It was coincidental that I walked into Bud Grant’s office at Winter Park on Wednesday just as he hung up on his close personal friend Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, who face the Vikings on Sunday.
I didn’t get a chance at the time to talk to Carroll, a close friend of mine, but I did talk to him later during his weekly conference call.
Still, seeing Grant resulted in a long conversation about Carroll’s connection with the Vikings — Grant hired him as a defensive backs coach in 1985 — and how close he came to being the Vikings’ head coach rather than Dennis Green.
The Vikings were conducting a coaching search during the 1992 offseason when Grant got a call that the team was down to their final two choices.
“[Then-Vikings owner/team president] Roger Headrick called me and he said, ‘I’m down to two coaches, Denny Green and Pete Carroll to hire for the Vikings.’ He said, ‘What do you think?,’ ” Grant recalled. “I said that I knew Denny Green only because I had corresponded with him and talked with him on the phone. I did not know him personally.
“But I did know Pete Carroll personally. So I said, ‘Pete Carroll would be the ideal coach for the Minnesota Vikings. His rapport with the players, his rapport with management, his rapport with the press, he’d be a perfect fit for the Minnesota Vikings head coach.’ ”
The Vikings hired Green instead. You want my opinion? Had Carroll been hired instead of Green, although Green did a good job here, Carroll would still be the Vikings head coach.
We also talked about how Grant played a big part in Carroll’s decision to draft Russell Wilson with the 75th pick in the 2012 draft. Seattle scouts were unanimous against making the move because of Wilson being 5-10, considered short for an NFL quarterback.
Grant told Carroll he should feel comfortable taking Wilson because of his proven durability in his great college career at North Carolina State and Wisconsin, and because former Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton wasn’t any taller than Wilson and had great success with Grant. Grant was right, and so was Carroll for drafting Wilson. He took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl the past two seasons, helping them win the big game in 2013.
Still, Grant said he didn’t have any early indication that Carroll was going to be a head coach when he hired him in 1985.
“I wasn’t thinking about head coaches, I was thinking about assistant coaches,” Grant said.
Carroll has a personality that grows on people. There were reasons besides winning or losing for why he got fired by the Jets and Patriots. In both cases he did a good job, and then he made Southern California into a powerhouse and Seattle into a Super Bowl winner.
I have an autographed picture of Pete Carroll that I cherish, hanging on a wall in my office.
Park can bring power
The Twins introduced new signee Byung Ho Park to the media Wednesday, and General Manager Terry Ryan talked about what he can bring to the Twins next season.
“He’s a power-hitting first baseman/DH over in Korea,” Ryan said. “He’s 29 years old and he has had a history over there, the last three years or so he has been the MVP of that league.
“This guy has power. We’ve had a number of people see him, and he’s certainly a guy that can hit the ball over the fence and he’s very good defensively. That’s not a problem. We anticipate him doing the majority of our DHing, if all goes well. Hopefully we have a guy here who will help our lineup.”
Ryan was asked about the differences between playing in Korea and making the transition to Major League Baseball. He brought up Jung Ho Kang, a Korean rookie with the Pirates last season who hit .287 with 24 doubles, 15 home runs, 58 RBI and 60 runs scored in 126 games.
“They don’t play nearly as many games as we do,” Ryan said. “But it’s encouraging to see what [Kang] did with Pittsburgh last year before he got hurt. The Korean Baseball league is very competitive. As you probably read last week, they did win that Premier 12 tournament that was going on in Japan the last two weeks, actually. So they’re very competitive.
“Their pitching is not quite up to standards up here, but there are some pitchers in Korea who can run it up there pretty well and are competitive enough, and some have come over. We’re hopeful that this guy can make the transition. We’re looking for offense, as people know. We didn’t score as much as we were hoping to last year [and] we lost Torii Hunter, so obviously we could use a boost on the offensive side of the game.”
• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked his opinion of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson: “He’s pretty darn good right now. He throws the deep ball well, throws the quicks good, obviously the bootlegs and the scrambles and things like that.” … The Vikings have moved up from about 50-1 odds to 16-1 to make the Super Bowl, eighth-best odds in the NFL, while the Seahawks are ninth at 18-1.
• Andrew Wiggins unfortunately missed a free throw Wednesday against the Magic that could have sent the game into overtime but he has played great lately, averaging 24.6 points over his past 13 games. … Kevin Garnett played 20 minutes, 25 seconds Wednesday against the Magic, giving him 50,119 career minutes and surpassing Jason Kidd (50,111) for third place on the NBA career minutes list. Only Kareem-Abdul Jabbar (57,446) and Karl Malone (54,852) have played more minutes in NBA history.
• If you’re driving past the construction site of the new Vikings stadium, you might notice that the five glass pivoting doors, which stand between 75 and 95 feet tall and will be the largest such doors in the world, are done being installed.
• Former Gophers center Nick Bjugstad is the Florida Panthers’ sixth-leading scorer with seven goals and five assists in 23 games. … Former Gopher Blake Wheeler, the top scorer for the Winnipeg Jets, is tied for eighth in the NHL in scoring with nine goals and 16 assists in 25 games. … Former Gopher Kyle Rau is second in scoring for Portland of the AHL, who are affiliates of the Panthers, with eight goals and three assists in 17 games. … Former Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox has a 2-2-1 record with a 3.08 goals-against average for Syracuse of the AHL, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
• In the Australian professional baseball league, Twins bench coach Joe Vavra is managing the Melbourne Aces and two of his sons are playing for him. First baseman Trey is batting .326 with four homers and 18 RBI in 23 games and second baseman Tanner is batting .295 with five doubles and 15 runs scored in 22 games. … The St. Paul Saints will play host to the 2016 American Association All-Star Game at CHS Field, which opened last season. The game will be August 2.
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