Most local sports journalists seem afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

Tom Thibodeau (l) and Scott Layden Charles Hallman/MSR News

Why are the local media scared of Tom Thibodeau, the Minnesota Timberwolves president and head coach?

When Thibodeau’s predecessor Sam Mitchell was coach, he was oft-criticized by some media for his surliness during post-game press conferences. Mitchell didn’t answer questions in their preferred servant-master manner, and some called him out for that.

But since Mitchell’s departure and the Thibs regime took over almost a season and a half ago, he’s no friendlier than Mitchell but is more controlling. It seems most everyone has accepted the current coach-prez’s dour disposition in lockstep fashion.

Unlike past seasons, with the David Khan years an exception, never have things been so controlled at the newly remodeled downtown Minneapolis basketball facility. Access to players and coaches these days feels like trying to crash the Trump White House.

The last two Wolves media days, which once was designed for media to speak to players and coaches in small groups or brief one-on-one’s, have become press briefings. The only thing missing was Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with Thibodeau and players taking short questions in timed sessions.

Some reporters grumble afterwards, but to our knowledge no one else has spoken out about it, let alone called this out in print or electronic media. I did, but the answer wasn’t satisfying.

I don’t know where or when Thibodeau learned how to be so controlling. He certainly didn’t get it from the late Bill Musselman, the Wolves’ first coach and the man who brought Thibodeau into the NBA in the first place and hired him as an assistant coach.

Musselman had his ways, but he always was accessible whenever I approached him during his and the club’s first two years in existence. In fact, until now every coach after Musselman was pretty easy to deal with for the most part — some better than others. Mitchell, who I covered as a player before he went into coaching, often would give freely of his time when approached.

Thus far we haven’t sought a one-on-one with Thibs mainly because we don’t have the time to get a security clearance just to ask a couple of questions, making him the first Wolves coach or executive I haven’t had an official encounter with.

Perry Michael Simon, who weekly writes “The Letter” for All Access Music Group, recently noted that today’s journalists are too “predictable,” preferring not to ask tough questions and settling instead for “non-answers.” I would apply Simon’s observation to local sportswriters in particular.

Too many are scared to ask tough questions, opting to be kissy-face with coaches and players. You definitely see this these days with Thibs, the Big Bad Wolf.  Unless it’s a person who doesn’t look like them — then they become faux Mike Wallaces.

Thibodeau isn’t the only one, but he’s emblematic of today’s sports coverage landscape. It’s like this at the collegiate level as well.

“They need you more than you need them” — Simon’s eight-word advice — has been my mantra for as long as I can remember, but especially since I decided to get into this business. Sadly, too many of my compatriots have forgotten or abandoned this knowledge.


Rooney Rule violated?

Did the NFL’s Oakland Raiders get around the league’s Rooney Rule when they hired Jon Gruden as their next coach? The Rule is in place mandating that all NFL teams must interview at least one person of color for coaching vacancies.

There were published reports that Gruden was the frontrunner for the Raiders job. If so, then the team violated the Rooney Rule. The question is whether the league will investigate or let it go.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to