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TV Work Maybe Next for Thibodeau

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February 1, 2019

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Hopefully rising outdoor temperatures and a Friday notes column will warm you up.

Tom Thibodeau told Sports Headliners he isn’t ready to talk to the media about his coaching career that ended abruptly with the Timberwolves firing him early last month. He did say in a brief telephone conversation Wednesday that a national TV basketball role could happen for him. Since his dismissal by the Wolves he has spent time with family in Connecticut but was back in Minneapolis this week.

Thibodeau was fired about halfway through his third season with the Timberwolves. It’s been reported he will receive the balance of a $40 million, five-year contract he signed in 2016 to become the franchise’s head coach and president of basketball operations. Thibodeau is respected among basketball authorities with an NBA background that includes head coaching jobs with the Bulls and Wolves.

If interim head coach Ryan Saunders isn’t rewarded with the job at season’s end, it seems a solid bet that Fred Hoiberg, who is liked personally by owner Glen Taylor, could take over. Hoiberg, who was let go as Bulls head coach in December, told ESPN’s Zach Lowe last month that he prefers to coach again, rather than work as an executive for an NBA team. Hoiberg played for and once worked in the Wolves front office.

It’s unusual for NBA franchises to have the same person serve as head coach and president of basketball operations. It’s a good guess that during the next offseason Taylor will make decisions dividing up those duties. If so, one name the owner might consider to head the front office is Brent Barry, the vice president of basketball operations for the much admired Spurs organization.

While Barry’s name has yet to draw media speculation, former Timberwolves player Chauncey Billups has been mentioned to possibly lead a new front office for a franchise that is struggling to make the playoffs after participating in postseason play last year for the first time since 2004.

Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns will appear as himself in Paramount’s new movie “What Men Want,” a comedy featuring Taraji P. Henson. She plays a female sports agent who gains an unexpected edge over male rivals with the ability to hear their thoughts. The movie will be in theaters nationwide February 8.

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold told Sports Headliners he needs surgery for an infection in his right hip but he can wait to have a procedure after the season. He had surgery on his left hip for an infection last year.

Leipold is back in the states after enjoying time at his vacation home in Exuma, part of the Bahama Islands. He’s an enthusiastic booster of Exuma. “The beaches are spectacular,” he said.

It will be interesting to see how the Golden Gophers men’s hockey games against Michigan draw this week in 3M Arena at Mariucci. The program’s home attendance has been struggling but last Saturday’s game against Wisconsin set an announced attendance record at Mariucci of 10,686.

Jim Carter, long a critic of outgoing University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler, is “hopeful” about incoming president Joan Gabel. Carter, the former Gophers football captain who at one time was interested in being elected to the U Board of Regents, likes the background of Gabel and what he has read about her regarding both academics and athletics.

Gabel is coming to Minnesota from her position as provost at South Carolina, a Southeastern Conference school with a big appetite for football. Carter thinks her experience at South Carolina might be indicative that “she gets it” in terms of athletics being important at SEC and Big Ten universities. He also likes her academic experience at Missouri where she was dean of the business school. Carter said he hopes Gabel will be a “transformational” leader at his alma mater.

Condolences to family and friends of devoted Golden Gophers football supporter Dick Ames, 89, who died earlier this week. Ames, who founded Minnesota-based Ames Construction in 1962, loved the Gophers and even during frustrating times continued his generous financial support.

P.J. Fleck

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck will be among the keynote speakers at the February 22-24 USA Football National Conference in Orlando. Minnesota Football Coaches Association Executive Director Ron Stolski will also be a speaker. Stolski, head coach at Brainerd High School, begins his 58th season of prep coaching in Minnesota this summer.

Dick Jonckowski, the former public address announcer for Gophers basketball, is available as a celebrity PA man for high school basketball games in the state. He will be in St. James on February 8 to announce boys and girls games.

Fran Tarkenton’s hometown is Atlanta, where Sunday’s Super Bowl will be played between the Patriots and Rams. Sunday will be the 79th birthday of the former Vikings quarterback who led the team to three Super Bowls in the 1970s.

If the Rams defeat the Patriots, head coach Sean McVay at 33 becomes the youngest head coach to win the Super Bowl. That distinction currently belongs to Mike Tomlin, the former Vikings defensive coordinator, who led the Steelers to a Super Bowl win at age 36 in 2009.

Jim Bruton, the local author who has written many books with Minnesota sports celebrities including Tarkenton, told Sports Headliners his new book with Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer is scheduled to come out early next year.

UMD All-American linebacker Alex Helmer, from Prescott, Wisconsin, is a name to keep track of later this year when NFL teams bring in free agents. He is training for pro tryouts in Woodbury.

After winning 12 games total the previous three seasons, the Hamline women’s basketball team is 11-9 overall and 6-7 in MIAC. Alex Focke, whose brother John Focke is the radio studio host for Timberwolves games, is the head coach in his second season at Hamline.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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