Jace Frederick / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL—The annual Gopher Road Trip allows the various coaches of the University of Minnesota athletic programs to travel the state and connect with fans who support their programs. It also allows many of those coaches to flash their sense of humor. The coaches prepare speeches to deliver to the crowds at each stop, and most are littered with comedy. Here were some of the best lines delivered Tuesday morning in Owatonna:
MINNEAPOLIS — Minutes after the Timberwolves season ended in a Game 5 loss to Houston in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Andrew Wiggins started to reflect. In his final performance of the season, a 122-104 loss in Houston, Wiggins tallied 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting, committed two turnovers and had not a single assist. "I kept losing the ball a lot," Wiggins said. "Just got to take it into the summer and use it as motivation."
MINNEAPOLIS — By the end of the season, there weren't many reasons left to criticize what was one of Tom Thibodeau's most scrutinized moves to date with the Timberwolves. Derrick Rose proved his worth in his short time in Minnesota. The veteran guard and former NBA MVP provided valuable wing depth to a team desperate for it, supplying a scoring burst and, more importantly, a toughness and a defensive presence in the playoffs to help keep Minnesota somewhat in a series against Houston in which its lack of perimeter depth was tested.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Lynx's offseason plans changed when rumblings of a comeback came out of Charlotte. Veteran guard Tanisha Wright had stepped away from playing basketball prior to the 2017 WNBA season, citing a need to rest, and last fall was hired as an assistant coach for the UNC-Charlotte women's basketball team. "I needed to just regroup," Wright said. But around January, she felt the want to return to action. A few good workouts led to a few more and "a few teams caught wind," she said.
ST. PAUL — Scott Layden has regrets about the February trade deadline. Although in the thick of the race for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Timberwolves sat idly as the deadline came and went, passing on a chance to improve their roster for the home stretch. "Could we have been more aggressive? We had a lot of things that went back and forth and maybe we should've done something a little different," the Wolves general manager said Monday. "I take responsibility for that."
MINNEAPOLIS—Tom Thibodeau isn't the most popular coach in Minnesota. The Timberwolves' head coach and president of basketball operations is questioned at every turn, each decision scrutinized and, often, criticized. From his sideline mannerisms to his rotations to his schemes, almost everyone has found something for which to criticize Thibodeau, an odd dynamic given the fact that the Wolves made the playoffs this season for the first time since 2004. Thibodeau hears the criticism, but he doesn't pay it much mind.
MINNEAPOLIS — With the Timberwolves' playoff drought over and a strong veteran base on the team, Minnesota has safely departed the rebuild phase and jumped straight into a transitional summer. Assuming he's back next season, Tom Thibodeau — the Wolves' coach and president of basketball operations — has a slew of decisions to make as he attempts to improve a roster in need of changes without virtually any salary cap space. But before Thibodeau makes any decisions about what he can and will do this summer, he must first answer these questions:
HOUSTON — Following the Timberwolves' season-ending Game 5 loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night, Taj Gibson went up to Minnesota's younger players and said two words: "Step 1." Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said that when you're trying to get out of a "hole" such as Minnesota's 14-year playoff drought and change franchise's culture "there's going to be steps that you have to take along the way." This, in Gibson's mind, was No. 1.
MINNEAPOLIS — In an interview with WCCO radio's Chad Hartman on Monday, April 24, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was asked if he was concerned about Jimmy Butler's decision to have surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee. The question was framed as if Butler had two options — undergo one surgery that would allow him to return to action sooner, or take a different surgical route that would keep him out for an extended period of time but might be better for his career long term.
MINNEAPOLIS—In recent years, the Houston Rockets have been a top-two seed in the Western Conference and reached a conference finals behind a high-powered offense led by all-world guard James Harden. But this is the first year Houston is a legitimate NBA title contender, and it's because of its defense. The Rockets were sixth in defensive efficiency this season. Pair that with their already powerful offense, and the Rockets became nearly impossible to stop—hence their NBA-best 65 wins in the regular season.