Is Richard Pitino likely to be the first coach fired first this season?

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where we always keep the hot side hot and the cold side cold. Let’s get to it:

*In advance of the first big night of men’s college basketball action — including the Gophers’ opener against Omaha at Williams Arena — comes a reminder from an online betting web site of just what might be at stake for head coach Richard Pitino this year.

Per, the site BetDSI has labeled Pitino as the most likely candidate to be fired first among coaches this season. The odds are still 2.5 to 1 of him being the first to go — barely ahead of Maryland’s Mark Turgeon at 3 to 1 and certainly more likely to not happen than to happen — but it’s still instructive.

At the very least, it underscores the perceived expectations for the Gophers this year, who finished a disappointing 15-17 last season after reaching the NCAA tourney two years ago. Last season was a mess filled with injuries — chronicled nicely here by Marcus Fuller — but the Gophers have the talent to make the NCAA field this year.

If it doesn’t happen for Pitino, who has a 90-78 record which includes a disappointing 31-59 Big Ten mark in five seasons, he is certainly a candidate to be replaced by the athletic director who inherited him, Mark Coyle.

*In a video that raises all sorts of interesting questions, several Ottawa Senators players were recorded during a recent Uber ride on a road trip in Phoenix bad-mouthing their coaches.

The video was posted on YouTube and Twitter, though it has been subsequently taken down. The Ottawa Citizen has details, and the strongest comments come from Senators forward Matt Duchene. He can be heard ripping the coaching skills of assistant Marty Raymond.

Here’s the other thing, too. We don’t change anything, ever. So why do we even have a meeting? I haven’t paid attention in three weeks.”

The players involved issued an apology Monday night. The bigger fallout could come from the perception of Uber, where passengers should have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

*After the Cowboys lost 28-14 to the Texans on Monday Night, Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman went on the radio Tuesday and blasted the organization’s current state.

I talk to people who have been inside the building and have a pretty good understanding of how things are run, and in a lot of ways there’s a lot of dysfunction,” he said, per the Dallas News transcription. “And that has to change if this team is going to be able to compete on a consistent basis like the teams you look to around the league that seemingly are in the hunt each and every year.”

Dallas recently traded a first round pick for Amari Cooper, who had a TD grab Monday, in a desperate attempt to jump-start their season. The Vikings did that in 2010 with Randy Moss, and you’ll recall it didn’t work out so well.

Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard situations appear similar but feel different

An NBA star player has missed three of his team’s first 10 games — two of them due explicitly to rest and one because of a vague injury — to start this season.

That player is expected to play for a new team in 2019-20, when he could cash in with an expensive new free agent contract.

And that player is … either Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard.

In a strange little bit of symmetry, both Butler and Leonard sat out their respective road games Sunday — Butler for rest, Leonard ostensibly because of a sore foot.

Both players had missed two previous games during the season. Both players’ teams have road games again Monday. Both are among the NBA’s best two-way players. And indeed both very well could be on new teams next year.

Leonard already forced his way out of San Antonio last year, winding up in Toronto — which many people assume is a temporary stop before free agency. Butler is trying to do the same in Minnesota, hoping for a trade so he can sign a more lucrative extension.

And when they’ve played, both have put up numbers befitting of their status as stars. Butler is averaging 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Leonard has been even better: 26.7/7.6/3.4.

But yet their respective situations feel completely different.

First, everyone in Toronto seems to be on the same page with Leonard’s schedule. Raptors coach Nick Nurse has already said Leonard will miss the front or back end of back-to-back games indefinitely — which Leonard has done three times this year, with the reason given explicitly as rest in the first two cases while a sore foot was the explanation given for missing Sunday’s game at the Lakers. Leonard’s status is unclear for Monday’s game at Utah, but it feels legitimately unclear.

No such plan has been articulated with the Wolves. With Butler, the player seems to be calling the shots — telling the Star Tribune’s Chris Hine “I let them know” when asked how the Wolves determine when and if Butler will play. It’s not quite Randy Moss and the infamous “I play when I want to play,” but it’s entering that territory. It also calls into question the leadership of head coach/basketball president Tom Thibodeau for allowing this to happen.

Second — and perhaps as a result of the clarity of the situation? — the Raptors seem to be functioning just fine even if Leonard has one foot out the door. They’re 9-1 through 10 games and are 7-0 when he plays. They routed the Lakers on Sunday without Kawhi.

The Wolves? They’re limping along at 4-6, including 3-4 when Jimmy suits up. They were pummeled by 30 points without Butler on Sunday at Portland, their second loss by that margin already this year (though Butler played in that first one vs. Milwaukee).

Third, Leonard might not love being in Toronto but he seems like he’s prepared to make the best of the situation as long as he’s there while honoring the final year of his contract.

Butler likes to say he’s committed to his teammates, but the simple act of requesting a trade in the final year of his deal says otherwise. The Wolves weren’t as good as the Raptors were a year ago, but let’s not forget they were a playoff team marching toward a top-four seed before Butler was injured. Without the Butler distraction this year, and with an improved bench, it wouldn’t take much squinting to see the Wolves emerge as a 50-win team and a potential top-four seed after winning 47 a year ago. Now it’s fair to wonder if they will climb above .500 at any point this season.

It adds up to one situation that appears dysfunctional from all lenses — one that is “ruining the Timberwolves season” and perhaps even polluting their future, per a strong piece from SB Nation.

The other situation? Fans are bummed they didn’t get to see Kawhi vs. LeBron last night, but as it turned out the Raptors can win without him anyway.

Detroit media blasts Lions, leading with ‘poor posture’ headline

Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes if you’re the Lions you have to take a couple steps backward to ensure you keep going backward. Let’s get to it.

*One of the most underrated aspects of sports — and particularly a league like the NFL, where margins are thin and the quantity of games is scarce — falls under the adage, “It’s not always who you play, but when you play them.”

On paper, the Lions presented a sneaky challenge for the Vikings on Sunday. They were a pedestrian 3-4 coming in, but they owned wins over Green Bay (OK, maybe not that impressive) and New England (definitely impressive). They had proved to be capable of beating the best … and losing to the mediocre-at-best.

Had these teams met in, say, Week 4 or 5 when Detroit was finding a stride and the Vikings were scuffling, Minnesota might have taken a damaging NFC North loss. But they met instead in Week 9, just days after the Lions dealt away excellent receiver Golden Tate in a move aimed at the long haul.

The result was a game that felt like a toss-up for a while but kept tilting toward the Vikings as a result of a ferocious pass rush that sacked Matthew Stafford a team-record 10 times. And the Lions, when given new life in the fourth quarter after a Vikings fumble, returned the gift right back when Stafford tried to make something out of nothing by pitching the ball while on the run.

Had it worked for a nice gain, Stafford might have been lauded for a heads-up play. Instead, the ball was fumbled and scooped up for a touchdown return by Danielle Hunter. And Stafford was eviscerated by the Detroit Free-Press for executing “the most Detroit Lions-esque play ever.

If you thought that was rough, though, you didn’t see the cover of the Detroit News coverage of the game. The big, bold headline: Poor Posture — a riff on head coach Matt Patricia’s midweek chiding of a reporter for slouching while asking a question.

No, as it turns out Sunday was about the perfect time to play Detroit. The Vikings head into the bye at 5-3-1, while the Lions’ season is close to cooked.

*The Wolves were pummeled 111-81 in Portland on Sunday. A loss was perhaps predictable with Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose hobbled while Jimmy Butler rested for the third time in 10 games, but matching the 30-point deficit of an earlier embarrassing loss to Milwaukee is not something anyone should expect or tolerate.

A good sign of effort and engagement can be found in a few key areas — one of which is rebounding. The Wolves were clobbered 66-38 on the boards Sunday, and lest you think that was merely a product of Portland having more chances to grab all those Minnesota misses, think again. The Wolves’ defensive rebound rate was a paltry 59.2 percent — meaning they didn’t even grab three of every five defensive rebounds available.

On the season, they’re dead last in that stat in the NBA at 65.9 percent. The Wolves were bad in this area last year — 25th in the league at 72 percent — but this is next-level bad.

Andrew Wiggins played a team-high 31 minutes and grabbed exactly one rebound. The starting lineup had 12 defensive rebounds combined. They were missing two starters and a reserve — all of them guards. There’s no explanation for getting outworked that badly on the glass except for poor effort. Whether that was a result of an off night or the byproduct of Butler’s continued drama is a question left to the observer.

We’ll see who plays and how they play in the second night of a back-to-back against the Clippers on Monday.

*ESPN’s Bill Barnwell has an interesting look at the first half of the NFL season, declaring Kirk Cousins’ late TD vs. the Packers was the pass of the year so far and that Danielle Hunter — as also argued by our Ben Goessling — is in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.

Mike Yeo in familiar position with Blues: on the coaching hot seat

Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where everything old is new again. Let’s get to it:

*The Wild is in the midst of one of the strangest seven-game road trips I’ve ever seen — one that will take Minnesota to St. Louis on two separate occasions while the other five games are out west.

The first of those jaunts to St. Louis comes Saturday, where the surging Wild will face a Blues team with a lot of early-season questions. The biggest of those questions might be this: How long will Mike Yeo be the head coach?

That should be a familiar question to Wild fans, since Yeo’s job status was a nearly annual topic of discussion during his four full seasons (and the fifth in which he was actually fired midyear) as Minnesota’s head coach.

Yeo took over the Blues in the middle of the 2016-17 season, guiding them to a 22-8-2 record and a first-round playoff upset of the Wild (one that also is familiar in a couple regards, since Yeo pulled a couple of first-round upsets when he was Wild coach … and conversely Wild fans are also used to playoff disappointment).

The Blues entered last season with lofty expectations, but they missed the playoffs in the crowded Western Conference — where their 94 points weren’t enough to get in. St. Louis added a bunch of talent this offseason, but after a 2-4-3 start the Yeo rumblings started up.

Heck my job should be in question right now,” Yeo said last week after a 7-4 loss to Columbus. “Of course that comes with the trade. But I’m not going to coach to try to save my job. I’m going to coach to try to win a Stanley Cup. I believe in this group, so whatever we need every single day, I’m going to try to do that.”

St. Louis had a closed-door meeting after that game and has won two in a row since — scoring 12 goals in the process — to slow down the Yeo rumors. We’ll see if the Wild can spark things up again with a win on Saturday.

Yeo does have a knack, though, for quick turnarounds and beating the odds. And it’s worth repeating this: The Wild has only advanced past the first round of the playoffs three times in its existence, and Yeo was coaching two of those teams.

*The Vikings feasted on the Lions last decade, going 18-2 against Detroit in the seasons from 2000-2009. This decade, though, has been a much different story.

The Vikings are just 7-9 against Detroit since the start of the 2010 season, and their fortunes have tended to ebb and flow with their performances against Detroit. In the Vikings’ three playoff seasons this decade (2012, 2015 and 2017), they’re a combined 5-1 against Detroit. In the other years, they’re just 2-8 — and sweeps by the Lions have ruined multiple seasons, the most notable of which was 2016.

With the NFC North as crowded as ever and the Vikings facing the Lions twice in the second half of the season — the first coming Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium — the outcomes vs. Detroit could once again tell the story of Minnesota’s season.

*If you thought nobody could have predicted Derrick Rose would score 50 points against the Jazz on Wednesday, you would be wrong. Someone actually did predict it on Twitter.

New Timberwolves jerseys, an homage to Prince, go on sale next week

At the sprawling Paisley Park estate — in the very room, in fact, where Prince held a private concert three years ago where Lynx players celebrated their 2015 WNBA title — the Timberwolves showed off Thursday their new City Edition uniforms that pay tribute to the Minneapolis music icon who died in 2016.

The Wolves will wear the uniforms eight times this year — including five times at home, with the first of those coming Nov. 16 against Portland at Target Center. They will go on sale to the public on Nov. 8 at 11 p.m. — with the Wolves, the NBA and Nike hoping they will be a local, national and even international hit.

The base color for the jerseys is dark purple, and there are references to Prince throughout the look. The most distinctive might be a pattern on the right shoulder honoring Prince’s jacket from “Purple Rain” and the 1980s-esque font used for the lettering.

Prince was a big Timberwolves fan and could often be seen courtside at Target Center. Developing the jerseys in collaboration with Nike, representatives of Prince’s estate and Wolves players has been a project more than a year in the making, said Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson.

In the introduction to a promotional video for the jerseys, Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns is shown riding on the same motorcycle Prince used in Purple Rain.

“(Players) were blown away,” Casson said. “I mean, they’re all fans. … They all know what he meant to the world and music industry. Walking into the locker room and giving them a sense of what we were planning … every time we went in and had conversations with each of them, their eyes just lit up.”

Prince’s half-brother Omarr Baker and his wife Virginia Baker were there for the unveiling as representatives of the estate.

“I love it,” Virginia Baker said. “I’m blown away. It’s tasteful and it has a lot of meaning.”

From ‘general soreness’ Jimmy Butler laughter to Derrick Rose’s brilliance

Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Cooler, where at this advancing age even raking leaves can cause general soreness. Let’s get to it:

*The Wolves’ 128-125 victory over the Jazz was memorable on many levels because the whole day Wednesday was unusual on so many levels. Mix Halloween with the Jimmy Butler saga, his absence for general soreness, two other key Wolves being out with injuries, and you have some ingredients that mixed together in an interesting way.

Butler missed the game to rest and because of what was termed “general soreness.” His side can try to spin it however they want. The Wolves can try to spin it however they want. A guy missing the eighth game of the season and third of a home stand with an off day before and after … that’s not business as usual – even if Butler had a knee injury last year and even if he missed most of training camp (which by the way means his absence Wednesday, however you explain it, is a mess of he and the Wolves’ making).

It’s been covered extensively, so let’s just leave this right here for some comic relief: The top of the FSN broadcast featured analyst Jim Petersen so overcome with laughter at the prospect of Butler missing the game with general soreness that he had a hard time collecting himself for several seconds.

Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, did not seem impressed. He tweeted that he thought Petersen was “trying to go viral.” Lee’s top client is having no problem generating headlines by himself.

*It took a lot to overcome that buildup and somehow take the focus off Butler, but Derrick Rose was more than up to the task.

Rose has been good all season – part of a second unit that in many stretches has been just as good (if not better) than the starting five – and thrust into huge minutes because both starter Jeff Teague and backup Tyus Jones were injured, Rose dropped 50 on the Jazz.

He did it with a mix of fearless drives, midrange jumpers, floaters and threes. We are all supposed to set the clocks back an hour this weekend. Rose, the former league MVP whose on-court career has been beset by injuries, set the clocks back about seven years on Wednesday.

Teague took everyone behind the scenes by posting a video of the locker room celebration.

*By the way, it was also mentioned on the FSN broadcast that the Wolves were playing at home on Halloween for the first time since 1997. I can tell you exactly where I was that night: at Target Center, where the Wolves beat the Warriors 129-113.

My friend Rocket and I had partial season tickets that year as part of a dirt cheap student package. We were also dressed in full dress suits, clown wigs and had painted “Vikings owners” across our faces because, you see, Vikings ownership was behaving like clowns. We were walking hot takes.

I’m forever grateful Twitter did not exist back then. There would be photos.