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John’s Journal: The Assistant Coach With The Championship Background

After Seven State Titles At Hopkins, Cosgriff Now On Providence Academy Staff

Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2022 - 6:29 PM


The celebration begins as Hopkins captures the Class 4A girls basketball state championship.


Providence Academy assistant coach Brian Cosgriff won seven titles as the head coach at Hopkins.

A calm, unassuming man held a clipboard and occasionally jotted things down as he stood behind the Providence Academy bench during the Lions' 55-53 win over Fergus Falls in the Class 2A girls basketball state championship game Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena.

His name is Brian Cosgriff and he’s an assistant coach for the Lions. He’s also one of the most successful head coaches in the history of Minnesota high school basketball.

He retired from coaching at Hopkins after the 2019-20 season with a career record of 569-67 in 21 seasons with the Royals; his 569 wins ranked 13th all-time among girls basketball coaches prior to the current season. Cosgriff’s teams won seven big-school state titles and it may have been 18 had Covid-19 not shut down the state tourney in 2020. The only girls coaches to win more state titles are Myron Glass of Rochester Lourdes and Faith Johnson Patterson of Minneapolis North and DeLaSalle, who each won eight crowns.

When Cosgriff retired from coaching at Hopkins he also stepped down from his job as an elementary physical education teacher in the district. He took a similar job at Providence Academy, and this year joined head coach Conner Goetz’s coaching staff.

“He's been instrumental,” Goetz said. “He's been there, he's seen it all, with how many state championships and state tournaments. More importantly, he's kind of like an emotional leader. He's someone that the girls can turn to.

“He can really build relationships with kids, and he's a teacher in the building, too, which helps us out so much with the girls during the day. He leads film sessions on things and there's really not a scenario in basketball he hasn't seen. Any time I have a question, he’s seen it before.”

Cosgriff’s most well-known player at Hopkins was Paige Bueckers, a high school all-American now starring at Connecticut. Bueckers was a young star as a guard, as is current Providence Academy eighth-grader Maddyn Greenway (daughter of former Vikings player Chad Greenway).

“It's been really nice, especially with me being in the position that Paige was in,” Maddyn said. “(Cosgriff has) really helped me. Not by telling me what she did, but just leading me like he led her. I think it's been really nice having him and learning the tips, because she was amazing. It's been really fun to kind of have the same coach as her and learn from him.”

Goetz doesn’t give Cosgriff – he’s often called “Cos” for short -- any specific assignments during games other than telling him, “I want your eyes on the game, I want you to just tell me what you see.”

“He likes to keep himself busy,” Goetz said. “He keeps track of turnovers, he keeps track of assists, all those little hustle stats.”

Lions junior Grace Counts called it “a blessing” to have Cosgriff on the coaching staff.

“He really knows a lot, he has that deep wisdom from all his years of coaching,” she said. “He can pick you up when you're down. He knows if you don't have that good first half, he knows you can come back. He has a lot of trust in you. And he's really good to have at school, too, because he's just so fun as a teacher and just like a friend to have in the building. We’re always talking to Cos about basketball or March Madness or whatever. It's just great having Cos around.”

Unable To Play But Still In The Game

As the clock ran down to the final seconds in all three of Hancock’s games at the Class 1A state tournament, Owls fans chanted, “Tori! Tori! Tori!”

Tori Pahl is a 6-foot senior for the Owls who has been sidelined after complications from shoulder surgery. She suffered a torn labrum in 2019, and during surgery medical anchors were put in place. They were supposed to melt away insider ther shoulder, but when they didn’t she had another surgery to remove them on Feb. 8, which has kept her from playing.

She was in the game for the final nine seconds in the quarterfinals against Nevis, the final five seconds of the semifinals against Mayer Lutheran, and she was on the court as the last 15 seconds were counted off in the Owls’ 54-43 win over Minneota in Saturday’s championship game.

“It was really emotional,” Tori said, sitting alongside fellow seniors Rylee Hanson and Carlee Hanson in the postgame interview room. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do with these two since we started playing basketball.”

Hancock won its second state girls basketball title, the first coming in 1997. The Owls had been to state seven times previously, most recently in 2011.

Minneota reached the championship game for the fourth year in a row. The Vikings won state titles in 2019 and 2021 and would have played for another in 2020 had Covid not stopped the tournament. Over the past five seasons Minnesota has a combined record of 141-12.

Honoring Lisa Lissimore

Lisa Lissimore, who first became known as a star basketball player at St. Paul Central in the 1970s and went on to become one of the most impactful figures in high school activities during a 34-year career with the Minnesota State High School League, was honored during on-court ceremonies prior to Saturday’s Class 2A and 4A championship games. She will retire at the end of April.

She was a member of Central’s first Class 2A girls basketball championship team in 1976 and has been the director of the girls state basketball tournament, among other duties, for many years. She has also directed cross-country, swimming and diving, softball, synchronized swimming and badminton, as well as being responsible for corporate sponsorships and recognition programs.

--The Class 3A state championship was won by Totino-Grace, which defeated Becker 60-51.

--An all-female crew of officials worked the Class 4A state championship game between Hopkins and St. Michael-Albertville. Ashley Deisting, Anne Nehring and Carolyn Derksen made history as the first all-female crew to work a game at an MSHSL state basketball tournament. Hopkins won that game 72-56.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]  

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