Friday, January 6, 2012

100 Years of Minnesota High School Tournament Basketball

2012 marks the 100th year of Minnesota state high school tournament basketball. The boys have been playing since 1913, the girls since 1974. The MSHSL has now crowned more than 260 state champions in both genders and all classes.

The MSHSL and, hopefully, Minnesota basketball fans, will be celebrating this milestone in a variety of ways. First up is a series of "best of the state tournament" features on the League's Web site. Go to the home page at, then click on 100 Years of BB near the top left of the page.

First of what promises to be a weekly feature is the Top 5 Boys Coaches. And it's a darn fine list. I mean, I was honored to be asked to help the MSHSL put these lists together, so of course it's a fine list. For the record, here are the top 5 boys' coaches, whom the League lists in alpha order, as follows. The comments are mine, the MSHSL has different commentary, so go check it out. Again, that's at

Jack Evens, Bloomington Jefferson--1st coach to win 4 state titles in 1976, '82, '86 and '87.

Jim Hastings, Duluth Central--won titles in 1961, 1971 and 1979.

Russell "Butsie" Maetzold, Hopkins--his 91 winning percentage (508-62) is thought to be the state record. He won state titles in 1952 and 1953, and also played on Red Wing's 1920 and 1922 state champs.

Bob McDonald, Chisholm--51 years, a record 970 wins, state titles in 1973, '75 and '91.

Kenny Novak, Hopkins--a boys record 6 state titles, all within the past 10 years.

I said it's a fine list, I didn't say it was perfect. I would have to find a way to get Harvey Roels of Chiholm on the list. Harvey won just 1 state title in 1934. But here's what Harvey did. Most Minnesota high schools, including Chisholm, hired their 1st full-time, permanent coach just after WWI, and most of them installed a slow-down, defensive-minded, ball-control style of play 1st popularized by coach Doc Meanwell at Wisconsin. They took the air out of the ball. And so, the 1926 state title game was decided by a score of 13-9, and as late as 1933 it was 16-13. Roels defied the trend and preached a faster-paced, more offensively-oriented style, and the Bluestreaks became the dominant power on the Iron Range with this style. Most of the other Iron Range schools copied Roels' successful style.

Chisholm came to the state tournament every year from 1930 to 1934, finally winning the title in '34. Its "point-a-minute" pace thrilled and entertained state tourney fans as it had done on the Range. So, in short, what Roels did was to keep uptempo basketball alive in Minnesota at a time when it might otherwise have disappeared.

After its top 5, the MSHSL also lists 13 other "notable coaches," and Roels is listed right there at the top of the 2nd tier, so it's not much of an oversight. The true oversight would be Mario Retica, who led Buhl to its 2nd of 2 straight titles in 1941, then returned with Hibbing 5 times in the 10 years from 1948 to 1957, taking the runner-up slot in 1953.

And I might also have found a slot for Lloyd Holm, the only coach to bring 3 different schools to a state title game--Red Wing in 1942, Duluth Denfeld in 1947 and St. Louis Park in 1962.

Still, this is a darn fine list. Enjoy.

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