Hanson's Jim Bridge recorded his 400th win last week; still going strong after 25 years on Beavers' sidelineIt’s a rare feat for a coach to win 400 games over his career.
By: Justin Rust, The Daily Republic
It’s a rare feat for a coach to win 400 games over his career.
Hanson girls’ basketball coach Jim Bridge accomplished the milestone Jan. 24 when his team beat Sanborn Central 48-39.
Since then, he has only felt one distinct feeling.
“It just makes you feel like you are getting old, that’s all,” Bridge said with a chuckle. “My old boss used to say I was young and dumb, now I am just old and dumber.”
Bridge didn’t even know he had won 400 games after the Sanborn Central win. In fact, he didn’t find out about it until he opened up The Daily Republic a few days later.
“The paper was the first place I saw it, and it kind of scared me with the picture,” Bridge joked. “When I saw it in the paper, I didn’t know, and I had to question who did it. I think one of my assistant coaches was doing the math.”
Once Bridge found out he had won 400 games, he knew who to attribute the success to.
“I want it to go to the players,” he said. “They are the ones that work hard and deserve it.
“Also, the people that have gotten me the furthest in life are my wife and kids. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”
Bridge has a career record of 402-154 and has been the coach at Hanson for 25 years. He has been at the school for 26 years and took a year off when he became the principal.
Bridge currently serves as the Superintendent at Hanson. It was sports that ultimately led Bridge back to school, though.
When Bridge was 8 years old, his grandparents took him to the South Dakota State Basketball Tournament and he figured out what he wanted to do.
“I was watching it and I thought, ‘this would be fun to do as a player and be out for sports,’ ” he said. “So I did, and one thing my parents and grandparents taught me was to go out and just do the best I can.
“That’s what I have gone on to teach the kids I have coached.”
After Bridge finished high school, he went to school at the University of South Dakota-Springfield. During that time, he worked at Springfield High School part-time and later worked with the Bon Homme school district when the two consolidated.
Then, Bridge ended up as an assistant at Wagner before he finished his degree at Northern State University in Aberdeen. Bridge then student taught at Armour for a year and served an assistant for basketball coach Burnell Glanzer.
After a year at Armour, Bridge went to Alexandria and became the Hanson girls’ head coach.
“I pretty much have enemies in every town now,” he joked. “A lot of people influenced me and got me to where I am now.
“I just feel like my way to pay them back is to help the kids I work with everyday. I feel pretty fortunate to do what I get to do.”
After 10 years as a teacher at Hanson, Bridge became the principal and stepped down as head coach. A year later, he was back on the sideline.
During Bridge’s tenure, Hanson has had three losing seasons, but two of those were his first two years as the head coach.
His 402 wins over 25 years averages out to 16 wins a season, which Bridge said is a tribute to the team’s consistency throughout the years.
“We’ve had a pretty strong tradition of girls’ basketball, and I think every group of kids has challenged themselves to be as good as the teams before them,” he said. “There’s a little bit of pride there. Looking back, they probably sat in the bleachers, and you feel like they want to keep it going.
“I try and use that to motivate them.”
Hanson has made it to the state tournament four times with Bridge at the helm. In 1992, the Beavers were the Class B runner-up. In 2007, Hanson finished third and took fifth in 2008. The Beavers also made the state tournament in 1990.
Bridge said he remembers the players he coached that were named to the All-State teams or went on to play college basketball, but he said it was the players who were below them talent-wise who have consistently helped the team.
“I’ve had a lot of good players, but they have to have teammates to go with them,” he said. “It’s the average kids who don’t get the attention or names in the paper that work hard everyday.
That’s what we try to get everyone to realize, that everyone on the team is important.”
This year, Hanson is 9-7, but has just four upperclassmen — two seniors and two juniors — on the roster.
“We have a lot of young girls playing this year, and some good, young ones coming up in the program,” he said.
After 25 years as a coach, Bridge is starting to get asked if he is going to retire soon.
“People have asked me if I am going to retire and I just feel like Brett Favre,” he joked. “I don’t feel like it and I enjoy it yet.”
Bridge is 49 years old and said he is going to coach until he isn’t having fun anymore.
“I know it’s not the most important part of my job, but it’s one the fun parts of my job,” Bridge said of his coaching duties. “I’m just glad I have gotten the chance to work with a lot of good kids throughout the years.
“They are the reason you do it, and it makes it a lot of fun. I do it for the kids.”