Posted by: Feldman
This is my eighth year of covering boys hockey for The Post-Bulletin. At the end of my first season, 2006-07, I asked Mayo coach Lorne Grosso if he planned to retire after the season. He laughed and said, "after I tell my wife, you'll be the first to know."
I told him that day that I wouldn't ask him again if he planned to retire. I kept my word for about seven years. I figured I'm allowed a one-day grace period when I'm writing a story about a still-active coach going into a Hall of Fame.
Grosso will be honored on Thursday, between sessions at the Class AA state tournament, by being one of five coaches in the Class of 2014 for the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame.
Here's a link to the article that will appear in Wednesday's Post-Bulletin.
I talked to Grosso, Mayo assistant coach Todd Huyber and Mayo acitivites director Jeff Whitney, who also served as an assistant to Grosso for many years. Grosso will be inducted along with two of his former college teammates at the University of Minnesota, Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom and former Mound coach Pat Furlong.
Here are some of comments from Grosso, Huyber and Whitney didn't make it into the article:
On what being inducted into the MHCA HoF means to him:
"I think back on all the coaches I've known for so long. When I first started, I wondered if I would be able to do some of the things they were doing (in terms of longevity and success). We all spend a lot of time working with kids because we enjoy it, and we get to know so many coaches. To be with this group is very meaningful to me."
On what he's enjoyed about coaching:
"One of the most fun parts of coaching, for me, is being involved with all the great coaches you meet. You want to beat them and they want to beat you, but you can still go home feeling good."
On Grosso's longevity:
"No. 1, coaching is teaching and he was a teacher, so that helps. He realizes that all kids are different when it comes to their personalities. He's so even-keeled all the time."
On Grosso's calm demeanor and competitive spirit:
"He definitely has that competitive fire. He gets that across at certain times during the year. He gets it across at certain times when he needs to. He doesn't wear kids out with that stuff all the time because it can get old with kids and start going in one ear and out the other."
On Grosso being inducted along with former teammates:
"It's special to him to go in with some friends. I know how important the comaraderie of coaching is to him. He's very well-liked and respected."
On what Grosso enjoys most about coaching:
"I think what he drives home to the kids is doing things with class, working hard, being a good teammate ... so many of those life lessons. Because of the way he coaches, the kids enjoy what they're doing and they're successful. That's probably why he doesn't need to talk about (his wins)."
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Here is the bio on Grosso from the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association:
With 677 career wins at the end of the 2013-14 regular season, Rochester Mayo head coach Lorne Grosso, who has been the school’s head coach for 47 years, is the winningest coach in Minnesota boys high school hockey history, having passed the legendary Willard Ikola for the state’s top spot during the 2010-11 season.
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Grosso grew up playing with the likes of Lou Nanne and Phil and Tony Esposito before coming to Minnesota to play for the Gophers and John Mariucci. While at Minnesota, Grosso was paired on a line with fellow 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Roy Nystrom, of Albert Lea, whom he coaches against and leads by seven career coaching victories.
Although he has been successful at winning hockey games, Grosso’s approach, at times, is philosophical.
“At times, I have more fun losing than winning because I see that the kids are playing up to their ability,” Grosso said. “If we play our best and happen to lose, I am fine with that.”
As the years have passed by and the wins piled up, Grosso has noticed the game change but his fundamentals of coaching have stayed the same.
“The equipment is better, the kids are bigger, and the game is faster,” he noted. “But you try
to teach them the same things that will make them successful. You try to get them to improve and develop. As far as the coaching aspect, it’s pretty much the same game.”
Grosso attended St. Basil’s Novitiate for the priesthood before moving on to the University of Minnesota, from where he graduated in 1966. He took over as the head hockey coach at Mayo upon his graduation and taught Latin and Italian at the school from 1966-99. In 1999, he accepted a position at Rochester Lourdes, teaching religion along with Latin and Italian before retiring in 2007.
In 2009, Grosso was inducted into the Rochester Quarterbacks Club Hall of Fame and, last year, the American Hockey Coaches Association honored him with its Mariucci Award, a national award for a high school hockey coach.
Grosso and his wife, Joannie, are the parents of three children; daughters Laura and Marisa, and son Jim; have seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. When not coaching, he enjoys playing the guitar and piano, walking the couple’s two dogs, cutting fire wood and travelling to Italy and Florida. He also sang and played guitar at mass for 22 years, has been a hospital visitor for St. John’s Catholic Church, brings communion to the homebound and serves as a Eucharistic minister.