Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pitino and the Golden Gophers – a Restoration of Pride

It is likely that we have all encountered failure and despair during the course of life. Sometimes we refer to it as “hitting the bottom.”

As we look back to that period, we judge ourselves on the basis of how we handled it. Did we blame others, curse our misfortune, or did we face ourselves and commit ourselves to success?

This is precisely the situation Coach Richard Pitino and his players found themselves in at the conclusion of last season. They had just finished one of the worse seasons in Gopher basketball history and were immersed in a sex scandal.

While I personally do not know precisely what transpired, I do know this. They did not blame others; they did not curse the darkness; nor did they proclaim a lot of optimistic nonsense about next year.

No, Coach Pitino quietly put together a solid self-improvement program known as PRIDE. The overall goal was to instill in each player a mature understanding of responsibility. He understood that character builds teams not just talent.

This new commitment by coach and players has produced a total reversal of last season. This is a team and not a collection of players.

This was most apparent in the Nebraska game when Pitino put in his reserves including walk-ons for the final minutes of the game. Yes, the fans cheered but it was the starters that cheered the loudest and longest. Led by senior Akeem Springs, they united in their genuine appreciation and affection for those who worked so hard in practice to make everyone better.

This one moment said it all: Coach Pitino has a TEAM and it is really good.

With their quickness, balance, solid bench strength and high energy, they will in my view take Wisconsin and go on to win the Big 10 tourney. They are clearly the hottest team right now.

In the NCAA, the Sweet 16 looks probably and the Elite Eight within reach.

Congratulations Coach Pitino – you are the coach of the year and likewise to the players – you are the pride of Minnesota.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Leaders with a Mission – Blatz and Anderson

Far too often, Governor Dayton has chosen government leaders on the basis of political loyalty rather than competence. However, the selection of Kathleen Blatz as chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC) is spot on. We need credibility and capability in the management of the public’s money.

One is hard pressed to think of any endeavor that has been more mismanaged than the partnership between Zygi Wilf and the government. It has been a nightmare of faulty promises, secrecy and ineptitude finally resulting in a Senate investigation led by Senator Sarah Anderson and the housecleaning of MSFC.

No Minnesotan enjoys a higher level of credibility than Kathleen Blatz and that is precisely what is needed if any semblance of public trust in governmental partnerships is to be restored. In typical Blatz fashion, she immediately reviewed the mission of the commission and engaged her board colleagues in a genuine discussion of purpose. She recognized that there can be no unity until there is a real understanding of the legislation that created MSFC.

As a legislator, District Court judge, and Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Kathleen Blatz always had her compass fixed on the public good and never permitted any form of self-interest by anyone to enter into the final work product. That level of integrity and competence is precisely what the doctor ordered.

While the MSFC redefines it role and reviews its contracts, the state Senate will continue its work on restructuring the commission.  Headed by Senator Sarah Anderson (R-44A), the committee has an opportunity to truly straighten out the whole stadium mess. It began with false statements of funding by gambling proceeds “without using a single dollar of general fund tax revenues” and included a law limiting all public funding to $498 million. Obviously, truthfulness and law have succumbed to secrecy and an endless amount of public monies being directed to the stadium.

It is imperative that Senator Anderson, who is emerging as a state leader and possible gubernatorial candidate, direct a public review of the stadium project from the very beginning. Only then can there be a full comprehension of the oversight role and the assignment of that role to the commission or another entity. But without an understanding of the past, it will be futile to attempt to design the future.

Further, the Anderson committee has an opportunity to make a permanent contribution to future public-private partnerships by making a declaration of public policy that includes a list of essential ingredients with full public disclosure and competence at the top.

The end results of the efforts by the MSFC board under the leadership of Kathleen Blatz and the Senate Committee chaired by Sarah Anderson could well be a structure that is truly dedicated to the public good. That would be a change we would welcome.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jim Carter---A Refreshing Brand of Honesty

How well I remember the days of Gopher football with Jim Carter, a native Minnesotan, at fullback. He was a heads-on and straightforward type of rugged runner. There were no subtleties – just the old fashioned type of running usually associated with Woody Hayes of Ohio State.

Now a candidate for the Board of Regents of his beloved University of Minnesota, Carter is again being straight forward and direct even when it comes to his own past indiscretions. According to information leaked anonymously to KSTP Channel 5, Carter was publicly intoxicated and sought sex while a Green Bay Packer some 40 years ago.

It was clearly an ugly incident. Although no charges were filed, he was disciplined by the Green Bay Packers and ultimately went through chemical dependency treatment.

In his interview with a Channel 5 Reporter, Carter was open and totally honest and made no excuses. I do not believe I have ever seen a person handle such a challenge with more candor. It was a rare display of personal courage.

Now the question is whether or not he is fit to serve as a Regent. My answer is “yes” and it is a very emphatic “yes”. His level of honesty and openness is precisely what the doctor ordered.

Every time a scandal has occurred at the University, President Kaler, his management team, and the Board of Regents have resorted to blaming others and giving evasive and, all too often, untruthful responses. They ducked responsibility while Jim Carter assumed it

His integrity and forthrightness is desperately needed on the Board of Regents. He will be a superb servant of the people.