other sites as finalists for the Final Four basketball tournaments from 2013 to 2016. The four winning sites will be awarded in November. Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, north Texas, Phoenix, San Antonio and St. Louis were also designated as finalists.

The Gophers didn't get any bargain in their 2008-2009 conference basketball schedule. They open the conference schedule at home against two of the top teams in the Big Ten in Michigan State on Dec. 31 and Ohio State on Jan. 3. The Gophers quickly will learn how good they are.

Former St. Olaf wide receiver Horace Gant has made the Redskins practice squad. Gant finished his St. Olaf career last fall with school records for receptions (185), receiving yards (3,061) and receiving touchdowns (27).

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com