Basketball success in S.D. followed Mogck to Worthington in 1967Emphasis on defense guided coaching philosophy through 518 games
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Following eight years of success coaching high school basketball in South Dakota, Arlo Mogck and wife Judy moved to Worthington in the late summer of 1967. For the next 16 winters, he made his mark as the coach of the men’s basketball team at the local college.
Known as Worthington State Junior College (WSJC) during the early part of his tenure, and as Worthington Community College (WCC) for most of his years on the Bluejay bench, the program had a winning record 11 times, including a sparkling mark of 63-12 (.840) during the consecutive state championship seasons of ’69-’70, ’70-’71 and ’71-’72.
“Arlo was an excellent coach and an all-around nice guy,” remembers Worthington dentist Stan Haas, who played at WSJC during Mogck’s first two seasons in Worthington. “He had a great way of motivating us, and it was an honor to play for him.”
Haas was part of a trio of local players that Mogck said helped point the Bluejays in the right direction with a lateseason run in February 1969.
Now referred to as “Dr. Jump Shot” by Mogck, Haas played side-by-side with Jim Rademacher (Okabena) and Jim Nelson (Magnolia) during the ’67-’68 and ’68-’69 campaigns — when the Bluejays still practiced and played their games at Worthington High School.
“Those three guys really finished their sophomore season strong, which helped with the recruiting for the next year,” recalled Mogck, who stressed how great the cooperation was from the high school with regards to sharing the facility with the college.
“Superintendent Shirl Held, athletic director Ken Thompson and basketball coach Don Basche were all so easy to work with,” said Mogck. “All three of them were just super.”
’69 tourney win leads to remarkable 23-2 season
After compiling a 5-12 record in his first season at WSJC, the Bluejays improved to 13-10 in ’68-’69, including a thrilling subregional semifinal victory over a North Hennepin squad that had defeated them by 20 points the week before.
“That was a big win for us,” Mogck recalled. “It was about a 25-point swing in a week’s span, which was an indication of how that group was coming along.”
While the trio of Nelson, Haas and Rademacher received their diplomas in June 1969 — about six weeks before Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin made the first historic moon walk — Mogck was bringing back a solid nucleus for the next season, including towering Ron Penning (6-8) from Kiester.
“That was about as far away as Arlo ever recruited,” Haas said. “Most of his players came from about a 40-mile radius, but Kiester must be about 100 miles east of here.”
Kiester, located between Blue Earth and Albert Lea along the Iowa border, is 105.6 miles east of Worthington, according to MapQuest.
Mogck’s recruiting distance also went into Sioux Falls that next season, as Rick Kiesow, a 6-3 sharpshooting guard from Lincoln High School, joined fellow recruits Mike Fury (Fulda), Mark Reker (Worthington), Craig Busch (Claremont), Bruce Leu (Sibley, Iowa), Mark Jones (Storm Lake, Iowa) and Leon Johnson (Tri-Valley, S.D.).
“We had a good class of recruits and we had four experienced sophomores back, including Penning, Tom Van Wyhe (Hills-Beaver Creek), Dave Bernston (Storden) and Jim Bisel (Butterfield),” noted Mogck about his powerhouse ’69-’70 squad, which packed the brand new gym that expanded the WSJC campus to two buildings.
“Getting our own facility was a great thing,” Mogck said. “It allowed us to practice any time we wanted to and was a boost for recruiting.”
Winning games helped that process, too, and the Bluejays won 23 times that season, while losing only twice.
Included in that memorable season was a classic playoff victory at Marshall — over arch-rival Willmar — which is also remembered for a well-publicized bleacher fight among student fans.
After claiming the state title, the Bluejays posted an impressive 76-64 victory over Suomi College of Michigan in the Region 13 Tournament at Hibbing and were within a game of advancing to the national tournament.
The North Dakota School of Science edged Mogck’s team by a mere point, 73-72, ending WSJC’s historic season but setting the tone for a strong tradition that followed.
The Bluejays were 19-6 in ’70-’71 and 21-4 in ’71-’72, winning the state title each season.
The 1972 squad, which included the rebounding abilities of Jerry Schnyders (Southwest Christian) and the Voss cousins — Denny and Jack, from Sioux Valley — won the regional title, advancing to the national tournament.
Playing its first-round game at Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, WSJC was edged in a close game by Burlington (Iowa) Junior College.
“As a high school player, I often went to Bluejay games,” Sioux Valley’s Keith Place remembers. “Their defensive intensity and offensive savvy were just awesome to watch.”
Place, who scored 1,073 points during his high career at SVHS and led the Warriors to a 43-3 record in the ’71-’72 and ’72-’73 seasons, joined Mogck’s team for the ’73-’74 campaign and became a hard-nosed defender.
“If you wanted to play for Arlo, you had to play defense,” Place recalled. “He was great at teaching technique and figuring out the right matchups.”
Mogck remembers a time when Place took his “chug the cutter” drill to heart in a scrimmage during practice.
“Ty Wacker was the WCC football coach then and he often came in and practiced with us,” Mogck recalled. “One time, he was trying to break through the lane and Place cut him off, dropping Wacker to the floor.
“Wacker got up and asked, ‘What are you doing, Place?’
‘Chugging anyone that cuts through the lane — just like we work on in the drill,’ answered Place.”
Success at Harrisburg
After graduating from Southern State Teachers College, Springfield, S.D., in the spring of 1959, Mogck was considering joining the Army, but landed the head coaching job at Harrisburg, S.D., and launched what turned out to be a 38-year career in education.
“That was quite a first-year experience,” he said with a laugh. “Man, I taught everything — even stuff that I didn’t know anything about. I was scrambling, trying to keep a few pages ahead of the students in some of the classes.”
Mogck taught physical education, industrial arts and social studies classes, while also serving as the assistant football coach, an assistant track coach and the head basketball coach at HHS.
“Back then, Harrisburg had a population of 270 and we had a total of 105 students, grades 9-12,” Mogck remembered. “The Tigers hadn’t won a district championship since 1936, but we had a good team that first year I was there.”
Rolling through the regular season with just three losses, Harrisburg later claimed the District 18 title with a win over Brandon in the finals, and then defeated Dell Rapids and Bridgewater to capture the Region 5 crown and a berth in the prestigious South Dakota Class B state tournament.
“The Class B tourney was a big thing,” he said. “There were like 250 teams in Class B and just 32 in Class A.”
Coming from behind in all three games, the Tigers rallied to defeat Chamberlain, Selby and Willow Lake (59-56) to win the state championship — a remarkable accomplishment for a 22-year-old rookie coach.
“Heck, I had two of the best guards in the state and a 6-6 center. It would have taken a moron to screw up that crew,” Mogck was quoted as saying in a pre-tournament preview about his team.
Later, after winning the championship and being asked about his team’s ability to come from behind in each contest, Mogck said:
“I think they (his players) probably looked up at the scoreboard after three quarters and said ‘We’ve listened to this guy long enough. Let’s start pretending the coach isn’t here.’”
A State trip at Canton
Mogck stayed on one more year at Harrisburg (going 14-7 in ’60-’61) and then moved to a bigger school at nearby Canton.
After one season as the Bsquad coach (12-5), Mogck endured a 3-18 campaign in his first year in charge of the Bulldogs in ’62-’63.
“We had a young team that season, but we became better as these kids grew and developed,” explained Mogck, who guided Canton to the Class A state tournament in 1966, losing in the semifinals to Webster and in overtime to Sioux Falls Washington in the third-place game.
“Those kids that were freshmen in ’63 were seniors in ’66,” he said. “That’s a big difference in both size and experience for high school boys.”
The Bulldogs were 15-7, 16-5 and 15-8 during the ’63-64, ’64-65 and ’65-66 seasons, before falling to 7-13 in ’66-’67, Mogck’s last season as a high school coach.
After compiling a 106-66 record (.616) at the high school level and twice advancing to the state tournament semifinals (once in each class), Mogck decided to give collegiate coaching a whirl and accepted the opportunity in Worthington.
WCC gets 1979 win over
Flip Saunders’ team
Following six successive seasons hovering just above the .500 mark (71-55) from ’72-’73 through ’77-’78, Mogck enjoyed another banner season in the winter of ’78-79.
Former Trojans Larry Tellinghuisen, Jeff Basche and Kevin Pfingsten teamed with Okabena’s Tom DeWall and Heron Lake’s Marc Rasche in leading the Bluejays to an excellent 19-7 season, including a victory over Golden Valley in the third-place game of the state tournament.
Golden Valley, a Minneapolis suburban school, was coached by future NBA mentor Flip Saunders, who played at the University of Minnesota a few years earlier when former Bluejay Craig Carlson (Heron Lake) was also a member of the Golden Gophers.
“That was a very good team, too,” Mogck said about his 1979 squad. “Getting a win over a team coached by Flip Saunders was a nice way to finish the season.”
Howard Van Wyhe, who had scored 34 points in the 1979 District 8 championship while playing for Hills-Beaver High School, joined the Bluejays for the next two seasons and enjoyed a banner career at WCC.
“Howard was one of the best all-around players that we had here,” said Mogck about the hard-working Van Wyhe. “He was a complete player.”
Van Wyhe, whose sons Halden and Heath have been key players on recent H-BC teams, fondly remembers those two seasons playing for Mogck at WCC.
“Arlo was an awesome coach,” Van Wyhe declared. “I learned so much about basketball from him. He helped me a lot with my post moves and, of course, he always stressed defense and rebounding.”
Van Wyhe remembers those first days of practice under Mogck’s sharp whistle.
“We hardly got the balls out that first week,” he recalled. “The importance of defense was stressed and practiced all the time. We learned how to work and play together with the common goal of getting defensive stops.”
Another area player that learned about defense from Mogck was Edgerton’s Mike Drooger, who played with Van Wyhe in the ’80-’81 campaign and then had a big season with the Bluejays as a sophomore in ’81-’82.
“I first met Arlo at the District 8 finals at the Worthington gym in 1980,” recalled Drooger, who had starred for EHS as a senior that winter. “He asked me if I was Mike Drooger and if I would like to play basketball at WCC. Believe me, I was so excited, I could have run all the way back to Edgerton.”
Coming from a zone defensive system, it took Drooger awhile to get the hang of Mogck’s defensive schemes.
“In high school, my zone area was a square about four feet by four feet,” remembers Drooger, whose daughters Alyson and Lindsey played key roles for the Flying Dutchmen this past season. “But now (at WCC), I had to learn how to front the post, deny on the perimeter, sag weakside, step out from behind a screen, pinch penetration, etc.”
Drooger, who keeps statistics and writes EHS game stories for the Edgerton Enterprise, was an assistant boys coach for the Dutchmen for 11 years and utilized many of Mogck’s defensive drills during his practices.
“Once I got accustomed to the college style of play, especially the defense, I played a lot and enjoyed my two-year career playing for Arlo at WCC,” summed up Drooger.
Long-time Minnesota West women’s basketball coach Mike Fury was a part of Mogck’s junior college state championship teams in both 1970 and 1971.
“I learned so much basketball from Arlo,” emphasized Fury. “He was so thorough with his practice plans and his game preparation. We were always ready to play.”
Fury remembers the time that after a tough loss at Rochester, he was complaining about how the lights in the gym had been in his eyes and that was the reason for his poor shooting night.
“Arlo’s response was, ‘suppose the lights had a lot to do with your defensive effort, too?’ Ouch!! — but that was Coach Mogck, always emphasizing defense.”
Mogck retired from coaching after the ’82-’83 season with a 16-year record of 208-138 (.601) at the college, including a sparking division mark of 111-54 (.673).
Mogck stayed on as a geography teacher and as athletic director at West before finishing up a 30-year career at the college in 1997. He and Judy (married in 1961) continue to live in Worthington where they raised two sons: Tim (Woodbury) and Scott (Eagle Lake), who both played sports for the Trojans in the 1980s.
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