P.J.R.: Not all has been lost in decade of Minnesota sports
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My former partner Phil Mackey has convinced his new pal, Judd Zulgad, to spend time this week on the 9 a.m.-1 p.m. extravaganza discussing the numerous low moments that Minnesota sports fans have endured over the past decade.
Mackey was tracing this to the spring of 2004, when a Twin Cities pro team was last triumphant in a playoff series. Those were the Timberwolves' victories over Denver and Sacramento, before the six-game loss to the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
The Vikings have had a couple of playoff victories since then: Coach Mike Tice and the upset of the Packers in Lambeau Field in January 2005, and coach Brad Childress and the drubbing of Dallas in the Metrodome in January 2010. There was also a surprising 10-6 playoff season in 2012 for coach Les Frazier that finished with a loss in Green Bay.
Tice, Childress and Frazier were all fired by the Wilfs either during (Childress) or after (Tice and Frazier) the next season.
The Twins beat the Yankees in the first game of a division series in 2004, followed by a record 12-game postseason losing streak: three losses to end the '04 series, then three-game sweeps by Oakland in 2006, and by the Yankees in 2009-10.
Postseason failure hasn't been a problem for the Twins over the past three seasons.
The Wild has been in the playoffs three times in with a 4-12 record and three first-round eliminations in this lost decade.
As for the Gophers in the Big Two of college sports, the men's basketball team has one victory in the NCAA tournament (for coach Tubby Smith, last season) and the football team has one bowl victory in seven tries.
That victory was for coach Glen Mason in December 2004, by 20-16 over a then-struggling Alabama in the Music City Bowl. Since then, Mason lost to Virginia and Texas Tech and was fired, Tim Brewster lost to Kansas and Iowa State and was fired, and Jerry Kill lost to Texas Tech and Syracuse and was given a contract that doubled his salary.
I agree with Mackey and Judd: It's been a tough decade for the fans of Minnesota's six major sports entities, particularly when you add in the injury history with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Adrian Peterson and now the much-anticipated Miguel Sano. There also has been the departures of Kevin Garnett, Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Percy Harvin and Randy Moss (twice).
Listening to Mackey and Judd on Tuesday morning, I was struck by one item that they had failed to mention ... the one area where Minnesota sports teams have been dynastic:
"Winning the press conference.''
Has a new Minnesota coach lost a press conference over this dreary decade? Nope. Our coaches are undefeated in press conferences.
"How about Brad Childress?'' you ask. "He didn't win the press conference.''
You would be wrong. We discovered on that day at Winter Park that owner Zygi Wilf was completely incapable of communicating in public, but we liked the fact that Childress came off as a hard-nosed, experienced alternative to the affable Tice.
Since then, Les Frazier won a couple of press conferences, first as the interim and then as the actual head coach, with his calm, professional manner. And now Mike Zimmer was given unanimous huzzahs for his press conference performance, as a dedicated, fiery football veteran.
In St. Paul, we liked the fact the Wild was going to give a shot to Todd Richards, a local lad and ex-Gopher. Even after that quick failure, the Wild fans talked of how impressed they were that GM Chuck Fletcher had gone for a young, fired-up Mike Yeo over an old-timer such as Ken Hitchcock.
On campus, Tim Brewster won the press conference with the Gopher zealots by being "extremely, extremely excited'' and with a promise to take "Gopher Nation'' to Pasadena.
Those zealots weren't too sure about Jerry Kill as Brewster's replacement, but he turned on the country charm, won that first press conference, and has stayed press conference dominant - including last week as he aw-shucked his way through questions about the raise to $2.3 million.
In basketball, Tubby Smith didn't have to win the press conference because the fans did it for him with the "Tubby, Tubby'' chant, and then Rich Pitino ... well, we couldn't have been more impressed with his energetic attitude and his last name.
With the Wolves, we actually liked the Kurt Rambis hire and his introductory session, and Rick Adelman - he's really willing to come here? Wow.
Damn straight, Mackey and Judd, it's been a disappointing decade for Minnesota fans, but we couldn't be prouder of the streak in the all-important category of winning press conferences.
--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.