Boys basketball: Minnewaska’s Johnson recognized after memorable season

Darin Johnson

The Minnewaska boys basketball team made a memorable run to the Section 3AA championship game, and assistant coach Darin Johnson was a crucial part of it.

The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association named Johnson one of its 10 assistant coaches of the year following the 2019-20 season. The notice took him by surprise.

“First of all, I didn’t even know there was such an award,” Johnson said. “For a lot of us who get involved in coaching, it isn’t about winning any (personal) awards. It’s about our love of basketball and working with young people to see them grow and develop to get ready for life after high school.”

Johnson works as a realtor for Glenwood State Bank Real Estate by day and the Minnewaska boys basketball team as a way to stay close to the game. When head coach Phil Johnsrud went to surprise him with the news of his award, he already heard it through the grapevine.

“I was walking back to my office when coach Johnsrud sent me a text asking where I was,” Johnson said. “He asked if he could stop by while I was getting caught up with some paperwork. A parent of one of our former players sent me a message saying congratulations. I had no idea what she was saying. Before coach Johnsrud could come in and tell me, I eventually found out. Word travels fast around here.”


Johnsrud admires what Johnson brings to his team and staff.

“He’s one of the most thorough individuals that I’ve ever been associated with,” Johnsrud said. “He’s an excellent teacher. For me, as a head coach, it’s important to me that we emphasize all the same values. We can have different opinions on X’s and O’s, but we like to deliver a lot of life lessons. He’s right on board with developing a lot of high character and integrity kids.”

The Lakers went 21-7 before coming up short to Jackson County Central in the section title game. Despite a sour finish, Johnson believes the players should hold their heads high.

“At the end of the day, I’m really proud of our kids,” he said. “I’ve said this to many people; I think we have really awesome kids in our basketball program. When I say that, they probably think that’s solely basketball talent. That’s part of it, but I’m speaking more about their character, integrity and their willingness to be coached. Whether we are talking about coaching or other aspects of life, being able to be surrounded by good people just makes your world so much better.”

Johnson is a Glenwood native that moved back to town 14 years ago. After being in and out of the boys and girls basketball programs for several years, he took the assistant position when Johnsrud took over five seasons ago.

“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like the people I got to work with,” Johnson said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to coach at a lot of different levels in a lot of different capacities. You can’t put a value on getting to work with good people. We have awesome people, and I know I sound like a broken record, but you appreciate that as you get older.”

The Lakers said goodbye to five seniors following the end of the season.

“We had a bunch of good athletes, but we didn’t have a lot of elite basketball players. The coaches and I emphasized team basketball,” Johnsrud said. “We don’t rely on one guy, and we bank on being a good defensive team. We want to play good defense, make our free throws and play as a team. That’s what happens when everybody buys in, including the coaches. Darin is a heck of a coach, as are all the coaches I have the privilege of working with.”


Team Photo.JPG
The Minnewaska boys basketball team finished as the Section 3AA runner-up in the 2019-20 season. Assistant coach Darin Johnson (middle, second row) was recognized by the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association as one of the 10 assistant coaches of the year. (Submitted photo)

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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