Howie Hansen: Charter puts Gopher hoops on TV

Charter Communications and Victory Sports have reached an agreement to televise 12 additional Minnesota Gophers men's basketball games on local Cable 49, including this Saturday's 1 p.m. non-league game against highly-ranked Georgia and next Wedn...

Charter Communications and Victory Sports have reached an agreement to televise 12 additional Minnesota Gophers men's basketball games on local Cable 49, including this Saturday's 1 p.m. non-league game against highly-ranked Georgia and next Wednesday's 6 p.m. ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Georgia Tech. Eight additional games will be on ESPN, ESPN 2 or CBS.

Rick Rickert of Duluth is a sophomore starter for the Gophers, the Big Ten Conference preseason player of the year and an All-American candidate.

"The deal essentially brings the full Gophers season to the Duluth market," said Jo-ell Teixeira, Charter's regional public relations manager. "Both Charter and Victory Sports recognize the importance of the Gophers, and worked hard to find a way to technically bring the games to Duluth and reach a financial agreement."

Kevin Lloyd, regional manager with Charter, worked hard to secure the additional games. Gophers games are also available on Direct TV, but only with an additional premium subscription. Two Gophers games will be on CBS.

The fact is, Charter really came through for its subscribers.


East's Randolph reloads

Duluth East's 1-0 loss to Cloquet in the Section 7AA boy's hockey championship game a year ago was tough to swallow, Greyhounds coach Mike Randolph said.

All season-ending losses are difficult, but section final losses -- with a state tournament berth on the line -- sting more than others. East was favored to win 7AA and was talented enough to compete for a state title, and they knew it.

Most notable among the 'Hounds nine seniors was forward Nick Licari, now a regular at the University of Wisconsin.

"It was a tough senior group to let go of, and some were five-year varsity players," Randolph said.

East also graduated its starting goalie, two defenders and five other forwards, including its top six scorers.

East plays its 2002-03 home opener Thursday, against Hill-Murray at 8 p.m. at the DECC.

For most teams hit so heavily by graduation, this would be a major rebuilding season. But East simply reloads with proven varsity role players and junior varsity players who itch to grab leadership roles.


East's top returning players are all defensemen: seniors John Jacques and Eric Dahlberg and juniors Phil Johnson and Chris Johnson. Junior forward Brian Lasky, a junior who had nine points last season, is the team's top returning point-getter. The goalie spot is wide open.

"No question, defense is our strength," said Randolph, now in his 15th season at East and the dean of northeastern Minnesota prep hockey coaches. "Players also have to step up from the junior varsity, from a year ago, and we're looking for a starting goalie among a group of three juniors and a sophomore. And we have to replace a lot of scoring up front."

East's junior varsity program is the key to the varsity's success, but the feeder system will be put to test this season.

"Most of our varsity players play at lease one year of jayvee," Randolph said. "Very few players make the immediate jump to varsity from bantams, which is difficult at the Class AA level. Most kids don't want to play junior varsity, but it's a good time for them to learn the game at the next level, at a little slower pace than jumping right from bantams to high school. And when you play such a competitive junior varsity schedule as we do, it's a tough jump."

East's success at the varsity level is also a credit to the East Duluth youth program and its coaches, Randolph said.

"East parents deserve a lot of credit, they want their kids to excel in the sport," Randolph said.

But East parents and fans expect their 'Hounds to win, which puts added pressure on Randolph and his staff and players. An inexperienced East team could be lamb to slaughter for opponents, if the players don't step up.

Said Randolph: "There's certain expectations, but there's a lot of things you can't control, such as the bounce of a puck, and hockey is a game where the best team doesn't always win every night. There's goaltending, refereeing, all kinds of factors. I've been around the game long enough to know that there's a lot more to the game than winning. I've also learned that winning will take care of itself if you have a good attitude and a solid work ethic."


Randolph, who had previous two-year head coaching stints at Denfeld and Duluth Cathedral and was an assistant at Minnesota Duluth and St. Scholastica, still has a lot of fire in his belly for coaching. Retiring at East isn't in his plans, he said, and he's not interested in stepping up to coach in the college or pro ranks -- although he did apply for the UMD men's job three years ago.

"I was a little hurt by the UMD thing, not getting an interview, but today it's behind me," Randolph said. "I've always been happy at Duluth East, where I have great assistants in Terry Johnson and Larry Trachsel who have been with me for the entire 15 years. We're not only co-coaches but great friends and have a lot of fun. And Mike Miernicki (East activities director) has been great to work with.

"I'm approaching my East opportunity one year at a time. My decision to retire will never be made at the end of a season, when there's so much emotion at the end of seniors' careers. If I did step down, I wouldn't make my decision until sometime in the summer."

Randolph ranks East's Minnesota Class AA championships in 1995 and '97 as his two proudest and most rewarding coaching moments.

"Winning state is an unbelievable experience," he said. "There's nothing better than taking a bunch of kids to the show, to the greatest high school sports event in the world. For the kids to play in the tournament, on television, it's something special."

Howie Hanson writes a regular sports column for Duluth Budgeteer News. He can be reached at 940-3570 or by e-mail at .

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