It all started last Sunday when the Timberwolves announced Flip Saunders died, after his battle with Hodgkins lymphoma. Monday, Twins fan-favorite Torii Hunter officially declared he's retiring from baseball. Wednesday morning, University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement citing health reasons.
That's a lot of information to process in a 43-word paragraph. I think I'll save Torii for another time, but here are some thoughts on Flip and Kill.
Minnesota loses a sports icon
I was as shocked as I think a lot of Minnesotans were to hear the news that Flip died. We all knew he had cancer. What was surprising to me was that only a few days prior, the Timberwolves had just declared that Flip wouldn't coach this season. I also completely understand the family wanting their privacy, leading to a lack of public information. That's a non-issue for me, but I think it helps explain why everyone was taken by surprise.
I don't have some great memory of Flip and his Timberwolves. Mostly because basketball and the Wolves haven't been a top priority in my sports world. That's just the truth. I watch hockey during the winter, not basketball.
But I know enough as a sports fan to realize the importance and effect Flip leaves with his legacy. He was a Gopher, coached the Wolves during their playoff berths and then came back to Minnesota for another run with the team. It's such a Minnie thing to do, really.
He was 60 years old, which is way too young. Cancer. It's a nasty disease.
Kill abruptly retires
The Coach Kill news reached me as I did a quick, out-of-habit check of Twitter after I woke up. I was stunned. I was out and about that morning, so I missed the news conference. But as I later heard, watched and read about it, I realized just how intense this all was.
The emotion from Kill that day was unlike anything I'd seen in a long time. I think I heard someone rank it up there with the news conference when Kirby Puckett retired because of loss of vision in one eye.
I didn't go to the U of M, and I wouldn't call myself a Gopher fan exactly. I'm more of a casual observer. I'll watch some games, follow how their teams do each year, but I'm a little indifferent. Still, that doesn't mean I wasn't interested in this retirement news. The stories of Kill dealing with seizures and epilepsy have been well documented since he was hired here nearly five years ago.
Football was his life. That's all he's ever done. That was clear from his tears; he didn't need to say it. I don't think anyone wants to quit something unless it's on his or her own terms. I think he'd coach football for decades, if it weren't for the limitations his health brought along.
I wish nothing but the best for him as he moves on with life after football, takes care of himself, spends time with family and perhaps finds an additional passion he can work toward.