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Local Sports Archives for 2021-02

Wolves introduce new head coach Chris Finch

The Minnesota Timberwolves introduced Chris Finch as the team's newest head coach Monday at a press conference.  He will take over and coach Tuesday night's (Feb. 23rd) game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

Finch replaces Ryan Saunders who was let go Sunday after a loss to the New York Knicks on the road.  

 

Finch has a long career in basketball.  He played guard for Divsion III Franklin & Marshall University.  He played professional in England for four seasons before becoming a coach.  He worked his way up from there, including at one time coaching the British Naitonal team in the Olympics.  He also helped the "D League" team the Rio Grand Valley Vipers win a league championship in 2010.  He was serving as an assistant coach on the Toronto Raptors staff before coming to Minnesota.  

 

Finch talked about what was appealing about taking over a team who has the worst record in the NBA...

 

 

 

 

Wolves general manager Gerson Rosas and Finch have a long relationship together.  Finch was one of the finalists candidates to replace the then fired Tom Thibodeau back in 2018.  Rosas talked about the situation and how all things came together to hire Finch in such a short period of time... 

 

 

 

 

Rosas has recieved criticism for this search.  Because it was done so quickly potential coaching candidates of color did not get a chance to interview.  Rosas defended the decision to make a move fast, calling diversity important... 

 


Wolves fire head coach Ryan Saunders

The Minnesota Timberwolves have fired head coach Ryan Saunders according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Saunders is being fired after an abysmal 7-24 start to the season giving the Wolves the worst record in the NBA. The Wolves will not be having an interim head coach and have hired Chris Finch who comes from the Toronto Raptors organization as an assistant coach. According to Wojnarowski, Timberwolves President of basketball operations Gersson Rosas did not want to have an interim coach around the core the Wolves have developed in Karl-Anthony Towns, Malik Beasley, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell.

 

Saunders, 34, garnered the coaching position in 2019 after being the interim head coach, replacing the fired Tom Thibodeau. Saunders had been in the organization previously for work as a player development coach and later an assistant coach, forging great reputations with his players. Saunders is the son of the late Flip Saunders who coached for the Wolves from 1995-2005, and again from 2014-15. Questions were had if Ryan Saunders had the tools to be a head coach or if he was simply picked due to his popularity with the players on the team. Saunders was 43-94 in his tenure with the team.

 

Saunders had been informed of his decision to be let go after a 103 - 99 loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday. New Coaching hire Chris Finch has been with multiple teams as an assistant coach including the Houston Rockets; wherein 2010 he won a G-League title with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the subsidiary team of the Rockets, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Toronto Raptors. Finch was hired this off-sea by Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse.  Finch was eventually promoted to the top assistant on the staff. The only other time in history as an assistant coach moved up to a head coaching role with a new team was in 2009 when the Memphis Grizzlies hired Lionel Hollins from the Milwaukee Bucks.  

 


Former Twins second baseman Brian Dozier announces retirement

Former Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier announced his retirement from baseball Thursday.  Dozier played nine MLB seasons spending most of the time with the Twins before being traded to the LA Dodgers in 2018.  He would win a World Series with the Washington Nationals in 2019 and spent his last season with the New York Mets.  The 33-year-old made his Major League debut for the Twins on May 7th 2012.  He won a gold glove in 2017, had 192 career home runs and a .244 career batting average. 


Indianapolis trades third round pick and conditional second for QB Carson Wentz

The Indianapolis Colts have made a trade for former Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz.  The Colts sent Philly a 2021 Third round pick and conditional 2022 second-round pick  which could turn into a first rounder.  Wentz must play at least 75 percent of the Colts offensive snaps in 2022 for the pick to be upgraded.  Wentz is the former second overall pick out of North Dakota state and at one time was considered one of the best up and coming quarterback prospects in the league, including receiving a $128 million contract extension from the Eagles, before injuries hampered one season and poor play other seasons.  He was benched this past season for rookie second round pick Jalen Hurts. 


PC readies for men's basketball post-season

Alex Tyrell the head coach of the Presentation College Saints men’s basketball team will be leading the Saints to a playoff appearance this season.  The Saints went 4-22 on route to the last seed in the upcoming playoffs.

 

While Coach Tyrell did not have the season he wanted, he views any experience, win or lose as progress. Tyrell started his coaching career at his alma mater at Vermont Technical College, where he led the Knights to a USCAA tournament final four appearance, and an overall record of 24-10.

 

Tyrell felt that every part of the season is a challenge and that there are no free or easy wins….

 

 

 

While parts of the season can be difficult, coaching isn’t for Tyrell….

 

 

 

 

 

The regular season is over, but the Saints still have the playoffs and Presentation College thinks they can make some noise…

 


SDSHAA announces schedule for girls wrestling tournament

The South Dakota High School Activities Association has laid out the information and guidelines for the first ever all girls wrestling state championships. Girls have competed in wrestling in South Dakota before, but this is the first time they have their own division. According to Dr. John Krogstrand, Executive Director of the SDHSAA, well over 150 wrestlers participated in the regular season. Class A quarterfinal matches begin at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 25 at the Ice Arena in Rapid City, while Class B will begin at the same time and be held at the Barnett Arena. Semifinal matches will be held the following day at 5:30 p.m., and the championships and 3rd place matches will start at 5:00 p.m. on Friday the 26th. 


Aberdeen to host NCAA Division II Central Region men's basketball tournament

 As announced by the NCAA this morning, Northern State University has been selected as the 2021 host site for the NCAA Central Region Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Barnett Center and Wachs Arena will host the 6-team tournament scheduled for March 13-16.

 

“We are very excited to be selected to host the NCAA Central Region Men’s Basketball Tournament and deliver a first class, championship level experience for all student-athletes, coaches and fans from around the region,” noted NSU Director of Athletics, Josh Moon. “There is no better basketball community than the City of Aberdeen, Northern State University, and the Barnett Center/Wachs Arena; we are excited to showcase it with this tremendous opportunity.

 

Regional quarterfinal games will begin Saturday, March 13, followed by the semifinals Sunday, March 14, and the regional championship Tuesday, March 16. Winners will advance to the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Elite Eight in Evansville, Indiana, on March 24-27.

 

Due to the health and safety protocols surrounding the pandemic, it was necessary for the NCAA to select championship competition sites in advance of regional qualification. The committee believes the sites and hosts chosen will provide an exceptional and safe experience for all participants.

 

Full information including ticket options, regional schedule, participating teams, and COVID protocols can be found at nsuwolves.com/2021/centralregion. Updates will be made to the page as more information is available.

 

Participating teams will be announced Sunday, March 7. The men’s basketball selection show will air at 10:30 p.m. (ET) on ncaa.com.


Wild allowed to return to practice as they deal with COVID-19 outbreak

The Minnesota Wild have been cleared to resume practice as the team struggles with an outbreak of COVID-19.  13 players are currently sidelined on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.  This does not mean every one of them have tested positive, but could have also been exposed to someone who did test positive.  Today’s practice will be the first time the team has been on the ice together in 10 days.  This could also mark the return of Mats Zuccarello to the lineup who missed all of training camp and all the Wild’s game so far recovering from offseason arm surgery. 


Wolves center Karl Anthony Towns humbled to get back on the court post COVID-19

Minnesota Timberwolves star center Karl Anthony Towns made his return to the court Wednesday in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at home.  Towns has missed the last 13 games, almost an entire month of the season after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in early January.

 

Towns talked about what it was like to get back on the court following COVID-19…

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 has been tougher on Towns than many NBA players.  Towns mother Jacqueline Cruz passed away from complications with COVID-19 along with other family members. 

 

While sick Towns did not reveal much about his diagnosis, whether or not he was experiencing symptoms or how ill he was feeling.  Following Tuesday’s game he divulged a little more information…

 

 

 

 

In his first game back Towns played 30:52 minutes, shot 8-15 from the field, including 2-7 from beyond the arc for 18 points. 

 

Towns called the experience of returning to the court humbling…

 

 

 

 

KAT is critical to the vision Timberwolves management has for this team.  The Wolves have struggled without him this year, with an overall record of 6-19.  The Wolves also have a first time 34-year-old head coach in Ryan Saunders.  Evaluating Saunders performance has not been possible for much of this season and last due to COVID-19 and the fact that Towns and star guard D’Angelo Russell have played less than 10 games together since the team made the trade for Russell at the end of last season. 


Former Wild captain Mikko Koivu announces retirement

Former Minnesota Wild center and longtime team Captain Mikko Koivu has announced his retirement from the NHL, leaving midseason after joining the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason.  Koivu  signed a one-year $1.5 million deal with Columbus after it was announced Minnesota would not be bringing him back this offseason.  Besides this less than half a season with Columbus, the 37-year-old Finland native played his entire career with Minnesota after being the franchises second ever first round pick, selected first overall in 2001.


Vikings introduce new OC Klint Kubiak

The Vikings are going to close to home promoting former QBs coach, Klint Kubiak to offensive coordinator. Kubiak is the son of former Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who retired this offseason. 

 

Klint Kubiak met with the media on Tuesday and was asked about his new role in the offense that flourished last year with Dalvin cook and breakout rookie Justin Jefferson. 

 

The biggest question mark that still exists for the Vikings is quarterback Kirk Cousins, but Kubiak has no worries for his quarterback and the relationship he has with him... 

 

 

 

 

 

Under former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak the team emphasized a run-first offense because these questions remain as to better utilize other tools such as rookie star Justin Jefferson. Klint Kubiak says the incorporation of everyone is important… 

 

 

 

 

 

Kubiak also now has the role of calling plays on the team, which he has some experience in already…. 

 

 

 

 

 

But Kubiak also must fit into the shoes of his father, where Kubiak has had the life and experiences as a coach's son….

 

 


NHL postpones more games, including Wild games, due to COVID-19 outbreak

The NHL has postponed more games, including the Minnesota Wild, as the league deals with an outbreak of COVID-19 on multiple teams.  Games postponed include Buffalo Sabre on Feb. 11th and 13th, New Jersey Devils Feb. 11th, 13th and 15th, and Minnesota Wild Feb. 11th and Feb. 13th.  Wild general manager Bill Guerin gave an update on the team Monday and says the path forward is still not exactly clear…

 


Wild games postponed at least until Feb. 8th due to COVID-19

The Minnesota Wild’s game tonight vs. the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed due to COVID-19.  Five Wild players including Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Johansson and Jared Spurgeon have all been added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.  These players will not be able to travel, practice or play in games until they are removed from that list.  The league also announced Wild games are postponed until at least February 9th.  Other team’s are dealing with COVID-19 as the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils are both currently not playing while dealing with a COVID outbreak. 


Bison picked to win Missouri Valley Football Conference

North Dakota State has been picked to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference in the pre-season conference poll released Wednesday.  NDSU has won 38 straight games and eight of the last nine FCS National Championships.  South Dakota State was picked to finished third in the conference.  Just ahead of them at #2 is Northern Iowa.  Finally South Dakota has been picked to finished sixth in the conference.  The league kicks off play next week after the season was  moved from the fall closer to spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Missouri Valley Football Conference pre-season poll:

  1. North Dakota State
  2. Northern Iowa
  3. South Dakota State
  4. Illinois State
  5. Southern Illinois
  6. South Dakota
  7. North Dakota
  8. Youngstown State
  9. (tie). Missouri State and Western Illinois

Wings goaltender Sibell named goalie of the month

Aberdeen Wings goaltender Jake Sibell has been named the NAHL’s goaltender of the month.  This is the second straight month he has earned the honor.  Sibell is 21 years old 6’2 206 pounds and a native of Isanti Minnesota.  He posted a perfect 7-0 record in seven starts, allowing just two goals during the month of January.  Sibell is currently the top goalie in the NHL with a 1.01 goals against average and a .960 save percentage.  He is committed to play division I hockey for Niagara University next season


Twins sign Nelson Cruz to one-year extension

The Minnesota Twins and designated hitter Nelson Cruz have come to terms on a new one-year contract extension.  The deal is reportedly worth $13 million.  Cruz is 40 years old who hit 16 home runs, 33  RBIs and a .303 average in 2020. 


Vikings promote Ryan Ficken to special teams coordinator

Ryan Ficken is finally getting his chance as a coordinator in the NFL.

 

The Vikings announced Monday that Ficken, who has been with the organization for 14 seasons, is Minnesota's new special teams coordinator.

 

The Vikings also announced that Josh Hingst has been brought on as the head strength and conditioning coach.

 

Ficken has been with the Vikings since the 2007 season and has spent the past eight years as the Vikings assistant special teams coordinator.

 

He coached under Mike Priefer on special teams from 2013-18, and was under Marwan Maalouf from 2019-20. Maalouf's contract was not renewed after this past season.

 

Ficken brings plenty of energy and experience to the role, as he had a big hand in the Vikings run of success on special teams in previous seasons.

 

The Vikings have 11 total touchdowns on special teams during Ficken's tenure as the assistant special teams coordinator. Minnesota tallied five kickoff returns for scores, four punt returns for touchdowns and a pair of blocked punts taken into the end zone.

 

Ficken will be tasked with turning around a phase that struggled for most of the 2020 season.

The Vikings ranked last in the league in both field goal percentage (68.2) and punt return average (4.3).

 

Minnesota also allowed a kickoff return for a score, a pair of blocked punts, had 11 total penalties called on special teams, underwent a long snapper change and saw veteran kicker Dan Bailey hit a slump over the final month of the season.

 

Ficken spent his first two seasons with Minnesota assistant running backs coach. The Vikings had a top-five rushing offense in each of those two seasons, including the No. 1 unit in 2007 when Adrian Peterson rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 scores as a rookie.

 

He also served as the Vikings assistant wide receivers coach from 2009-12, helping both Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice earn Pro Bowl honors in his first season in that role.

 

Ficken played collegiately for two seasons at Arizona State, where he also received the Scholar-Athlete Award. He coached at UCLA for one season before joining the Vikings.

 

Off the field, Ficken participated in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, back in 2004.

"Best experience I've ever had in my life," Ficken told Vikings.com back in July of 2019. "It was unbelievable. Un. Believable."


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