Catching Up With Randy Breuer
At 7-3, Randy Breuer was one of the biggest big men in Minnesota Gophers history. He was also one of the best, which was confirmed in 1983 when the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him 18th overall. Breuer played six and a half years with the Bucks, excelling as a hook shooter, assist man and shotblocker smart enough to sniff out offensive rotations. But thanks to broken bones and a coach's pique, Brewer made his way home to Minnesota and the Wolves' inaugural 1989-90 squad.
Early that season, the Bucks were playing San Antonio when Breuer got hit in the chest. “I actually cracked a couple of ribs,” he recalls. “I was playing for a while, but I got muscle spasms. We had a pretty good lead, but I couldn't lift my arm above my shoulder. So I said, ‘I gotta come out.’ And we lost the lead. The coach, Del Harris, asked me to go back in. I said, ‘I have one hand, I can't raise my arm, and I'm really hurt.’ Del had no forgiveness on that.”
But, Breuer adds, “what really put me in the doghouse was two nights later. I spent two nights with muscle relaxers, and hot packs on my side, and I scored like 25 points against Hakeem Olajuwon and Houston. That really [ticked] Del off! I could give him a whole game against Hakeem Olajuwon, but couldn't give him any minutes in the fourth quarter when he needed 'em.”
From that point on, Breuer says, “Harris held that grudge against me. Because I'm playing in basketball games with broken ribs to help him out!”
On Jan. 4, 1990, Harris dealt Breuer to Bill Musselman's Wolves for Brad Lohaus. The player's reaction about going from a borderline playoff team to an expansion club? Breuer, who is a relaxed and funny storyteller, lets out a laugh. “I knew it was going to be tough — because the expansion year just bites. Number one, you're working in a new group of guys, and one thing that happens with expansion teams is they change directions so often. They'll bring one coach in, they don't like the direction, so they bring another guy in.”
Breuer finished that season with his second-best scoring average as a pro — 10.2 points per game. In one legendary outburst, he scored 40 points against the Golden State Warriors and his former Bucks coach, Don Nelson.
“Nellie understood I couldn't score enough points to beat him. You know Musselman... he'd run the same play over and over again until you stopped it. Well, I had come from Milwaukee, where I was in the doghouse, so I went from not playing to playing. It takes a little bit to get in shape. I think I had 20 points in the first quarter. And I had two in the third quarter.”
Did you win the game? “No.”
Breuer's trade-day fears were soon born out: Minnesota fired Musselman and hired Boston Celtics assistant Jimmy Rodgers.
Breuer — who has spent recent years coaching sons Kevin and Chris on their high school teams — still can't hide his disgust.
“I knew we were in trouble when Rodgers gave his first speech in training camp. He said, ‘I’ve looked at your films and statistics from last year, and if we just score five more points per game, we’d have another 20 wins.’ Oh, okay, I understand that — but he never once through the first half of the season ever talked about defense,” Breuer observes. “Before, we were playing defense to keep the score close, and whoever gets hot in the last five minutes wins. He wanted to push the tempo and outscore teams — we didn’t have the talent to outscore teams.”
Breuer laments that turn in Wolves history — Rodgers would post 15 wins that year.
“Musselman did a great job of putting the building blocks you need in place. You didn't have the All-Stars yet, but you had the guys that were going to set the picks for the great players, be competitive and going to work hard. And you bring Jimmy Rodgers in, and he gets rid of all the hard-working players. And a year later, the team has basically gone backwards.”
After one year with Rodgers, Breuer left for the Atlanta Hawks in 1992, and closed his career with Sacramento during the 1993-94 season.
These days, the Eden Prairie resident leads what sounds like a far more contented life. He's still married to Wendy, his wife of 24 years, and when he's not coaching at West St. Paul's St. Croix Lutheran High, he rides his Harley Ultra-Classic and dabbles in the Internet with his product re-sale site, Quixtar.com.
In addition to Kevin, now a St. Cloud State junior and ROTC officer, and Chris, who racked up 18.1 points per game as a 6-5 St. Croix Lutheran High junior, Breuer has a fifth-grade daughter, Kelly.
Dad jokes that Chris “has something I’ve never had, which is he jumps real well. He’s also left-handed, which gives him a huge advantage. He has freakishly long arms and it lets him block shots. He’s also a pretty good football player — defensive end and tight end.”
Breuer says Chris might be a Division I player, though Division II seems more likely. And while he has no desire to coach in the NBA — “the hours are brutal” — he seems fulfilled with his high school role.
“I’m an assistant coach; I volunteer my time. It’s just fun to see kids when the light turns on and they start to understand basketball. You spend all your time saying, ‘Take the right hand away. Take the right hand away.’ And after about three years of yelling at them about that, it finally gets through,” he says with a smile.
As for Quixtar, Breuer describes it as a “Sam’s Club of the Internet” and quickly adds that he’s no web guru. “I can barely turn on a computer,” he jokes. “I just ran into a group of successful guys who were retired, and I said, ‘Huh, that looks interesting, how do you do it?’ I have my own business, can plug into the site, and use the site to market things. I’ve been doing it for years.”
Breuer was recently holding court at a Timberwolves’ 20th Season press conference, where he stole the ceremonial tap from Wolves rookie Kevin Love. He says he doesn’t get to Target Center too often because of family obligations.
“Coaching basketball is two nights a week and you practice every night after school and by the time we get done, it’s 6 o’clock or 7 o’clock at night, and it’s about the time games start here, and the last thing you want to do when you’re gone is spend two night away, three nights away.”
Still, he likes what he sees with a young club that has a potential All-Star (Al Jefferson) and a bunch of young players who play the game the right way.
“Al will do just fine. What he’ll have to learn, and what they all will learn, is how to adapt. What works one night won’t work the next night because teams will adjust and make the change. If you’re working down low and it’s working great, you know the next night, it might not work that way because they’ll probably double team you down low. But if they play defense and rotate the ball, they have guys who can hit the open shot — a lot more than our old squads did anyway.”