The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

Judy Garland, a native of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, said it eight decades ago in the role of Dorothy Gale: “There’s no place like home.”

Steve Walsh agrees.

It’s been almost four decades since Walsh was a three-sport athlete at Cretin-Derham Hall. Although best known for his football achievements, including passing for more than 2,000 yards and leading the school to the state tournament as a senior, Walsh also was an outstanding basketball and baseball player for the Raiders before graduating in 1985.

He went on to have a stellar college career as a quarterback, leading the University of Miami to a national title in 1987, as well as an 11-year run in the NFL playing for six different teams.

Upon retiring as a player, Walsh stayed involved in football. In Florida, he coached a high school team for six seasons and worked in various football divisions of the prestigious IMG Academy. Later, he headed north for a five-year stint in the Canadian Football League, including serving as the quarterback coach for the Toronto Argonauts when they won the 2017 Grey Cup, the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl.

While all that was taking place, Walsh had occasional conversations with fellow CDH grad Phil Archer, now the school’s athletic director, about possibly heading back to town someday to take over the reins of the Raider football program.

That day has come. Walsh had already decided it was time for him, his wife Deanna and son Brayden to move back to town. That led to more conversations and, on December 29, Walsh was announced as the new head football coach at CDH. “Things just kind of worked out,” Archer said. “The timing was right for both of us.”

“Things just kind of worked out,” Archer said. “The timing was right for both of us.”

Walsh will also serve as an advancement officer for the school. “I’m excited for the opportunity to return to my alma mater—a place where I attended as a student and developed academically and athletically,” he said in the press release announcing his appointment. 

Football has had some rough patches in recent years at CDH. Although player participation numbers have remained solid, the Raiders found playing Class AAAAAA football to be tough sledding. The Raiders, who dropped down to Class AAAAA to better align with their enrollment, were 3-7 in 2021.

Chuck Miesbauer, a 2003 CDH grad who served as the Raiders’ head football coach for the past three seasons, will stay with the program as a helper and with the school working with the alumni as well as handling fundraising duties. Miesbauer has also been instrumental in the development of the 7-on-7 flag football league that is run in conjunction with the Capital City Football Association.

Prep shot clock a challenge on many fronts 

As was noted in the last issue, a major change will soon take place in local high school basketball. Starting with the 2023-24 season, a 35-second shot clock will be used during boys’ and girls’ varsity games. Minnesota is the 13th state in the country to institute such a rule for prep hoops. Cretin-Derham Hall boys’ coach Jerry Kline voiced a reaction that several other colleagues felt. “Hallelujah!” he said. “It’ll give a better flow to the game. Just watch a college basketball game to see the difference.”

Kline said his team has played at several sites where a shot clock was used. “The kids adjusted fast,” he said. “Players know they have to make plays.” 

For a sport to succeed in the 21st century, it’s necessary to adjust from time to time. There’ll be teams with lesser talent that won’t like the new rule, but good coaches will learn to adapt.

The adjustments for the girls’ teams will be interesting to watch. High school rules are the same for everybody in Minnesota. That wasn’t the case when college basketball instituted the shot clock. The NCAA started with a 45-second clock for men’s games in 1985. Eight years later, it was reduced to 35 seconds. In 2015, it dropped to 30 seconds.

Women’s basketball had a 30-second shot clock as early as 1971. However, the 10-second rule to get the ball past mid-court that had always been in the men’s game didn’t make it to the women’s game until 2014. Before then, talented women’s teams played at a quick pace. Many lesser teams, however, slowed the game down.

Saint Paul Academy girls’ basketball coach Willie Taylor views the move as a positive. “I’ve coached with a shot clock in AAU games,” he said. “It changes your strategy. It’ll take a while to get used to it, but the game will be better for it.”

The state announcement about the new rule offered this addendum: “Member schools may use the shot clock at sub-varsity levels by consensus of competing schools.” Growing pains at those levels already require coaches to be patient. Nevertheless, count Highland Park athletic director Pat Auran among those who think using a shot clock at the JV level is critical to having it be a success. “Players are going to have to get used to it,” he said.

Taylor agrees. “I think it should be used at the JV and ninth-grade levels,” he said.

The waiting period to add the shot clock is a necessity because it poses logistical and, in some cases, financial issues for schools. For schools with smaller gyms, wiring may be a challenge. As for overall costs, a quick glance at a Daktronics website revealed shot clocks cost $2,647-$3,722, not including shipping or installation.

You need a general to lead a team into battle 

By the time you read this, major changes may already be afoot for the Minnesota Vikings. Outside of lining Zygi and Mark Wilf’s pockets with a day of ticket and concession receipts, last Sunday’s season finale against the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium was a meaningless affair. The memory of the week before—the 37-10 national embarrassment at the hands of the Packers—is the image that many local fans will carry in their heads for months to come.

It was a classic lesson that the quarterback is the key to offensive success. Teams must believe the man under center knows exactly what needs to be done to win a game. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers strikes many people as a miserable lout of a human being. However, even his biggest detractors admit that the man knows how to get a team down a field and score points. He makes mistakes like the rest of us, but he rarely makes the same one twice. More important, he comes off as being with his mates every step of the way and will do whatever is needed to win a game.

Football is an interesting mix of a sport. Yes, individual efforts such as a great kickoff return, a long field goal or a sack on a third down play will stand out, but those are mere moments. More games than not are won or lost by the man who calls the signals and inspires the belief in his offensive mates that the play that’s called will work. That trust gets built over time. As we saw in Green Bay with Sean Mannion leading the Vikings, a lack of trust—or inexperience in that position—makes it hard to succeed.

The Vikings now must decide if they have the right general at the helm to steer the under-.500 ship. It’s possible to remedy a lack of athletic talent. Finding the right mental talent to be successful is a lot trickier. 

Dave Wright can be reached at dwright53@msn.com.

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