Dirt: Oct. 19
Typically accessible and always candid, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was no different in two phone conversations this week.
Among other nuggets discussed:
• The Wolves and Portland Trail Blazers have attorneys working diligently on the Martell Webster compensation claim case. Taylor said they'll have closure sometime in December. The Wolves are hoping for financial and/or draft pick reimbursement after they contend that that they got Webster (back injury) as damaged goods in June 2010.
• While Taylor's president of basketball operations, David Kahn, recently downplayed the idea of offering point guard Ricky Rubio or anyone else a five-year maximum extension -- remember, All-Star Kevin Love wanted a fifth year and was denied -- Taylor isn't against it. Admitting that such a scenario is at least two years away, he's not nearly as steadfast as Kahn is.
• Prior to the Love right hand injury, Taylor was asked if his team was active in trade talks. "Not us," he said. "Let's get the season started." It's expected the Wolves will be active prior to February's trade deadline once Rubio is back.
• Taylor said that he's in no hurry to complete an ownership transaction and that nothing's new in that regard, reiterating that he expects to be the majority owner for at least two more years.
• Admittedly slightly optimistic, Taylor estimated that Rubio will be back playing by Dec. 15.
• Taylor is willing to add payroll if Kahn and coach Rick Adelman sell him on a free agent.
The vibe from Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague and others in the Bierman Building is that a low-level bowl game at six wins is far more important than stiff competition in early September.
That explains football coach Jerry Kill's desire, and the athletic department's willingness, to cancel the Gophers' home-and-home series with North Carolina at a cost of $800,000.
Teague will tour the facilities at the University of Wisconsin on Saturday morning. He did the same at Iowa in late September.
The following are excerpts from a lengthy Q&A session with Teague on Thursday:
How sick are you of North Carolina cancellation questions?
I'm not sick at all. You know I feel bad. It was a tough call to do this and Jerry (Kill) doesn't take it lightly either. I know fans are frustrated, but it just comes down to where we feel our program is now and we want to build confidence in the non-conference arena.
Because of this decision, there's a perception that you're a lightweight like former AD Joel Maturi was at times.
(Laughs) The tougher decision was doing this. The easy thing would've been to tell Jerry no. I get to deal with Jerry every day. I think the public might forget that we work together every hour of every day -- lots of phone calls. It was important to me early on that we show support in a big decision for him. We can argue it all you want. I hope we can get past it and move on.
Was there any hesitation on sending out the press release Saturday that Kill had suffered another seizure?
We knew people were going to find out. We felt it was best to be up front and hit it head on.
How much do you now know about seizures?
I learned a lot about seizures being with him and the doctors over the weekend. It's just something he deals with. I know it sounds terrible and life-threatening, but after talking to the doctors, I realize it's just a condition he has. He's in excellent health. His vitals were good before and after. We just got to support him and build a good structure around him.
He thinks he's the right guy for this job, but is it possible this job isn't right for him?
I absolutely 110 percent think it's the right job for him. He's a unique bird. He's a relentless guy. It's really amazing that he's won at every stop at hard jobs. The struggles we'll have and have had are a part of the process. We're not very deep. People have to be patient. I think the great coaches that have built programs have gone through a pretty long process. I hope our fans have that patience.
How involved have the POPULOUS folks been so far? (Editor's note: they were hired a few weeks ago to develop a facilities master plan.)
They were here last Wednesday to Friday. They interviewed every coach and senior staff members. They've been great. They'll be back at us in probably two weeks with the next steps. ... We have to do a practice facility for the basketball teams. Football needs a support facility of some type. After that, there's an array of Olympic sports that need upgrades.
Why is Trevor Mbakwe still on the men's basketball team?
Tubby (Smith) has handled that well. ... You can gauge if a kid is remorseful and if the punishment is taking place. You sit them in the chair and do that. You have to believe in your gut and I believe in my gut. I hope things work out for him.
I laugh at the so-called discipline handed down to Mbakwe in July, August and September.
You'd be surprised.
Injury prevention is a hot topic with the men's basketball team isn't it? (Editor's note: the team has a new strength and conditioning coach who has brought lots of new methods.)
They are putting a new emphasis on work in the weight room.
• The Timberwolves have sold slightly over 9,000 full season tickets, their most since the 2004-2005 season. That number puts them in the upper-half of the NBA.
• A big factor for the Gophers cancelling the football series with North Carolina slated to start next year is the fact that they're loaded. If this were a mediocre ACC team like Duke, the series would've been maintained.
• A Gophers source said a road game at New Mexico State next year is far from a lock as reported elsewhere. In fact, the Gophers are talking to a few other schools too. The best case scenario is that a school like Western Michigan -- a possibility -- comes to TCF Bank Stadium in 2013 and the Gophers repay that favor with a trip there in four or five years.
• Gophers executive associate athletic director David Benedict said Thursday in a radio interview that will air Sunday morning at 7:45 a.m. on "This Week in Golden Gopher Sports" that he could've had the full-time AD job at VCU: "Had I stuck there, I really believe I would've gotten that job." Benedict served as VCU's interim AD when Teague left.
• Benedict, in charge of the football team, said immediate facility upgrades he's efforting include locker room expansion at the practice facility and office space tinkering for the coaches.
• Tartan High School cornerback Keelon Brookins is out for the year with a knee injury. "I had surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus in my right knee," Brookins said via email. A Wisconsin commitment, Brookins still hears weekly from the Gophers. He'll be at Saturday's game at Camp Randall Stadium. Brookins originally was a Gophers commitment.
• After talking to numerous people involved, here's the real story on ex-Gophers basketball commitment Daniel Edozie: he never got a scholarship offer from the Gophers. He somehow misconstrued what assistant Ron Jirsa told him.
• Gophers associate athletic director Mike Ellis' Villa 7, a networking opportunity for college basketball assistant coaches and athletic directors, will be the first or second weekend in May at a downtown Minneapolis hotel (possibly the Marriott). Hundreds of coaches and administrators are expected to attend.
• The Gophers men's basketball has an 84% renewal rate with its season-ticket holders. That's pretty good considering this is the first year many fans had to make a $400, $250 or $100 per seat donation. Their normal renewal rate is 85% to 90%.
• Wild coach Mike Yeo has spent the last week with the team's minor league affiliate, the Houston Aeros.
• The Twins have seen Japanese high school phenom pitcher Shohei Otani multiple times. Just 18 years old, Otani may sign with some major league team in the very near future. If he does, expect the Twins to make bid. Teams can offer international free agents a maximum of just $2.9 million, so opportunity, not money, will be Otani's deciding factor. Otani recently hit 100 mph on the radar gun.
• Hall of Famer Paul Molitor hasn't come to a conclusion yet if he'll pursue a full-time coaching opportunity with an organization other than the Twins.
• Cooper junior guard Rashad Vaughn recently had a productive face-to-face meeting with Kansas coach Bill Self. The Jayhawks have made a scholarship offer. By the way, Vaughn didn't make it to the Tubby Tipoff at Williams Arena last Friday night.
• Apple Valley junior point guard Tyus Jones was scheduled to attend a practice at Duke on Friday. While in the vicinity, he also was to take an unofficial visit to North Carolina.
• Edina senior point guard Graham Woodward committed to Penn State on Monday. "I feel that the ultimate scale that was the tipping factor was his relationship that was developed with coach Patrick Chambers," Edina coach Pat Dorsey said. "Coach Chambers was very involved in the recruiting of Graham from day one. When I met Coach Chambers, and spending some time with him, I knew that Graham and he would have a great relationship. There is a toughness, desire and competitive factor that Graham's values share with Coach Chambers." The Gophers have watched Woodward many times, but never made an offer.
• Washburn junior running back Jeff Jones attended the Gophers' games against Syracuse and Northwestern. He has offers from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State in the Big Ten. Also a standout on the basketball court, he's backing away next summer from playing AAU, but will play for the Millers this winter.
• The Gophers made just over $131,000 from beer and wine sales at last Saturday's Homecoming game against Northwestern. The night game against Syracuse is the biggest gross revenue generator in that regard, bringing in nearly $165,000.