John's Journal
Coming Soon: Story Of A Remarkable Coach1/5/2012
I’ve been working on a story about a coach who has been well-known in Minnesota circles for decades. But in researching the story, I have discovered that there is much, more more to this person than the sport he coaches.

His background reads like a novel; his life is inspirational, hinging on war, relocation and an amazing family story.

I’m wrapping up the reporting on this story and am hoping to post it later today.
From Latvia To Mounds View: Hall of Fame Coach Ziggy Kauls 1/5/2012
Zigurds “Ziggy” Kauls is one of the best-known coaches in Minnesota history, having guided the boys basketball team at Mounds View High School for 45 years. Kauls, who will retire after this season, ranks third in career coaching victories in his sport, has taken 12 teams to state tournaments and owns two state championships.

In the job since 1967, Kauls has coached three Mr. Basketball award winners and is a member of the MSHSL Hall of Fame and the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He may have even invented the concept of the open gym during the offseason.

The court at Mounds View has received a new adornment, with the words “Kauls Court” painted in large letters near both mid-court sidelines. The court will be officially dedicated in Kauls’ honor on Jan. 13 when the Mustangs host East Ridge in a Suburban East Conference game.

Kauls, 70, should write a book. If he does, however, high school basketball in Minnesota won’t be the only subject. History – personal history – is a major part of his story.

I talked with Kauls after a game earlier this week, sitting with him in the near-empty Mounds View gym, and we chatted again on the phone a day later. He told me about his aunt, Edith “Oma” Kauls, who was 99 years old when she died on New Year’s Day. Edith was born in Latvia, as was her nephew Zigurds. The memories flowed as we talked…

Kauls has a scar on his neck from an injury suffered when he was 4 years old. As he told me, “I fell into a bombed-out window.” This was in 1945, and it’s one of his earliest memories. He received medical attention from a group of nuns, but he just remembers seeing people dressed in black and white. “And I remember getting pushed in a cart to where they did the sewing.”

Latvia, in the Baltic region of northern Europe, was not a pleasant place in the World War II era. Kauls, who was born during the war, said “Russians occupied the Baltic states before the war. Then the Germans occupied it, then Russians re-occupied. That’s not a good deal. It was best to get out of there.”

Because Kauls’ father could speak German the family was able to relocate to Germany, where they lived in a refugee camp that housed about 2,000 people. From there the Kauls – parents Alma and Teodors, six children (sons Teodors, Ivars, Zigurds, Juris and Andris and daughter Mara) and their grandmother – traveled to the United States, arriving in late December1949.

“We were originally destined for Northfield,” Kauls said, “but when the sponsors found out it was a family of six kids and a grandmother they said they couldn’t handle it.”

The president of the school board in Forest Lake – who had a small farm where he grew strawberries and had dairy cows and pigs -- offered to take in the Kauls. They lived in the basement of the family home for almost a year and then were able to rent a house not far from there.

Kauls’ parents found employment and the children worked on the farm and did other jobs. Edith’s family came to the area in 1952, and some of the Kauls kids found work with a contractor in Forest Lake. “He hired my oldest brother Ted and my cousin Guido to work for him,” Ziggy said. “We were like little helpers; we’d bring shingles to the roof, we helped with waterproofing, we helped the carpenters.”

All the Kauls pooled their money – Ziggy didn’t keep a penny until he graduated from high school – until the parents were able to repay the overland portion of their trip to Minnesota.

Ziggy and his brothers were outstanding athletes at Forest Lake, playing multiple sports. Mounds View athletic director Bob Madison has heard the story of Ziggy, as a high school basketball player, asking the coach for keys to the gym so he and his teammates could work on their shooting skills.

“He probably created the concept of open gym before he graduated from high school,” Madison said.

Kerwin Englehart, who was the Forest Lake basketball coach when Ziggy was a junior and senior and later became athletic director for Rochester public schools, confirmed the open gym story.

“He came to me and assured me there was no problem and he would handle everything,” Engelhart said. “And there was no problem. He was a very good player, very hard-working and dedicated, very coachable. I’m very proud of him.”

Ted Kauls played basketball at the University of Minnesota until suffering a knee injury and Ivars Kauls played football for the Gophers and was a standout on the track team. Ziggy played basketball at Hamline under legendary coach Joe Hutton. That’s where the idea of becoming a coach began.

In the fall of 1962 he was a student-teacher at Mounds View. He graduated from Hamline the following spring and was hired as a teacher at Mounds View. When the district opened Irondale High School in 1967, Mounds View boys basketball coach Jim Geske – the only coach in program history -- became Irondale’s first athletic director.

“The guys on staff had been head coaches and had no desire to be head coaches again,” said Kauls, who had done some scouting for Geske. “The principal called me in and asked if I wanted to be the head coach. I said I didn’t have much experience and he said, ‘We’ll give you a chance.’ ”

And now, 45 years down the road, Kauls has a record of 728 victories and 349 losses. The only Minnesota boys basketball coaches with more wins are Bob McDonald of Chisholm (975-392) and Bob Brink of Rocori (924-320).

When Madison was named athletic director at Mounds View 10 years ago, he didn’t know Kauls and was unsure how the longtime coach would view him.

“Ziggy welcomed me with open arms,” Madison said. “Once I was on board I was a Mustang, and he treated me that way. He had two expectations, that the baskets were at 10 feet and the floor got swept. He needs a gym and a ball, and that’s about it.”

Kauls led the Mustangs to the state tournament for the first time in 1972, and they won the Class 2A championship. Eleven more trips to state followed, including the 1999 Class 4A championship. Mounds View’s Steve Schlotthauer (1986), Nick Horvath (1999) and Travis Busch (2005) were named Mr. Basketball in Minnesota.

“We always talk about doing things that you know how to do well and not doing things that make you look bad,” Kauls said. “You have to gauge, you have to know what it is and it will change from game to game. Consistency is important, and eventually consistency gets you to tradition.”

This year’s team has a record of 7-2 and will play at White Bear Lake on Friday night.

“It’s not all about basketball for Coach Kauls,” Madison said. “A lot of people assume life for him is just basketball, but it’s really not. Basketball is a huge passion or him, it’s like an extreme hobby and he loves everything about basketball.

“But what he really loves about it is what it does for young men; the dedication, the discipline, the class. A team slogan is Tradition Never Graduates, and they’re producing success. No matter the sport, that should be the goal. For Zig, basketball is the vehicle he uses to get young men there.”

Indeed, Kauls helps young men get there, while always remembering where he has been.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 235
*Miles John has driven: 5,512

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Let’s Get Started On 2012!1/3/2012
Happy 2012 to one and all, and it’s time to get back in the saddle as we resume the winter season. State tournaments will be upon us in a few short weeks, so the rush has begun.

This week on, we will continue to celebrate 100 years of state basketball tournaments. Each week until the state tournaments begin, the MSHSL is announcing a different category of “state tournament bests.” These lists have been compiled with the assistance of a committee of basketball historians and experts from around Minnesota. We’ll kick off the series with an alphabetical listing of the top five coaches in the history of the boys state basketball tournament. Keep an eye out for that.

Following that theme, my week will be basketball-heavy. Tonight (Tuesday) I will be posing as a television analyst alongside play-by-play man Jerry Otto Jr. on CTV North Suburbs’ coverage of a boys basketball game between Roseville and Mounds View. On Saturday I’ll be at Target Center for the annual Timberwolves Shootout, with a lineup of six boys games featuring some of the top teams in Minnesota and surrounding states.

Here’s the Shootout schedule…
11:00 a.m.: St. Thomas More (S.D.) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret's
12:30 p.m.: Rice Lake (Wis.) vs. Duluth East
2:00 p.m.: Pelican Rapids vs. Minnetonka
3:30 p.m.: Cedar Falls (Iowa) vs. Prior Lake
5:00 p.m.: Sioux City East (Iowa) vs. Hopkins
6:30 p.m.: Onalaska (Wis.) vs. Apple Valley

Have a great week!

*Schools/teams John has visited: 231
*Miles John has driven: 5,449

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Let’s Say Farewell To 2011 With A Look Back …12/27/2011
As we turn the calendar to a new year, this is a prime time to reflect on what has taken place in 2011. I spent some time clicking through the John’s Journal archives and selected some highlights, some touching moments and plenty of memories from the year that was.

--The year opens in fine style with a trip to Duluth for a hockey doubleheader.
--The state debate tournament proves to be a fast-talking, quick-thinking event.
--Four days after a Perham basketball player named Zach Gabbard collapses on the court at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, I wrote about a fund at United Community Bank in Perham to help his family defray medical costs.
--A visit to Ellsworth is made for the annual Coaches vs. Cancer event

--Headline: Support For Zach Gabbard Continues
--My debut at the one-act play state festival at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
--It’s 57 degrees at Giants Ridge near Biwabik for the state alpine ski competition on Feb. 15.
--Tales from the girls state hockey tournament include Edina junior goaltender Maddie Dahl (right) being given a stick by Wild goalie Josh Harding.

--Senior Elisa Reinsma of Fulda/Murray County Central repeats her own history by wrestling at the state tournament for the second year in a row.
--At Xcel Energy Center, hockey fans see Duluth East students chanting Rachel Sandell’s name and holding signs in support of Rachel, who is in Nevada undergoing cancer treatment.
--Headline: Great Debate: Indiana Basketball, Texas Football or Minnesota Hockey? (You’ll have to go back through the John’s Journal archives to find the answer.)
--The Anoka girls basketball team had won 17 games and lost 157 over seven seasons … until they qualified for the state tournament in 2011.
--Zach Gabbard surprises his Perham teammates by appearing in the locker room at Williams Arena before the Yellowjackets play in the state quarterfinals.
--Boys state basketball champions include Perham in Class 2A. Zach Gabbard is unable to attend the game at Target Center but watches the game on TV from a rehabilitation hospital in St. Paul.

--In one of my favorite days of the year, I visit the Cambridge-Isanti adapted bowling team during a practice.
--Fairmont High School senior Sarah Bankson wins the Class A championship in the Informative Speaking category of the state speech tournament at Chanhassen High School. She is the first four-time state speech champion in Minnesota history.
--I write about former Twins catcher Terry Steinbach, working as an assistant baseball coach at Wayzata High School.

--I enjoy researching and writing a story about a program in Spring Lake Park that has high school athletes visiting elementary schools to work with young students on reading skills.
--Headline: State Adapted Bowling Tournament: Where Smiles Dominate
--I journey to Heron Lake to report on Ben Cunningham (left), a senior at Round Lake-Brewster who returned to the baseball (and basketball) team after a vehicle accident in which he suffered massive injuries and lost the vision in one eye.

--You knew summer had arrived by reading this headline: Heat Alert: Boys Lacrosse Semifinals Delayed One Hour
--Thief River Falls senior Brendan “Beezer” Skime is the busiest athlete in Minnesota, competing in the state tennis tournament and state track meet in the same week.
-- Jerry Loegering, 78, ends his career as the girls golf coach at Barnesville in fine style. After beginning his career in 1975, Jerry brings his team to the state tourney … the first girls state golf trip in school history.

--During a month that is a shut-down period for high school activities in Minnesota, one evening is very special. At the Comet Theater in downtown Perham, a documentary film premiers: “For Three” is the story of Zach Gabbard and the Perham basketball team.

--I visit Brainerd for the first day of football practice at Brainerd High School. It’s also the 50th year as a head coach for Ron Stolski, who has won more football games than any other coach in the state.
--Another highlight of the year: spending time with the volunteer army that takes care of the football field at New London-Spicer High School. It might be the finest playing surface in the state.
--A great series of road trips takes me to Fulda and St. Peter for Zero Week football games and Bethlehem Academy in Faribault for the opening of the volleyball season. Great fun.

--I write about one of my favorite athletes of the year: Orono soccer player Nick Manzoni. Nick missed the season while he was undergoing cancer treatments. I don’t think his middle name is Inspiration, but it should be.
--Headline: Future Gophers QB Helps Journalist Break The Rules. This concerns Mankato West’s Philip Nelson and it’s a neat tale.
--One of the most remarkable, special stories of this year or any other unfolds at Wabasha-Kellogg when three-sport athlete Cole Younker – who was killed in a vehicle accident a year earlier -- is remembered with the planting of a tree and the release of balloons before the football season opener vs. Southland.
--I profile Eastview High School’s Matt Percival for a story about the day in the life of an athletic director.
--A story about another inspiring athlete: Pierz junior Beth Broschofsky (right), who returns to the cross-country team after cancer surgery and treatment. A metal rod replaced the humerus in her right upper arm and she runs with a large brace to keep her arm strapped close to her body.
--A profile of soccer official Adalberto Villalobos, a native of Costa Rica who has lived in Minnesota for many years and became a U.S. citizen in 2011.

--A great evening of history: St. Paul Academy and Blake mark the 100th anniversary of their first football meeting with a game at Blake.
--Trevor Schmidt has a lot of wonderful friends at Mound-Westonka High School. Many of his male buddies shave their heads in support of Trevor, whose own hair was thinned out while he is being treated for a condition called angioma.
--Rachel Sandell, the ailing Duluth East student who was remembered and honored by her schoolmates during the boys state hockey tournament, passes away.

--Headline: A Gatorade Bath, Sweet Caroline And Some Football History. When Prior Lake wins a big game to make its first appearance in the state football tournament, it’s quite a night.
--First-year Hill-Murray football coach Brooks Bollinger, a former NFL quarterback, takes his team to the state semifinals. After losing in that round, the rookie coach’s postgame words are special: “We were so lucky to get the experience we did and have some success. It hurts when you get that close and don’t get it done, but my message to them was we lost today, but we won, I won, to be able to be part of something like this.”

--A family profile of Tom and Leah Dasovich, the husband and wife who coach the boys and girls basketball teams at Minnetonka High School.
--The remarkable story of Zach Gabbard continues when Zach is cleared by medical professionals to return to game action. When the senior sees his first playing time in January, it will be almost a year since he collapsed and nearly died.
--A story about the Duluth East boys hockey team, which will travel 3,356 miles this season for road games, spending 56 hours on buses. The Greyhounds travel almost as much as I do.

My total miles for 2011: (Drum roll please) … 11,698.

Here's wishing everyone a great 2012!
Minnesotan Authors A Coaching Handbook Unlike Any Other12/21/2011
When Carl Pierson saw one of his good friends and successful coaching colleagues get abruptly fired, the wheels started turning. Pierson, who has coached at several Minnesota high schools, awoke one day around 3 a.m. and began jotting down thoughts and ideas. And he began writing.

The result is a book about coaching that is much more than a book about coaching. Pierson’s self-published book is titled “The Politics Of Coaching: A Survival Guide To Keep Coaches From Getting Burned.” It’s a rare find; instead of dealing with X’s and O’s or other traditional coaching advice, it offers guidance on issues that have little to do with athletic strategies and everything to do with becoming and remaining a successful coach.

“The whole motivation was that I’ve seen too many good people get pushed out of the profession, and I was tired of it,” said Pierson, the head girls basketball coach at Waconia High School. “Some of it is brought on by themselves because they don’t know how to manage these various situations.”

Pierson, 35, has been a head girls basketball coach for 10 years, with stops in Red Wing, Chisago Lakes and Champlin Park (where his 2006-07 team reached the Class 4A state semifinals) before taking over at Waconia this year. The native of Mitchell, S.D., holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from Northern State University. He is a married father with a young son and another child due in February.

His undergraduate degree is in political science/education, and he writes in the book that he had “been a student of politics for longer than I had even been an athlete or a coach … In nearly 20 years of coaching football, baseball, and basketball this understanding of politics and people has allowed me to navigate the often treacherous terrain that has become youth and high school coaching. I had always taken for granted this understanding was intrinsic in most coaches. That is, until my friend was fired.”

Pierson’s book includes chapters titled The Campaign, Public Relations, Special Interest Groups, Confronting A “Cancer” in Your Program, The Politics of Youth Sports, and Surviving Race and Gender Issues.

He relates stories about his own experiences and those of other coaches in dealing and working with parents, youth programs, administrators, etc. The anonymity of people is protected because he doesn’t refer to others by name.

“It was a labor of love,” he said. “It was rather therapeutic to go through some of that stuff again and re-live it.”

The book is aimed at coaches but the advice it offers can be used in almost any field. Since the book was published last summer, Pierson has heard positive feedback from coaches around the country as well as people in other professions.

“I got an email from a band or chorus director who said it even applies in their area,” he said. “I’ve had a couple from people in private business who said the same thing. That’s been nice to hear, but it certainly wasn’t the intention.”

Some of the topics in the book are touchy, such as dealing with problem parents or problem players, and even how to aid in the process of problem players transferring to another school. In addition, Pierson offers advice on getting hired as a coach, including sections titled “Never use negative campaigning publicly” and “Running a campaign against an incumbent.” Pierson doesn’t shy away from any topics.

He writes in the book, “Some coaches suggest they don’t want to play the political games and that they just want to coach. I would suggest that if they really want to coach, playing the political games, or at the very least acknowledging that politics play a role in their job, is the only way they will get to coach or survive in the profession for any length of time.”

Pierson said he expected to hear some negative feedback, but that has not happened.

“It’s been very positive, and surprisingly so. I expected there would be a little bit more controversy about some of the things that I’ve suggested. But without exception, the emails I’ve received have been very encouraging and very positive and appreciative. That’s been rewarding.

“I didn’t write it with the intention of burning any bridges or hurting anybody’s feelings, it was really to be instructive and to try and help coaches and use some of my own situations and others. I’m glad that it’s been positive to this point.”

He said he is aware of at least three colleges that are using his book in Theory of Coaching classes.

“In the college classes they teach you drills and plays or whatever, but they don’t talk about how to deal with parents or any of those other issues,” Pierson said. “And those are the things that consume coaches and lead you to leave the profession. Everybody can handle a practice schedule, but it’s those extraneous issues that become overwhelming.”

The book can be purchased at, where athletic directors can receive a discount when ordering 10 or more books. It also is available at

The Customer Reviews section at Amazon includes comments like this: “As a new head coach, this is one of the greatest tools I could have ever found. It is very complete as it has great insight to every possible situation a coach will encounter. The way the book is set up and written is very reader friendly, almost like Mr. Pierson is having a conversation with you. I would encourage all coaches, parents of student-athletes, athletic directors, and even fans to read this book. I will definitely be passing this on to the other head coaches in my district.”

Pierson has promoted the book at coaching clinics in Minnesota and neighboring states. While his intention was to tell coaches about the book and hopefully sell a few, he was surprised by the number of people who told him they had already finished it.

“I thought I was going out there to spread the word, and they’d already read it,” he said. “So that was kind of neat.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 231
*Miles John has driven: 5,449

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at