Blackhawks

5 Questions with...Sun-TimesWSCR's Mike Mulligan

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5 Questions with...Sun-TimesWSCR's Mike Mulligan

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

November 11, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekveteran Chicago Sun-Times football columnist and Bears expert who can also be heard with his partner Brian Hanley weekdays from 5:00-9:00 AM on WSCR AM 670 The Score as co-host of the Mully and Hanley Showhere are 5 Questions withMIKE MULLIGAN!

BIO: Mike Mulligan is a native Chicagoan and an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Chicago Sun-Times for 27 years. He is currently the papers NFL columnist. Mike is also the host of WSCR-AM 670 The Score's morning show, the Mully and Hanley Show, alongside fellow Sun-Times sports writer, Brian Hanley. Mike grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from Loyola University. He is a huge White Sox fan. He and his wife, Christina, have three children.

1) CSNChicago.com: Mully, the Bears O-line has pretty much become the biggest target of fan and media criticism so far this season, which, in turn, has given another black eye to Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner. In your opinion, what is Turner doing wrong and should all of this blame be placed squarely on his shoulders?

Mulligan: Clearly, the Bears have major problems on offense, but at least they have an excuse. They opened the season with six new starters, including three on the offensive line. Those numbers were reduced when Josh Beekman was promoted over Frank Omiyale after the blowout in Cincinnati. The defense has been awful with pretty much the same cast of characters and improved coaching. Football, as we all know, is a game won in the trenches.

Are the Bears getting the kind of line play they need on either side of the ball? No way. Sadly, thats just where the problems start. Ron Turners best coaching job with the Bears may have been in 2005 when he was forced to play with a rookie fourth-round pick in Kyle Orton and managed a ball control offense designed to complement a great defense. The defense is gone these days and so is the ball control. Jay Cutler is a great building block on offense, but sadly this team doesnt have enough around him.

2) CSNChicago.com: Back in the day, you were a frequent roundtable panelist on the ground-breaking Sports Writers on TV program that aired on SportsChannel. Comcast SportsNet Chicago President Jim Corno refers to the shows Fab Four of Bill Gleason, Bill Jauss, Rick Telander and Ben Bentley as rock stars for that era for what they and producer John Roach introduced to the sports talk industry. What was it like being on that show and tell us your most memorable moment?

Mulligan: I used to joke that the Sports Writers on TV was on the air for 13 years and I killed it in nine months...I loved being on that show. It was a thrill to take part in the conversation with Gleason, Jauss and Lester Munson, who were the threesome I joined every Friday afternoon. Its a highlight of my career and another example of a lucky break, and God knows I have had more than my share of good fortune over the years. I believe Phil Rosenthal was actually the guy who replaced Telander when Rick went national. Phil moved to the TV columnist job and felt it was a conflict of interest to be on a television show. Rick once told me it was a gift to be on that show because it was honest-to-God writers, journalists and lovers of sports and literature talking about the things they loved best. Nobody did their hair or put on makeup.

It was a loosely structured conversation designed to feel like you were eavesdropping on the table next to you. And you wanted to join in. The highlight for me was the final show when Rick and Ben came back and I looked around the table at these guys and still couldnt believe I was sitting there. I used to tell my wife that the great thing about being a sportswriter was that Id be working into my 80s at a job I loved.

3) CSNChicago.com: The Sun-Times has traveled on a very rocky road over the past several years and recently James Tyree and his investment group have to come in to save the paper from its possible well-rumored demise. As a long-time Sun-Times employee, how relieved are you and your fellow employees now that Chicago will remain a two-paper town and what, if any, changes can we expect in the S-T sports section down the line?

Mulligan: Nobody is quite sure how the product will be transformed, but I am certainly delighted that the Sun-Times will continue. I started working at the newspaper as an 18 year-old college freshman covering prep sports for the legendary Taylor Bell. I remember the thrill of my first byline as a sophomore in college and still get a kick out of seeing my stuff in print. Everything else Ive done, be it radio or television or magazine work--it all derives from the newspaper and I will be eternally grateful for the doors it has opened for me. Everybody knows its a terrible time for the newspaper industry and Ive got friends around the country who have lost jobs. Were all in transition in some sense. I believe all of the employees of the Sun-Times are anxious to see what changes are in store.

4) CSNChicago.com: Youve covered thousands of sports writing assignments over the years, tell us the worst gig you ever had to cover and why was it so brutal?
Mulligan: Wow. I have been racking my brain for a couple of days to come up with something. I got locked in the Rosemont Horizon once and had to crawl out through a giant garbage disposal. I covered a prep basketball tournament that was delayed by politicians to the point where I blew deadline. I traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind. for a Chicago Power soccer game and got stranded at the airport for a couple of days due to inclement weather. Does extra innings while doing a sidebar at a baseball game count? None of that stuff was too bad. Ive always felt like I had a great job. Ive covered multiple Super Bowls, NBA Finals, the World Cup Final and the Jordan-era Bulls as a beat guy. There have been thousands of memorable moments that far overshadow the bad ones. Heck, even the bad ones have been pretty amusing in retrospect.

5) CSNChicago.com: The Mully and Hanley Show on The Score has done a terrific job in gaining listenership in such a short period of time. Explain the chemistry with you and Hanley and why it works so well and, a follow-up question, whats the one topic that you guys disagree on more than any other?

Mulligan: Were both long-time Sun-Times sportswriters, but weve covered different beats at different times and therefore our stories and experiences are different. But they come from the same place. A guy stopped me at the store recently and told me we sound like long-time friends having a conversation. Thats about it. Brian is a great guy to work with, very conscientious and professional and well-prepared. More than that hes a good man who cares about the people he works with and looks out for everybody. It may sound effortless over the air--at least I hope it does--but we have a great staff of people working with us, including our executive producer Dustin Rhodes, sound man John Rock Mamola and the inimitable D.J. Nozar. Those guys do a lot of heavy lifting. The thing we disagree on more than any other? The poor guy is a Cubs fan.

Mulligan LINKS:

Chicago Sun-TimesMike Mulligan columns

WSCR AM 670Mully and Hanley page

Mike Mulligan on Twitter

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

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USA TODAY

Miscues, miscommunications and missed shots: Bulls offense struggling all around

Denzel Valentine corralled a rebound and casually dribbled up the right side of the floor, unaware of the final 5 seconds ticking off the clock in the third quarter. The second-year shooting guard moved toward the basket as the buzzer sounded, only realizing his gaffe as the red lights behind the backboard lit up. It was that kind of night for the Bulls offense, and one that highlighted carelessness, a lack of talent and obvious growing pains as the rebuild begins.

Fred Hoiberg’s group finished with more turnovers (20) than assists (18), shot 38 percent from the field and were doubled up on points in the paint in an ugly 87-77 loss to the Spurs on Saturday night. Adding to the issues were only nine free-throw attempts and 28 percent shooting from deep on a night where the Bulls played well enough defensively to earn a win.

But they couldn’t take advantage of a Spurs team playing without Kawhi Leonard. The ball stopped for long periods of time in the halfcourt, the fast break was non-existent and miscommunications were frequent, even when they didn’t result in one of those 20 turnovers.

“We had 20 turnovers that led to 23 points…that’s what kills you,” Hoiberg said. “A team goes on a run and they get easy ones, pick-sixes, you’re all of a sudden in a big hole. And obviously did not shoot the ball well today.”

The struggles came from across the board. Only Cris Felicio was turnover-less of the nine Bulls who played. The backcourt tandem of Jerian Grant and Justin Holiday combined for 11 of 32 shooting. Rookie Lauri Markkanen showed flashes with eight first-half points, but finished 5 of 14 and committed three ugly turnovers. Robin Lopez made the first 3-pointer of his career 630 games in, but a 29-year-old leading the way for a young rebuilding group could be deemed bittersweet at best.

It capped off a whirlwind first week for the Bulls, who dealt on the fly with the fallout of the altercation between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Losing Mirotic and Portis hurt from a talent standpoint, but it also threw a wrench into Hoiberg’s rotation and scheme. It thrust 20-year-old Markkanen into the starting lineup; Paul Zipser has shifted to playing more power forward (while also starting at small forward); Lopez is being asked to score more than ever, and at times be the primary option.

“With everything we’ve had going on the past week, with playing guys different positions that they haven’t played yet,” Hoiberg said, “we’re still trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to go out there and play. We’re getting stuck at times because guys are in the wrong spots.”

The Bulls opened Saturday night with a solid first quarter, scoring 21 points, assisting on nine of 12 baskets and committing just three turnovers.

The final three quarters couldn’t have been more different. The second unit again struggled like it did in allowing the Raptors a 20-2 second-quarter run on Tuesday. Even without Leonard the Spurs’ defensive length cut off passing and driving lanes, forcing the Bulls to dribble down the shot clock and turn to isolation basketball or contested 3-pointers.

The Spurs couldn’t pull away thanks to an inspired defensive effort by the Bulls, but the offensive stalling rendered it moot; the Bulls took 28 3-pointers and 37 shots in the paint, an ugly ratio when considering the nine free-throw attempts. The bench shot 7-for-19, but most of that came in garbage time.

“One thing we definitely need to work on is attacking the basket,” Lopez said. “I think there are times where we all get a little jumper-happy on the perimeter. I think we need to have a good balance.

We need to be aware of that. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of room for error so any time we concede the ball like that, we don’t get up a shot attempt, tat’s going to really hurt us.”

Kris Dunn may be closer than expected to returning to the lineup after dislocating his finger in the preseason. It would give the Bulls help on that dismayed second unit, knocking Kay Felder (3 turnovers in 15 minutes) out of the rotation. Once Mirotic and Portis return in November, Hoiberg will have more flexibility with his rotations as well as some insurance if frontcourt foul trouble arrives.

None are go-to scorers, and not even Zach LaVine's 19.8 points per game last season will save the Bulls once he's healthy. Season-long struggles like Saturday night are on the way for a young team searching for pieces of the future. That's expected, and in the long term it benefits them as more Lottery balls roll toward Chicago.

But in a season in which success will be judged not on wins and losses but improvement from game-to-game, but the Bulls have set the bar low in the season's first week.