By PATRICK SLACK
Haven’t blogged in forever – a handful of state tourney teams will do that.
However, I have time to today – a couple dozen weather cancellations will also do that.
As it is, there’s plenty of buzz with Minnesota’s major-market teams, starting with the beginning of another season of Twins baseball.
Twins take opening series
In any sport, when a shaky season is on the horizon, it’s at least nice to start strong.
Taking two of three from the Tigers at home in July while 20 games under .500 isn’t quite as nice as doing it to open the year.
The Twins also got quality starts in all three games from new acquisitions Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.
Minnesota’s lineup isn’t going to mash its way to 1,000 runs, but is fairly decent, and when paired with a good bullpen, a decent starting staff would allow the Twins to at least improve upon the doldrums of the past two seasons.
Gophers hire Pitino
Despite what many national talking heads said, it was time for Tubby Smith to go.
Most of that steam was based on the fact that the Gophers had just won an NCAA tournament game, something they don’t often do when there’s no academic scandal accompanying it.
It didn’t take a much closer inspection to see that UCLA was in self-destruct, let’s get our coach fired mode as well. Somebody had to win.
Smith is still held in high regard nationally because he won a national title at Kentucky. But he’s inspired zero faith he has the ability to raise a program to those heights without the built-in advantages Kentucky offered.
The only reason to hold onto Smith, who looked as if he had thrown in the towel a couple weeks into Big Ten play, was because of the financial fallout from his $2.5 million buyout.
There’s certainly no guarantee things will get better with Smith gone. In fact, keeping him would have likely ensured the Gophers would consistently produce about 18-20 wins a year and sneak into a few more NCAA tourneys.
But in order for the program to take the next step, from conquering zone defenses to making Sweet 16 runs, it needed a fresh face.
While it would have been fun to see Flip Saunders as the replacement, he didn’t seem like a long-term solution.
Bringing in the 30-year-old Richard Pitino gives the Gophers hopefully someone who can grow with the program in the same way some of the coaches who spurned Minnesota, VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens among them, have done with their programs.
Wild pull off deadline deal
I know virtually nothing about the Wild’s prospects, but as far as I can tell, the deal to bring in Buffalo’s Jason Pominville was a good one.
If the Wild’s crop of youngsters is as good as the team advertises it is, Minnesota won’t be able to afford to keep them all in a few years anyway with the megadeals of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Unloading a couple to bring in a proven goal-scorer for not just the remainder of this season but at least next year as well made perfect sense.
Giving up a first-round pick may be tough to swallow, but if the Wild is as successful as it hopes the rest of the year, it will be at the bottom of the first round anyway.