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« PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: All we do is win edition | Main | PHERSY AND FATIS SHOW: On the road again edition »

January 30, 2013

Thoughts on more of the 400-win coaches

A guest post by P-B sports editor Craig Swalboski:

In my Wednesday (Jan. 30) Pressbox View column, I talked about some of the 78-plus coaches who have reached the 400-win mark for their careers in Minnesota high school boys basketball.  The column focused on the coaches I have worked with the most, but there wasn't room to go deeper.

So here are some observations about many of the other coaches on that list, from my 41 years of covering boys basketball as a writer and editor, and even from following it before then:

Bob Brink (No. 2, 935 wins) was the most-intense coach I worked with on a regular basis. Somehow he still was able to last exactly a half-century in the field. Fifty years; that's impressive.

I watched Ken Novak Jr. (No. 4, 689) play for his dad Ken Novak Sr. (No. 44, 459) in the state tournament in the 1970s. Dad has helped son through much of his career in Hopkins.

I met Staples-Motley's Lynn Peterson (No. 5, 683) when he was still a young coach, fresh on the scene at S-M. He brought his team to the Rotary tournament in 2003 and 2004. His team gave mighty Minneapolis North a battle in the 1995 title game of the short-lived "Sweet Sixteen" format state tournament.

Franz Boelter (No. 7, 580-plus) built nice Faribault Bethlehem Academy teams in 1993 and 1994 with stifling defense, and the '93 team was state runner-up (I was sure it would win). He's also among the all-time best in career volleyball wins, I guess proving that coaching is coaching, whether it's girls or boys.

I mentioned John Nett (No. 8, 580) in the column but should add my admiration for several aspects of the Cotter program in those days: strong man-to-man defense, disciplined offense, and character on and off the court.

If I had a dollar for every time I talked to Jerry Snyder (No. 9, 574), I could retire now. His Lake City teams were almost always good and required the attention of the local sports writer; Snyder was always gracious about talking to us.

Len Horyza (No. 14, 553) was the quintessential Catholic school coach and that's a compliment. (See also Lou Mitteco at No. 17, Rich Decker at No. 22 and of course Boelter). His daughter Kathy coaches KAATS Gymnastics in Pine Island.

Before Duluth was such a big hockey town, it had great basketball. The Duluth Central teams of Jim Hastings (No. 18, 541) reached the one-class state meet four times from 1961-69, taking a championship and a runner-up trophy. The 1966 Duluth East team (including future JM and Century coach Jeff Wells) came through Region 7 to get all the way to the state finals, losing in overtime to powerful Edina.

Merrill Skinner (No. 24, 524) took over at Howard Lake while I was still at St. Cloud, but I didn't get to know him well. He built on some good years forged by Wally Trochlil, who Rochester fans might know as the coach of Elk River when Skipp Schaefbauer scored the Elks' first 25 points in the 1992 Rotary title game against Park Cottage Grove and Sam Jacobson. Trochlil, an avid golfer, shot his age five times in 2012, according to the Elk River paper.

Lloyd Stussy (No. 25, 522) had a young Rich Decker as his assistant coach at Wells in the 1960s.

Al Andreotti (No. 26, 521) won a pile of games and got to the one-class state tournament twice in his late 1960s years at Hayfield. I knew him at St. Cloud Tech in the early '70s, when the new school in town, Apollo, had better athletes and a good coach in former Cathedral skipper Jerry Vos. But by 1980 Andreotti got Tech all the way to the state title game and he was off to 500-plus wins.

For a while, Ted Pelzl (No. 27, 520) and his New Richland-Ellendale (later NRHEG) teams were in Section One. But I saw far more of his son Terry, Tom Vix's longtime assistant at Rushford-Peterson.

Kurt Virgin (No. 36, 485) was a starting guard for a St. Cloud State team I covered occasionally between high school games in the 1970s. As a senior at South St. Paul, Virgin and his team lost in the state title game to "Cinderella" Sherburn in the last one-class tournament.

Something about Kenyon? Rich Decker (No. 22, 527), Ron Hested (No. 32, 506) and Al Wold (No. 37, 482) all were head coaches there. Hested took the 1970 team to the state tournament before moving on to Fairmont. And Jerry Wieme didn't reach 400, but he won 309 games and a state title before retiring in 2004.

Del Schiffler (No. 38, 475) and his Melrose team got me to the state championship game as a rookie writer in 1972, his first year as a head coach. He had the great Mark Olberding his first three seasons but proved his coaching ability by winning a second state title, in 1983 with Woodbury, making him one of the few to win state championships with two different schools. A quality person too, and sadly his career was cut short by cancer.

Manny Beckmann (No. 47, 446) took advantage of an enrollment and class drop at Waseca to get to back-to-back state tournaments in 1987 and 1988. His assistant was a guy better known on the baseball diamond, Tink Larson.

When I was in high school, one of our conference rivals was Braham and they didn't have much in those years. But before that, Len Froyen (No. 74, 402) won a lot of games at the east-central Minnesota school, and the current coach there, Bob Vaughan (No. 11, 558) won three straight state titles 2004-06.


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