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Fifty-four years and counting: Adrian's Dean Schnaible still loves coaching kids

Longime Adrian coach Dean Schnaible poses for a photo at Worthington High School prior to a postseason basetball game earlier this month. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

ADRIAN — After spending so much of his active life busily involved in coaching high school athletics, it’s been difficult for Adrian’s Dean Schnaible to stay away from his genuine love of guiding kids in the proper way to approach competition, including the importance of practicing the fundamentals.

Throughout a 54-year career as a basketball, baseball and softball coach, Schnaible has certainly stressed the basics, and his high level of consistent organization has produced positive results for many athletes in southwest Minnesota.

Tim Christensen, the principal and activities director at Adrian High School, is one of his numerous boosters and is thankful that Schnaible has had a hard time “letting go.”

“I have been honored to have been given the opportunity to work with Dean for several years now,” said Christensen, who coaxed him into taking on the head boys’ basketball coaching position at AHS three years ago. “He is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and is completely dedicated to the education and coaching profession.”

A native of the small town of Java, S.D. — 70 miles west of Aberdeen — Schnaible graduated with a class of 11 students in 1955 after earning 16 high school athletic letters (four each in football, basketball, baseball and track).

“It was a very small school, so I was able to play everything,” he recalled. “My dad farmed and managed the McCabe Elevator. The closest bigger town was Mobridge, 30 miles west along the Missouri River.”

Schnaible completed two years of college at Northern State in Aberdeen and took a teaching position at the Irving Country School, 11 miles from Java.

He finished up his four-year degree at Sioux Falls College and landed a sixth-grade teaching position at Hills. He also became the junior high boys’ basketball coach, which involved grades 5-8.

A few years later, in the 1965-’66 school year, Hills and Beaver Creek became a consolidated school district and the Bluejays and Beavers were joined as the Patriots. Schnaible transferred his teaching duties to the elementary school in Beaver Creek and soon moved up to become legendary coach Hugo Goehle’s assistant in both football and basketball.

The newly formed Patriots had several outstanding seasons under the guidance of Goehle and Schnaible, including a stellar 20-1 basketball campaign in the mild winter of ’67-’68 when H-BC rambled through the Tri-County Conference undefeated. As was often the case, the Patriots were not able to beat Luverne in the District 8 championship game.

“District 8 was so tough,” Schnaible recalled. “Luverne, Pipestone, Worthington and Slayton were all much bigger schools and the smaller schools like Edgerton and Magnolia had very good athletes in the 1960s, too.”

In five years as the Patriots’ B-squad coach, Schnaible’s teams racked up an impressive 83-7 win-loss record.

“Those were fun seasons for me,” he said. “We had good players who loved basketball and were easy to coach.”

Seeking a head coaching position, Schnaible left H-BC after 12 years and was hired as a sixth-grade teacher and head boys’ basketball coach at Hartington, Neb. — in the northeast corner of the state on the south side of the Missouri River, about 30 miles west of Sioux City, Iowa.

“We were 15-5 at Hartington in my first year as a varsity coach,” recalled Schnaible. “But I got a call from a friend — Dale Huber from H-BC — telling me about a fifth-grade teaching position with varsity boys’ basketball and baseball at Adrian.”

Schnaible made a call to AHS athletic director Gary Chamley and landed an interview with him and the elementary principal.

The rest is history. Schnaible was offered the position and in September 1974 launched his highly-successful teaching and coaching career guiding the Dragons each winter and spring.

“Adrian was a good situation for me,” he emphasized. “I had wanted to coach baseball, as well as basketball, so this really worked out well in a great town with a nice location.”

Dean continued to teach fifth-graders at Adrian for the next 24 years, retiring after 41 total years in the classroom in June 1998.

Schnaible was the Dragons’ head baseball coach for 19 seasons, winning four District 8 championships and compiling an overall win-loss record of 182-110.

He was the AHS basketball coach through 18 seasons and had winning records nearly every winter, highlighted by a fine 20-win campaign and a District 8 title in 1985 when his son, Blaine, was a key player on the team.

“Winning the district was a big thing,” he said. “For years, it was so hard to beat Luverne. We made it to the finals in both ’82 and ’84, losing to Pipestone the first time and to Luverne the second time. We then were able to win the tournament in 1985 with a one-point victory (52-51) over Southwest Christian, which was Adrian’s first District 8 basketball championship.”

Long-time AHS head football and girls’ basketball coach Randy Strand got his start coaching hoops under Schnaible’s tutelage, as the boys’ assistant, and greatly appreciated the fine guidance he received.

“Dean taught me a lot about how to do things right,” Strand recalled. “From practice planning to how uniforms should be hung up, he was organized and prepared all the way.”

Three times during his first tenure as Adrian’s head boys’ basketball coach, Schnaible was honored by his peers as the District 8 Coach of the Year. His teams compiled an overall record of 88-16 during a five-year span in the early 1980s.

After retiring from teaching and coaching, it didn’t take Dean long to get back into coaching basketball

First, at the urging of Strand, he started helping coach the Adrian girls, working primarily with the posts.

“I asked Dean to come in and help at practice,” remembered Strand. “At first, he said to give him just 20 minutes to work with our post players. It didn’t take him long to get hooked and within a week he was staying longer, riding the bus and sitting on the bench helping us during games, too.”

For five seasons in the early 2000s, Schnaible was the head girls’ hoops coach at Ellsworth, a dozen miles south. Typically, he did a fine job with the Panthers, who advanced to the Section 3A South semifinals in 2001. He was, in fact, selected as the sub-section’s girls’ Coach of the Year twice during his five years directing the program at EHS.

Then for several years, Dean served a dual role as he again helped coach the Adrian post players and also made several trips east and worked with the posts at Worthington — coached by Eric Lindner, a former player of his and a starting forward on that 1985 district championship team.

“Dean was a big help,” praised Lindner. “He did a great job teaching our post players offensive moves and defensive technique.”

During two of those seasons, Schnaible coached the Trojan B-squad and compiled a fine 31-12 win-loss record.

In the spring of 2009, Schnaible became a head coach again, taking over the combined Ellsworth and Adrian girls’ softball program and things have gone well, as a total of 40 players (grades 6-12) are participating this year.

“From day one, when Dean took over the softball program, he began working on strategies to make the team better,” declared Christensen. “The same can be said when he took over the boys’ basketball program three years ago. Dean gives it 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. He truly cares about each student-athlete and is so dedicated to working with them. Dean is a great guy to have as a coach. He is one of a kind.”

Schnaible is thankful that Christensen has brought him back to the head coaching ranks and is still very much enjoying the challenges the two positions bring.

“With our numbers, our softball program is going in the right direction,” he said. “And we have built up our numbers in boys’ basketball and have been competitive.”

The Dragons have lots of players competing at each grade level, and AHS boys’ basketball certainly appears to back on the upswing

With 23 more victories in the past three seasons, Dean achieved his 400th overall varsity coaching victory (330 in 22 years of boys and 70 in five seasons with the Ellsworth girls) this past winter and is an outstanding 400-180 over 27 years. Throw in a combined 114-19 B-squad record (83-7 boys, 31-12 girls) and Schnaible has more than 500 basketball victories (and less than 200 losses) at the top two levels.

“It’s been an enjoyable run,” he concludes. “I’ve been blessed with great players, tremendous assistants and supportive administration, which has made coaching a very good overall experience.”