When P.J. Fleck rode into town a year and change ago, he came preaching about a new culture for the University of Minnesota sports program. What he described, is actually something the whole state needed. A culture shift.
However, this does not start or end with P.J. Fleck. It involves every team and every star and every coach and every GM, furthering the right mentality to the community.
Mike Zimmer frequently mentions a adage, “There’s four learns in football. First you learn how to compete. Then you learn how to win. Then you learn how to handle winning. Then you learn how to be a champion.” But what does that mean?
It starts at the bottom, Flip Saunders made his great homecoming to this state a few years back, only to be cut short by cancer. But before he passed away, Flip invested in two young men and a role model. Those young studs have become Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and that role model was Kevin Garnett. The rebuild was started. This was a team that was going to learn how to compete.
Paul Molitor has had a lot of transition in his time as manager, the old guard in Terry Ryan removed, and the new guard in Derek Falvey and Thad Levine put in place. This was a team that has prodigious talent in Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. They have loudmouths like Brian Dozier and Lance Lynn. They have quiet leaders like Joe Mauer and Ervin Santana. This is a team that has spent the last year learning how to win.
Coach Zimmer's squad is one that has been on the cusp, and from 27 yards away to 31 points away, they still are a step away. So what does Rick Spielman do? He aggressively goes after the best free agent quarteback and defensive tackle. He saw the team's weaknesses and he sought to fix it. But most importantly, following the Minneapolis Miracle last year, we found out that this team is still one that is learning how to deal with winning.
The Wild invested into a window that has stretched long and wide. It started with the acquisition of hometown hero Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on matching 13 year free agent contracts. This is a team that has gone through multiple coaches and still has a 6 year playoff streak going. This is a team that still needs to learn how to be a champion.
The only who seems to have it figured out is the coach of the Lynx, Cheryl Reeve. Her culture is excellence, and anything short is a waste of time. She knows how to be a champion.
Tonight, the Wolves made a step forward, they learned how to win. And a process that began under Flip Saunders, and has been fostered by the likes of more than Flip and KG, it's a team effort, but tonight, Jimmy Butler played his heart out to take this team to the next stage of the race.