More than just another game: Coach, former player face each other on the sidelinesMatt Hoelscher thrived under John Holsten as a player. Tuesday, he got a chance to coach against him.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Osakis’ first-year head coach Matt Hoelscher admitted after a 48-45 win over Brandon-Evansville on Tuesday night that he had circled this game on the calendar before the season started.
Not necessarily because he figured it was bigger than any of the other 24 games on the regular-season schedule. He circled it because of who was leading the team on the opposing sideline.
John Holsten guided the Alexandria boys’ basketball program for 15 seasons before taking over in Brandon-Evansville. As a player, Hoelscher was one of the top point guards that Holsten got to coach during his tenure with the Cardinals. He still holds the school record for the most assists in a single season with 177. That came during the 1999-2000 school year as Hoelscher guided the Cardinals to the state tournament before falling in the quarterfinals to Cloquet.
“He seemed to play the game two plays ahead,” Holsten said. “He was able to make people better. To me, that’s the definition of a great point guard.”
Hoelscher said his success as a player stemmed a lot from the fact that Holsten stepped back and let him run the show on the court. His head coach trusted him to make the right decisions, and more often than not, he did.
That’s where Hoelscher’s respect for Holsten started. Since then, that admiration has only grown as he’s watched Holsten rack up 415 wins in now his 30th year as a head coach. That is why Tuesday’s game meant a little bit more to Hoelscher as he matched up against a guy who taught him a lot about the game that he loves so much.
“That guy has lost more knowledge about basketball than I’m ever going to know,” Hoelscher said. “He’s been in it for 40-some years, and I truly respect him…he told me before the game that he really respects what I’ve been doing and he’s really happy for me. To get a compliment from a guy like that, that is just really reassuring for me that I’m doing the right stuff.”
The feeling was mutual for Holsten. He watched Hoelscher grow up around the game and turn himself into a solid floor leader. Those same traits are what he figures will turn Hoelscher into a winning coach in the years to come.
“I was really proud,” Holsten said. “I have a lot of respect and affection for Matt, and I’m glad he’s where he is. He’s been around the game his whole life. His dad (Gerry Hoelscher) was an outstanding coach, as well. I think he couldn’t help but pick up things as he hung around the gym a lot.”
Hoelscher is learning this season what Holsten already knows after being in the game for so long. It isn’t always easy. Holsten has experienced a lot of success during his career, highlighted by three state tournament runs in Alexandria. But he has also experienced seasons where those wins are a lot harder to come by.
“As you get older, the highs don’t last as long as the lows stick around,” Holsten said. “I’m hoping that he really likes the challenge that he has. You have to like the challenge. It’s hard and you have to like that it’s hard. I think that he’s perfectly suited for that.”
Both guys are going through those kinds of seasons right now. The Chargers are in the midst of six losses in their last seven games that has dropped them to 7-13 overall. The Silverstreaks are 3-17 as Hoelscher takes steps toward trying to build a consistent winner in Osakis.
It’s the coaches who can get past those losses and enjoy the process of building something that tends to last. Every coach wants to experience success, but Holsten has learned that wins and losses can’t be the only reason a coach is in the game.
“It will break your heart,” Holsten said. “But it will get you to places you never thought you’d go. That’s more than a little bit like life. To me, it’s all about the relationships, and Matt is certainly a big part of that.”
Hoelscher seems to get that. Watching his excitement level from the sidelines, one would never know his team had just three wins on the season. He’s enjoying watching his players progress as the season goes along.
That’s a part of the process of getting this program where he wants it to be. He hopes that eventually means making an impact on players the same way Holsten made an impact on him.
“I only hope I can do half the stuff he’s done,” Hoelscher said. “He’s the hardest working coach I know in high school basketball; with the summer stuff, working with the youth. If I can do half of what he does, I’ll be happy about my accomplishments.”