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PGA to Take Over Tapemark Tourney

May 10, 2018 - (0) comments


The Klas family is ending its 47-year commitment to the Tapemark Charity Pro-Am in June. Sports Headliners has learned the Minnesota PGA will take over the golf tournament in 2019 and beyond.

Pat Cody (left) & Bob Klas Sr.

The inspiration for the tournament was Frances Klas, who was born mentally retarded in 1951. Her dad and mom, Bob and Sandy Klas, learned about organizations available to assist children like Frances, and they wanted to help raise awareness and funds for them. To accomplish those goals, Bob started the tournament with Tapemark company partner Tom Cody.

Bob Klas Jr., who is CEO of the nonprofit Pro-Am, said after the 2018 tournament more than $8 million will have been raised through the years to assist agencies serving Minnesotans with developmental disabilities. That total will include revenues from bingo operations in West St. Paul.

Bob Jr. said the tournament that attracts many of Minnesota’s best professional golfers has through its funding and publicity made many lives better for people with disabilities. “I find it fulfilling to know the time, energy and effort allowed us to support the agencies in a very tangible way,” he said.

With his executive position at the West St. Paul based Tapemark company, and work on behalf of the Pro-Am, Bob Jr. has been busy over the years. The last couple of years he began to question whether he had the energy to continue his leadership of the golf tournament. He had his 65th birthday earlier this year, and his dad is 91 and unable to help much with the tournament now. “The odds of me getting younger are less than 50-50,” Bob Jr. joked.

Conversations started awhile ago to transition the tournament over to the Minnesota PGA. “There is never a perfect time to walk away, but this seems right,” Bob Jr. said. “It feels good to know it will be taken over by an organization that wants to do a first class golf tournament.”

Plans are for the Minnesota PGA to keep the tournament at Southview Country Club in West St. Paul. As the only tournament that section pros participate in, it is important to the PGA to see the tournament continue. The PGA will direct revenues to causes important to that organization including junior golf and college scholarships, Bob Jr. said.

Among the successful pros who have won the tournament multiple times are Don Berry and George Shortridge. Then there is a fellow named Tom Lehman who was starting his pro career in 1990 when he won the Tapemark. He went on to become the only golfer ever claiming title to the British Open, Scottish Open and Tapemark championships.

This year’s men’s tournament will be June 8-10, with the women’s event June 10.

Worth Noting

Bill Fitch, the former Gopher coach who went on to win an NBA title with the Celtics, is retired and living in the Houston area. He follows the NBA closely and was asked about the Timberwolves. “I’d let them know they’re better than what they’ve shown,” he said to Sports Headliners.

The Wolves were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and there is speculation team unity might be an issue. Fitch said if he were coaching a group with chemistry problems there would be an offseason team party at his house, a planned wake-up call. The message: if the players aren’t on the same page in training camp, they will wear out the court from all the running ordered by the coach. “You can’t win without it (unity),” Fitch said.

How do the Timberwolves improve their personnel? Add another big player to push center Karl-Anthony Towns in practice and help him in games, Fitch suggested. “You never have enough strong big men,” he said.

Former Timberwolf Mike Miller, the South Dakota native, is an assistant coach on the Memphis Tigers staff. Ex-Wolf player and coach Sam Mitchell might also join new head coach Penny Hardaway with the Tigers.

It’s been whispered for months Oklahoma State will be the Gophers opponent in a December men’s basketball game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Media reports Tuesday confirmed that information. The also reported Minnesota will play a game with OSU during the 2019-20 season at Tulsa’s BOK Center.

Although no date has been given, it’s believed the Gophers-Cowboys game at U.S. Bank Stadium will be on Saturday, December 1. A second game involving Division I teams is expected to be played on the same date.

The St. Thomas and Wisconsin-River Falls men’s basketball teams will play a Division III game at the stadium Friday, November 30.

The Tommies’ incoming freshmen next season will include Sam Vascellaro, a 6-4 forward who is the son of WCCO TV’s Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello.

The Gopher women’s basketball team’s incoming group of five scholarship players includes no one from the state of Minnesota. Look for that to change for sure in future years under new head coach Lindsay Whalen who will have strong relationships with state prep coaches. Whalen recently added Utah native and point guard Mercedes Staples to the incoming class.

The Twins are on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season, and all the wins have come on the road. Their 10-game, 11-day road trip continues tonight in Anaheim against the Angels with Jose Berrios, 3-3 with a 3.98 ERA, starting for Minnesota. See if Berrios relies a lot on his fastball and avoids too many breaking pitches.

The Cardinals, who the Twins swept earlier this week, drafted Paul Molitor as a high school player at Cretin-Derham Hall but he chose to attend the University of Minnesota before eventually joining the Brewers organization.

Molitor and Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer, speak to the Twin Cities Dunkers group on May 23.

The Dunkers recently awarded more than $120,000 to Minneapolis and St. Paul high school athletic programs, according to the Dunkers website. Over eight years close to $600,000 has been given to help supplement athletic budgets.


Thibs-Musselman Easy Comparison

May 08, 2018 - (0) comments


Most everyone who follows hoops in this town knows Tom Thibodeau is a serious guy. I encountered him awhile back at a breakfast gathering and he told me about how he enjoys walking near a city lake. I got the impression that to Thibs this was the equivalent of spending a week at Disney World.

In Thib’s world it’s work and more work. As the Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations he carries a lot of weight on those 60-year-old shoulders. The public has heard about his hours devoted to film study and game preparation. Fans have witnessed and cringed at his barking from the sidelines on what seems like every possession of every game all winter long.

Despite taking the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, there is a lot of angst surrounding Thibs. He has annoyed part of the fan base with his harsh courtside style, insistence on playing his starters max minutes and not winning enough games. He is faulted, too, for taking on two jobs as coach and top executive in the basketball department. Fuel was added to that criticism yesterday when the Pistons let Stan Van Gundy go, the only other man in the NBA holding two leadership jobs like Thibodeau. There is even speculation insiders in the Wolves organization are critical of their perceived grumpy leader.

All of this is kind of déjà vu to me. I knew Thibs’ mentor, Bill Musselman. It was Musselman who first gave Thibodeau an NBA job, hiring him as an assistant coach for the 1989 expansion Timberwolves. At that time Musselman was 49 and had already lived through a career where he both created and dodged minefields.

Basketball was war to Musselman. He might not win the war but he sure as hell was going to win plenty of battles and make his opponents pay a price. Every possession in every game was almost like life and death to him—maybe more important than that.

I met Musselman after he was named head coach of the Golden Gophers in 1971. At his opening day of practice that fall he and his players took the floor about 30 minutes later than scheduled. The reason, I later learned, was because the 30-year-old coach was giving the players a motivational talk that included war music.

Before that practice he also was hyping the “troops” about how they had to beat Ohio State, the Big Ten favorite, when the two teams met on the court in Minneapolis in January. No one knew back then the Gophers and Buckeyes would tangle in their infamous late game brawl on the Williams Arena floor.

Musselman was basketball wise and passionate but he also was emotionally immature, hypercompetitive, hot tempered and tough. Although he was less than 6-feet tall, Musselman gave the impression he might fight anybody, any time. He used to play basketball in the driveway of his Bloomington home with his assistant coaches and I heard a tale or two of fist fights over a dispute like who knocked the ball out of bounds.

Before the 1971 season Musselman promised fans the Gophers would win the Big Ten title, despite inheriting a program that hadn’t won a conference championship since 1937. The 1970-71 Minnesota team had a 5-9 league record and finished fifth in the standings.

Musselman added junior college players Ron Behagen, Bob Murphy, Bobby Nix and Clyde Turner to his first roster. They combined with others, including a walk-on named Dave Winfield, to produce an 11-3 conference champion with an 18-7 overall record.

Even suspensions of Behagen and Corky Taylor from the Ohio State showdown didn’t slow down the title drive. Musselman’s team relied on the “Iron Five” of starters to play most of the minutes each game (sounds familiar to Thibs followers) while using a troublesome matchup zone defense that held Big Ten opponents to 52 points or less six times from late January to season’s end.

Not only did the Gophers have talent and coaching but they owned a home court advantage that might have been the best in the country. When Musselman came to Minnesota from Ashland College, he brought with him a pregame warm-up featuring Harlem Globetrotters-like ball handling and other gimmicks. Set to contemporary music, the pregame show whipped up crowd enthusiasm and had Williams Arena rocking before the game even started. During the 1971-72 season the only home loss was to Ohio State, 50-44.

Musselman & Olberding (photo courtesy of Minnesota Athletic Communications)

Musselman often made Gopher basketball the hottest ticket in town during his four seasons as coach. His teams played defense and rebounded like their lives depended on it—and they probably did. He was hard on players (hello, Thibs) and sometimes they pushed back like when star freshman forward Mark Olberding, the man-child from Melrose, Minnesota threw a towel at the coach during a timeout.

Musselman’s obsession with winning eventually got him and the Gophers in trouble. After he left the Gophers to coach the ABA San Diego Sails, the NCAA charged Minnesota with over 100 rules violations. That was a sad ending to a career at Minnesota where he not only proved he could coach and win, but recruit, too, developing future pro players Behagen, Olberding, Mark Landsberger and Mychal Thompson. He also had a profound influence on Flip Saunders who was his point guard for two seasons before becoming a basketball legend in Minnesota as a coach and front office executive.

The Sails folded soon after Musselman arrived and so, too, did the ABA’s Virginia team he also coached. A seldom take no for an answer salesman, Musselman talked his way into the NBA Cavs organization in the 1980s and had a short stay as the team’s head coach. Anyone who knew Musselman, though, realized that wouldn’t end his coaching career.

Musselman was working on a string of minor league pro basketball coaching jobs before he became head coach of the Timberwolves in 1988. In the 1980s I was involved with promoting NBA exhibition games at the Met Center. During one of those years Musselman crashed a private reception before the game. My friend and uninvited guest knew of the rumors that Minneapolis might soon be home to an NBA expansion franchise and he was in town to find out what was happening, and maybe land a job as head coach.

Musselman’s mind was always turning with ideas. When he wasn’t working, he was often exercising to stay healthy. He almost treated sleep like a disease to be avoided. If you got a phone call at 11 p.m. you considered yourself lucky. Others might hear from him after midnight.

After owners Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner paid the expansion fee for the Timberwolves, they were attracted to Musselman as their coach because of his work ethic and the popularity he built with the Gophers in the 1970s. In the Wolves’ first season of 1989-90 the club drew a crowd of 49,551 for Fan Appreciation Night in the Metrodome. Their total home season attendance was 1,072,572, an average of 26,160 per game.

Musselman wasn’t the easiest of souls to get along with during his two seasons of coaching the ragtag expansion Timberwolves. Musselman’s first club went 22-60, his second 29-53. Imagine the pain of that on a man once quoted as saying, “Defeat is worse than death because you have to live with defeat.”

On April 22, 1991 Musselman and his young assistant, Thibodeau, were fired by Wolfenson and Ratner. Musselman would go on to coach in college at South Alabama and serve as an NBA assistant with the Trailblazers before dying way too young at age 59.

For Thibodeau, being let go by the Timberwolves was just the beginning. He earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s best assistant coaches helping the Celtics to a championship. As head coach of the Bulls, his clubs were contenders and known for their defense and intensity.

Pau Gasol, a future hall of famer who played for Thibodeau with the Bulls, offered this perspective on the coach to Nick Friedell in a March 18. 2018, story:

“I appreciated how devoted, how much he cared,” Gasol said of Thibodeau. “He brought a certain edge to every game. Sometimes it might have gotten, I won’t say out of hand, he’s just an intense person, right? We know that. But it comes, I think, from a place that he cares so much about what he does. He’s immersed into basketball, and he wants his team to perform.”

Take it from someone who knew Musselman, and knows Thibs. These cats are cut from similar cloth.


Jack Morris to Twins: Get It Right Now

May 06, 2018 - (0) comments


The Twins are 8-15 in their last 23 games. They are 4-12 since April 20 and have an overall record of 12-17.

Jack Morris, the former Twins pitcher who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, is concerned about his old team. Talking to Sports Headliners last week before the Twins went to Chicago for their weekend series against the White Sox, he spoke about the danger of losing too many games too early in the season.

“You remember two years ago, they lost the season in April,” Morris said. “They were out. They were so far behind (in the division standings) they lost their season in April.

“You don’t win a season in April but you can lose one. If they continue this (tailspin) for another week or two, it’s going to be another lost season. They’ve got to get out of it right now.”

The 2016 Twins finished with a 59-103 record. Minnesota’s April record that year was 7-17, followed by 8-19 and 10-17 the next two months. The first winning month of the season came in July with a 15-11 record.

Morris acknowledged how losing can impact players psychologically. “I think you start thinking about it. It’s human nature to start dwelling on what’s wrong instead of what can work. …”

The Twins finish a four-game series with the White Sox today. Minnesota needs a win to avoid a series split in the games that are part of a 10-game, 11-day road trip.

Morris hopes the Twins are getting ready to start a long winning streak. He reminded an interviewer that during a 162-game season, teams experience weeks of both winning and losing streaks, while the rest of the time “they grind it out.”

“There’s an old saying,” Morris said. “You’re going to win 50 (games and) you’re going to lose 50. What you do with the other 62 is what matters.”

Miguel Sano (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins).

It’s been the Twins’ misfortune to have injuries sideline their best pitcher, Ervin Santana, center fielder Byron Buxton, catcher Jason Castro and third baseman Miguel Sano. Jorge Polanco, the team’s starting shortstop in 2017, is missing the first 80 games of the season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Being without core players is a challenge but so, too, is lack of consistency from the pitching staff. That inconsistency is exemplified by 23-year-old potential ace Jose Berrios who managed a win Friday night by lasting six innings and giving up four runs. In an April 12 start against the White Sox Berrios was sharper, throwing seven shutout innings while allowing only three hits and striking out 11 batters.

Morris offered this evaluation of Berrios prior to the right hander’s latest start: “Well, you know, it’s funny. He’s been two different guys so far this year. He was a dominant guy. He came out like a lion the first couple games. Then the last two games he hasn’t had his velocity. He has been tailing his breaking ball, which hasn’t been very consistent, and hasn’t been able to locate it, and so that puts him in a hole again.

“I don’t know if he has the strength to be that lion that he was the first time throughout the whole year or not. But he certainly seems to be going with more breaking balls that aren’t as effective the last couple times.”

In the first inning of Berrios’ Friday night start he gave up three hits including a two-run home run to Jose Abreu. Twins TV analyst Roy Smalley echoed Morris’ comments saying he believes Berrios sometimes“gets away from his fast ball way too soon.”

Morris pitched in 549 big league games, most of them for the Tigers. He knows that even the top pitchers don’t always have their best stuff but that’s where they need to be creative and determined enough to still win.

When Morris looks at Berrios, he sees a pitcher trending upward in his third big league season. Perhaps a pitcher that some day could be in the conversation for the Cy Young Award. “Well, you know the way he pitched the first couple games he was almost unhittable,” Morris said. “His stuff is way above average when he is on.

“The more he wins, the confidence level and the focus gets sharper. You cannot tell anybody that until they have experienced it themselves. …Then you can be creative on the days when you don’t have your stuff.”

Morris had confidence and grit including his memorable Game Seven that carried the Twins to their World Series championship in 1991 against the Braves. It was a highlight experience for the St. Paul native who won 254 big league games pitching for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians.

Morris receives the ultimate personal award this summer with his induction into the Hall of Fame. The ceremony will culminate a baseball life that goes back to being a six-year-old with big dreams. Morris recalled riding home from a Twins game at Met Stadium and saying this to his mom:

“Some day I am going to play in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins.

“She grabbed my arm and kind of hugged me and squeezed me, and said, ‘Well you just keep dreaming.’

“I said, ‘No, mom, I am serious. I am going to.’ ”


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