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State tournament notes: Fadness nears retirement, focuses on his players

By Star Tribune, 03/22/22, 3:45PM CDT


After Princeton’s Class 3A quarterfinal victory over Austin on Tuesday, Tigers coach Brett Cloutier almost immediately talked about Austin coach Kris Fadness, calling him a legend.

“He’s probably a Mount Rushmore high school coach,” Cloutier said. “What he’s done for the Austin community, basketball and community in itself.

“Kris is just such a phenomenal coach, who absolutely year in, year out gets the most out of them.”

Fadness announced earlier this season that’d he will retire from coaching after 29 high school seasons. He coached the Packers to the state tournament eight times – including three Class 3A runner-up finishes – since 2012.

Being put on the Mount Rushmore of basketball coaches is “very humbling,” Fadness said, but quickly added it’s not about him but rather about his players.

“To be quite honest with you, I’ve gotten too much attention,” Fadness said. “And I’m sort of mad at myself for telling people I was going to quit when I did, because then all of a sudden, the attention went off our guys and became more to me. And that’s just not right.

“So I made a huge mistake with that.”

Too much attention or not, the two Austin players in Tuesday’s postgame press conference said they were motivated to play for Fadness. The news of their coach hanging it up after this season was sad to hear at first, said Packers senior forward Victor Idris.

“Then I guess it was a little bit of motivation to keep playing,” Idris said.

Senior teammate Gage Manahan agreed.

“I would say it just kind of lit a fire underneath us,” Manahan said. “Obviously, we want to make it to state, but we want to make it here for Fads, obviously. He’s done a lot for the basketball program.

“And we really appreciate that because not a lot of people can say that they do.”

Austin moves to the consolation bracket Wednesday, looking to finish out the season, and Fadness’ coaching career, on a high note.

“I’ve been lucky as a coach,” Fadness said. “I’ve been blessed to have some great players. My job has been easy. It’s ‘get the gym open,’ because they’ll come.

“It’s about them.” 


Facing No. 1 seed Totino-Grace, Mankato East expects to win

A Mankato East quarterfinal victory means a semifinal matchup Thursday with No. 1 seed Totino-Grace.

Cougars’ coach Joe Madson said of the favored Eagles, “They’re really good, we know that. I don’t think there’s anybody one in the state that’s got more talent than they do.”

Madson enjoys having an extra day to prepare the Xs and Os. But he instilled a mindset before the team ever left town.

“We told our guys, ‘We came up here to win games,’” Madson said. “We didn’t just come here to be a section representative – we want to win. I think these guys have figured that out.”


Sentimental journey

Coaching Mound Westonka to its first state tournament appearance since 1974, when the team was called just Mound, meant a sentimental journey to the University of Minnesota campus for Andre Phillips.

He served as a student manager during Gophers coach Tubby Smith’s first three seasons (2007-10) and relished coming back.

Phillips said Smith “gave me a call last night and wished us good luck.”

On Tuesday, Phillips showed his players different places on campus where he lived and took classes. Then it was onto Williams Arena.

“Nothing against the Target Center, but for a high school basketball game, it’s hard to beat this place,” Phillips said. “It feels more like a high school environment. It’s a more intimate setting.

“Probably my entire life I’ve wanted to try to coach a game here. And these guys have wanted to play a game here.”


History lesson

Minnesota conducted a one-class boys basketball tournament for 58 seasons before splitting the state tournament into two classes beginning in 1971. Under the new two-class format the state’s 64 largest schools were in Class 2A and the remaining 421 schools were in Class 1A.

Prior to the split, 26 of the 58 one-class tournaments were won by schools that were considered Class 1A in 1971.

Among the pre-1971 tournaments won by “small” schools were Gilbert in 1951, Edgerton in 1960, Luverne in 1964 and Sherburn in 1970 (the last one class state tournament).

This year’s state tournament is the 80th anniversary of Buhl winning its second consecutive state title. Buhl is the only “small” school to win back-to-back state titles in the one-class tournament era.

In 1941, Buhl, coached by Melvin “Muxie” Anderson, defeated Red Wing, 31-29 in the championship game.

In 1942, Buhl, coached by Mario Retica, capped a 28-0 season with a 30-29 victory over Marshall in the championship game.

This year’s tournament is also the 50th anniversary of St. James winning the Class 1A state title. The Saints defeated Melrose in the Class 1A championship game and then defeated Class 2A state champion Mounds View in a playoff to finish the season 29-0. The 29 victories broke Buhl’s record of 28 victories in 1942 for the most victories in a season.

The state basketball title for St. James, came one month after it had won the state wrestling title – the first school to win the basketball and wrestling state titles in the same year.


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