Boys basketball: VanNyhuis receives assistant coach of the year honor

Lee VanNyhuis

The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association recognized 10 assistants as coaches of the year on a statewide level for their efforts during the 2019-20 season.

One of them is Osakis’ Lee VanNyhuis.

“I think the award is a reflection of the program as a whole,” VanNyhuis said. “I don’t think an assistant coach gets this kind of an award if the program doesn’t have success. All of the coaches put in a lot of work, especially coach (Matt Hoelscher). Not to mention the seniors, who are the foundation of the team right now.”

The Silverstreaks finished with a 25-3 record but fell in its second game of the Section 6AA playoffs to Pine City (26-3). Osakis surpassed 50 wins the last two years after going 26-2 a year ago, as well.

“The wins we had were a lot of fun, but the best part is the relationships the kids have with all of the coaches,” VanNyhuis said. “It was tough to say goodbye to all of those seniors. You didn’t want not to have practice the next day, so that last game was a tough one.”


This past season was VanNyhuis’ 22nd year on the Osakis bench. He’s been through thick and thin with hundreds of players and multiple head coaches.

“The coaches I’ve worked with, especially Chris Stroup and Matt Hoelscher, value the voice of the assistant coaches,” VanNyhuis said. “I always felt like whatever input I gave to them, they listened to it. Whether it was substitutions, game-time decisions or what plays we were running, they listened. I always felt like my voice was valued… when you don’t feel like you have a voice in the program, I think it’s easier to step away.”

When Hoelscher found out that the MBCA recognized one of his assistants, he felt grateful, but not surprised.

“He’s put in a lot of time at Osakis, so I’m happy for him,” Hoelscher said. “That says something about any coach that can be around for that long in this day and age. He shows passion and dedication, not only to the game of basketball but to the kids as well. He’s a big part of our decision-making process. Not just him, but also coach (Kyle) Imdieke and coach (Pat) Stier. It’s a collective group of putting our heads together and making the right decisions. There’s nothing that I do that’s by myself as a coach.”

VanNyhuis understands the dynamic between an assistant and a head coach very well. In the spring, he spends his time at the track as the head coach of the Osakis track and field teams.

“In basketball, there’s more in-game adjustments and trying to get everybody doing the right thing at the right time. Track is different,” VanNyhuis said. “As far as the overlap between the two, there’s a lot of planning that goes into track before the season as a head coach. This year, we had a competitive (basketball) team, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to coach both. I do the best I can coaching both, but it’s not easy.”

Hoelscher is impressed with the way that VanNyhuis and all of the coaches in the Osakis athletic programs manage their time and connect with the student-athletes.

“It’s not just sports, but he also has the classroom,” Hoelscher said. “The fact that he and all of the other coaches that coach multiple sports see kids in different atmospheres, and they’re able to relate to them is huge when it comes to our sport in particular.”


VanNyhuis has many reasons to stick around the sports he loves, but none bigger than doing it with his kids.

“I have a daughter who’s a three-sport athlete, and I value what she gets from all of her coaches,” VanNyhuis said. “Each sport is a different experience, and there’s value in all of those. I think it’s important for kids to have that. I love getting the opportunity to coach different sports with all kinds of kids. Even to have my sons with me through this, I bring them to the basketball practices, and they copy what they see, and it’s helped them. That’s a huge benefit, and if I weren’t coaching basketball, I wouldn’t have that.”

Minnewaska’s Johnson also honored

See the Friday, April 10, issue of the Echo Press to read about Minnewaska boys basketball assistant coach Darin Johnson.

Johnson was also honored by the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association with an assistant coach of the year award after this winter season.

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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