Okabena’s Loren Marschel joins MBCA Hall of FameOKABENA — Having successfully served as a head boys’ basketball coach for 25 seasons, Loren Marschel will be honored Sunday as one of five new inductees into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Hall of Fame. This year’s ceremony takes places at noon Sunday at the Double Tree Park Place Hotel in St. Louis Park.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
OKABENA — Having successfully served as a head boys’ basketball coach for 25 seasons, Loren Marschel will be honored Sunday as one of five new inductees into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Hall of Fame.
This year’s ceremony takes places at noon Sunday at the Double Tree Park Place Hotel in St. Louis Park.
According to a press release from Tom Critchley, MBCA Executive Director: “The purpose of the MBCA Hall of Fame is give special recognition to the people of Minnesota who have made significant contributions to promote high school basketball in the state via their accomplishments and service.”
After graduating from Rockford High School in 1959, Marschel served six months of active duty with the Minnesota Army National Guard, before enrolling at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1960.
He earned his teaching degree from the U in the spring of 1965, and that fall, Marschel began a 33-year teaching and coaching career at Okabena High School — which would later consolidate with Heron Lake, later pair with Lakefield, and later change its name, being known as Southwest Star Concept since 1997.
An all-around athlete in high school, Loren played football, basketball and baseball for the Rockets. Back then Rockford, which is located just west of the Minnapolis suburbs, was a small community and there were just 12 graduates — seven boys and five girls — in the Class of ’59.
“With its close proximity to the cities, Rockford has really grown since I left,” said Marschel, who has lived in Okabena for the past 43 years. “I would say that Rockford probably graduates about 200 kids a year now.”
Rockford, in fact, did not have a football team until Marschel’s junior season and the Rockets took some licks in that first campaign.
Marschel, however, returned the opening kickoff for touchdowns in the first two Rocket games that fall.
As a senior in the fall of 1958, Marschel excelled for RHS, as — playing mostly at running back, but sometimes as a receiver and occasionally at quarterback — he scored 22 touchdowns and added 15 (one-point) conversions for the Rockets.
Undefeated until a Halloween loss to Somerset, Wis,, Marschel’s 147 points caught the attention of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, as the state’s largest daily publication honored him on its all-state 8-man football team.
“Getting the chance to play high school football was a lot of fun,” recalled Marschel, who was Okabena’s head football coach his first four years at the school. “We played some single wing at Rockford and we used that formation quite a bit at Okabena, too.”
While Marschel enjoyed success coaching those Bluehawk football teams (OHS won back-to-back Southern Star Conference championships in ’66 and ’67, going undefeated for the whole season in 1967), it was his tenure as a basketball coach that is best remembered by area coaches, players and fans.
After serving as Wes Anderson’s assistant for three seasons, Loren became head of the Bluehawk program for the ’68-69 season.
“That year, I was head coach for football, basketball and baseball,” recalled Marschel. “I felt like I had to give up one of them, so I stopped coaching football and really began to appreciate the challenge of coaching basketball.”
Well-respected as a basketball coach
Over the next 25 seasons — 10 at OHS (’69-78) nine at Heron Lake-Okabena (’79-87) and six at Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield (’88-93) — Marschel guided boys’ basketball teams to 299 victories.
While compiling an overall record of 299-212, Marschel’s teams won three conference championships (1974, 1977 and 1984) and claimed runner-up honors in both 1981 and 1990.
Marschel’s 1977 Okabena Bluehawks and his 1985 Heron Lake-Okabena Scarlet Knights each won District 7 championships and both won Region 2 semifinal games, before being stopped one game short of the state tournament in the regional championship game.
But it’s not so much the won-loss record or the championships that marked his basketball-coaching career.
Always cordial and friendly, Marschel left a legacy among his colleagues and his players.
“He was a gentleman’s gentleman,” said long-time Westbrook and Westbrook-Walnut Grove basketball coach Steve Kjorness, a Hall of Fame member himself, whose team edged Marschel’s in the 1979 District 7 championship game. “Loren always treated you well; he was a true professional.
“It was always a challenge playing against his teams,” Kjorness continued. “He was a good strategist and always fielded a competitive team. Loren was a straight-forward guy with a calm demeanor and that was reflected in his coaching style. He was fair, just a neat, good guy.”
Former Windom basketball and baseball coach Jack Kelly, also a member of the MBCA Hall of Fame, agrees with that.
“I always felt that Loren dealt with athletics with a lot of class,” Kelly said. “He showed genuine concern for his athletes in both basketball and baseball.”
“Loren commanded respect,” remembers Mike Traphagen, who was HL-O’s assistant coach during the Scarlet Knight’s remarkable tournament run in 1985. “He never yelled, he just treated all of his players so well and they respected him, listened to him and played hard for him.”
Mike Schaefer, who now lives and works in Minnetonka, graduated from Okabena in 1973 and was a permanent fixture as a fan in the stands during the Bluehawks’ unforgettable ’76-77 campaign.
“He was my favorite teacher and was a great all-around coach,” said Schaefer, whose biggest thrill as a player came when the Bluehawks upset Jackson in the ’73 district finals and then rallied — with a furious fullcourt press — to nearly catch undefeated Sioux Valley in the semifinals. “Mr. Marschel knew the game and he commanded everybody’s respect because you knew that he cared about his players. He got along with everybody.”
Jack Voss, who played for Sioux Valley (Class of 1971) remembers his coach (Lyle Babcock) telling the Warriors that, “we would have to play hard and beat those guys (Okabena) because they are well-coached and will not beat themselves.”
Okabena mayor Kevin Nelson, who graduated from OHS in 1971, said that Marschel’s emphasis on team play was one of the things that he remembers best.
“The thing that maybe stands out the most is that Coach Marschel always stressed team rather than individuals,” said Nelson. “That was a major reason why his teams were so competitive and he always got the most out of them, often over-achieving to a certain extent.”
’77 Bluehawks highlight the ‘Golden years’
Marschel’s 1977 Okabena squad certainly was one of those over-achievers.
“That team had talent,” said Schaefer. “But Coach Marschel did such a good job with them. They ‘peaked’ at just the right time and pulled three big upsets — over Mountain Lake, Butterfield-Odin and Luverne — and came within one point of the state tournament.”
For Marschel, that loss in the ’77 Region 2 finals to Wellcome-Memorial (59-58) was hard to swallow.
“Coming that close to the state tournament and not making it, is one of the hardest losses there is,” said Marschel, whose 1985 team pulled off victories over Windom, B-O, Jackson and St. Clair, before being defeated by Ceylon in the Region 2 championship game.
But Marschel still fondly remembers that 1977 Region 2 semifinal victory over Luverne.
“That game at a jam-packed Highland Arena in Mankato was my most cherished victory,” he remembers. “Luverne was a perennial power and after scouting them in the District 8 finals, I wasn’t sure that we had a chance.
“But we played an almost perfect game and our fan support was great. It was an awesome victory for our kids and our community.”
That game, in fact, received banner headlines in the Star-Tribune;
“Tiny Okabena Roars To Victory,” proclaimed the headline.
Coaching through the ’80s and into the early ‘90s, Marschel continued to leave his impact on the game and on his players.
“Right away when I met Mr. Marschel in 7th grade, I knew that I wanted to play for him and that never changed,” remembers Rick Haberman, who graduated from HLOL’s first class in 1988 and played both basketball and baseball for Marschel as a Scarlet Knight and a Silver Bullet. “I loved playing for Coach Marschel and he inspired me to want to work hard at my game and become better.
“He was the biggest influence on me growing up,” added Haberman, who has since become one the area’s most-respected and successful coaches himself. “I learned a lot about how to treat players and the importance of having organized practices.”
For Marschel, who also was the athletic director for OHS for 10 years and for all nine of HL-O’s years, he fondly remembers the 1970s as the “golden years” of high school basketball.
“I enjoyed my entire career, teaching health, physical education and social studies,” he concluded. “I have many good memories coaching football, baseball, and, of course, basketball.
“But, those years in the 1970’s when each town still had its own school were the best. Year after year, we went up against the same coaches and everybody knew everybody. We would have fan buses for regular season games — it was really something, the school spirit that was generated in those small schools.”
As a teacher, coach, athletic director, and “all-around good guy,” Okabena’s Loren Marschel was a huge part of that era — and Sunday he will be deservedly honored by his peers, as a member of the MBCA Hall of Fame.