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BLAST: Quartet of players enjoying coaching success

WORTHINGTON -- In the past few days, a barrage of ice and heavy snow has made a carnage of trees as broken branches have tumbled to the ground all over the area.

"It looks like a war zone out there," has been a frequent comment about the destruction of the three-day mid-April storm which - although quite scenic - has devastated parks, groves and yards in most of the towns and countryside of southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and southeastern South Dakota.

To sum it up, it's a mess - which will take months to clean up.

Obviously, the recent rains and snow have also put the damper on the spring sports' season, which had just got off to a good start before the weather changed for the worse.

It seems hard to believe that it has already been three weeks since the 101st annual Minnesota state high school boys' basketball tournament was being played out in Minneapolis.

Worthington's Neil Robinson, who works at Newport Laboratories, graduated in 1994 from Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster and played basketball on some outstanding Raider teams, coached by Gary Johnk, two decades ago.

Robinson, who is a dyed-in-the-wool basketball fan, spent several seasons coaching the sport - one as an assistant boys' coach at SV-RL-B, one as the head coach for both girls and boys at Faith Christian, four as an assistant girls' coach at SV-RL-B and the '07-08 campaign as the head girls' coach for Round Lake-Brewster.

Proud of his Red Rock Conference heritage, Robinson recently pointed out that four former players - all from the 1990s - of the league each coached teams in this year's state tournament.

Let's start with Robinson's teammate, Sean Kruger - who graduated from SV-RL-B in 1993 and was a three-time all-conference selection, scored over 1,100 varsity points and was a Daily Globe All-Area first team selection as a senior.

Kruger - whose dad, Bruce, was a fine multiple-sport athlete for Round Lake in the mid-60s (Class of 1966) - later played two seasons of basketball at Worthington Community College (now Minnesota West) with former Globe sports reporter Shawn Fury on some top-notch teams coached by Mike Augustine.

In his first year as the head coach at The Blake School in Minneapolis, Kruger guided his team to a trio of exciting Section 6AAA victories - including an overtime thriller over Richfield in the semifinals - to advance to the state tournament.

The Bears were matched against undefeated Austin, the eventual state runner-up, in the quarterfinals at Williams Arena. Blake played well, leading much of the way.

But, the Packers rallied and won in the closing minutes, 59-56, eliminating the Bears from the tournament.

"It was a great experience for the kids," summed up Kruger, who was an assistant at Blake for seven seasons before becoming the head coach. "It was the first time the Blake boys have ever played in the state tournament and it was a fun time."

Kruger lives in Chaska and works basketball much of the off-season as a coach with the Minnesota Select AAU Traveling Team and with the Minnesota Basketball Association, organizing high school tournaments.

Next, is Chris Pack, a 1994 graduate of Red Rock Central High School, who guided the Hayfield Vikings to the state tournament, pulling off a couple of "upsets" in the Section 2AA tournament, knocking off state-ranked squads from Maple River and St. Peter.

Pack - who Robinson said was a "terrific 3-point shooter who 'squared up' perfectly in high school" - is the oldest son of long-time Lamberton, Sanborn-Lamberton and Red Rock Central coach and athletic director Bryce Pack.

It was Pack's second trip to the state tournament with Hayfield, as the Vikings advanced all the way to Class AA state finals in 2001, his first year as head coach.

"Chris has had several good seasons in between and has been close to going (to state) a couple of other times," Bryce said. "Last year, Hayfield had a real good team, which was upset in the sub-section finals."

This year, Hayfield was defeated by Esko in a closely-contested quarterfinal opener at Williams Arena.

Pack's younger brother, Colby, is Fulda's head coach.

The third former Red Rock Conference player to coach in this year's state tournament is Travis Carroll, a 1997 graduate of Fulda.

In his first season at Marshall, Carroll guided the Tigers to a remarkable 28-3 overall record - including winning streaks of 11 and 17 games - and a third-place finish in Class AAA.

Utilizing exceptional balance and depth, Marshall defeated Grand Rapids (69-52) at Williams Arena, battled Austin in an overtime loss (68-65) at Target Center and earned a 71-62 victory over St. Paul Johnson at Concordia College, playing at three venues in four days.

"I never played against Travis, he was a few years younger," recalled Kruger, who came close to coaching against him (had Blake been able to win its game with Austin) in the state semifinals. "But, I played against his older brother, Brad, when we played Fulda in high school."

Travis' oldest brother, Chad, is the head boys' track and field coach at Benson.

Chad, Brad and Travis are the three sons of long-time Fulda teachers Harvey and Sharon Carroll. Each of them played B-squad basketball under Harvey, who coached in that capacity at Fulda for 22 years before becoming the Raiders' head coach over the next four seasons, beginning in 2003-04.

And, of course, the fourth former player is Southwest Christian's Jamie Pap.

It was the third state tournament for Pap, who played with the Eagles as a senior in 1999 when Southwest won the first of its four consecutive Class A state titles.

Pap - who began farming right out of high school, north of Beaver Creek, with his dad Wilmer and older brother Jared (the point guard on SWC's fine 1992 team) - spent one season ('03-04) as an assistant coach under Dan Broekhuis, working with the freshman team.

Two years later, Pap became his alma mater's head coach and has enjoyed eight highly-successful seasons (158-49) with the Eagles, including a 5-1 record in the state tournament.

So, there you have it. Kruger, Pack, Carroll and Pap - each of them played in the Red Rock Conference in the '90s and now all of them recently had the opportunity to coach in the state tournament.

Thanks, Neil, for that interesting bit of information.

Goring has area roots

One other state tournament coach also has some area roots.

Apple Valley head coach Zach Goring, who holds the state's assist record, spent his early years in rural Butterfield.

When I saw the name Goring, I wondered if maybe he was Darrell Goring's son.

Although not very big, Darrell was an exceptional all-around athlete for Butterfield, graduating with the Class of 1970.

Football, basketball and track (state meet-qualifying miler) were Goring's sports in high school.

The Indians were undefeated in football during Goring's junior season - in the fall of 1968 - and were District 7 runner-ups (to Jackson) in basketball during his senior year in March of 1970.

He combined speed with endurance and ran the mile as fast as 4:32, winning the event in most meets, including the Red Rock Conference and District 7.

Goring later played basketball at Golden Valley Lutheran, playing against some of the outstanding Worthington State Junior College teams of the early '70s, coached by Arlo Mogck.

But it was in fast-pitch softball that the 5-9 Goring excelled the most.

Playing with teams out of St. James and Mankato, Goring often played with Heron Lake's Chuck Engler - one of Minnesota's best pitchers - and was recruited to the Twin Cities to play softball.

In 1985, during the farm crunch of the mid-80s, Goring moved to Apple Valley and began a landscaping business and played fast-pitch softball.

Zach was a third grader at the time and developed into a fine basketball player.

"Zach was pretty small in junior high," recalled Darrell. "But, Steve Elness - the head coach at Apple Valley - really believed in him and gave Zach a chance."

Goring's passing statistics proved that Elness, the point guard on Windom's 1966 state tournament team, was right.

Zach Goring was coached by Elness and now is the coach of highly-recruited Tyus Jones, who - with one season remaining at Apple Valley - will likely surpass Goring's all-time assists' record.

It's a small world after all.

Thanks to Judy (Thorson) Brake for help on 1963 Edgerton story

I would like to thank Judy (Thorson) Brake for her help with the 1963 Edgerton project.

A cheerleader and the drum majorette at EHS during that '62-63 school year, Judy loaned me her yearbook, the Region 2 tournament program and the District 8 tournament program, which supplied some additional information and pictures for my research.

A big basketball fan, Judy was a freshman when the Dutchmen won it all in 1960 and has many great memories of basketball games - home and away - during those years of the early '60s.

"I remember how much fun those games were," she told me at her house along Lake Shetek back in February. "A few years ago when Ellsworth was doing the same thing, I got caught up in high school basketball again."

While it's over for now - it has been for three weeks - another high school basketball season is coming.

But not yet, first we have to melt this snow and rekindle spring.