Munsen gearing up for final seasonThe Mitchell boys’ basketball team opened practice Monday in what presumably is coach Gary Munsen’s final season.
By: Claire Meador, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell boys’ basketball team opened practice Monday in what presumably is coach Gary Munsen’s final season.
On Tuesday, Munsen — who’s coaching in his 47th year and has more than 600 wins — said it still hasn’t hit him this is his last season before retirement.
“Well, you know I don’t really think about it now,” Munsen said. “But I’m sure every time we go someplace, especially out of town, I’ll think maybe that’s my last time I’ll ever coach in Huron or the last time I go to Pierre or the last time I go to Watertown … then it’ll be strange. Then the last day and the last game in the Corn Palace will feel strange, too, you know, but you’ve got to quit sometime, I guess.”
Just because it is Munsen’s last year coaching doesn’t mean he’s going to take it easy on his team, he said. The theme of Tuesday evening’s practice seemed to be work hard, play hard, and Munsen wasn’t afraid to call out a player if he didn’t like what he saw.
“It’s all about conditioning now and running and that kind of stuff,” Munsen said. “We’ve still got a number of things to do. We’ve got to run our press defenses and press offenses and we got zone stuff to go over, offensively and defensively.”
Munsen said the key to winning a championship this year is being mentally and physically prepared for each game.
Last year, the Kernels lost to O’Gorman 56-49 in the state title game at Sioux Falls Arena
But Mitchell has been ranked No. 1 in this year’s preseason polls, a spot Munsen isn’t going to take too much stock in.
“(The team) has got to be able to handle the pressure,” said Munsen, whose team was ranked No. 2 at the start of last season behind only O’Gorman. “Being ranked No. 1 preseason doesn’t mean a whole lot if you want to be No. 1 at the end of the year.”
Munsen was more than confident that his team has the ability and the depth to play just as well as it did last year.
“We had a great year last year; we had great chemistry,” Munsen said. “That’s the biggest thing to defining a basketball team is finding the right chemistry, and these kids have got potential. I know that they’ve just got to reach out and grab it.”
Although Munsen always had a passion for the sport, he says that he definitely feels ready to retire.
“This is my 47th year and I’m just going to relax,” Munsen said. “I’m going to be 70 years old this spring and I’ve been coaching since 1965, so 47 years and 43 of them have been in Mitchell and I’ve been walking in this Corn Palace for 43 years now, so it’ll be different but I decided about two years ago it was time to quit.”
He doesn’t have any immediate plans for after his retirement, but Munsen still plans to incorporate basketball into his life.
“I’m going to watch basketball and go visit my grandkids,” Munsen said. “And of course, you’ll be able to find me in the Corn Palace watching most Kernel basketball games.”
Munsen said he’s looking to enjoy his final year as a coach and shooting for a state title is the top goal. One of the seniors on the team, Jade Miller, is looking to send the longtime coach out on a high note.
“We want to have another great year like we did last year,” Miller said. “We want to win a state championship this time. That’s the goal.
“We want to give Munsen a good last year if he is actually going to retire. He loves basketball that much, so he actually just might (keep coaching).”