John’s Journal: Basketball Is A Family Affair At NRHEG
Coach Of State Championship Teams Is Back As Assistant, Bus Driver
Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2021 - 12:25 PM
Every time the girls basketball team from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale Geneva hits the road for a game, they are driven by someone special. The Panthers may be the only team in Minnesota with a bus driver who also owns back-to-back state championships as a head coach.
John Schultz stepped down after 11 years as head coach after NRHEG won Class 2A state championships in 2013 and 2014, completing three consecutive trips to state. Those teams were led by Carlie Wagner, who is the second-leading career scorer in state history (behind Braham’s Rebekah Dahlman) and went on to play at the University of Minnesota.
Schultz is retired from teaching but remains busy working as a substitute teacher and bus driver, including his duties with the basketball team (and the volleyball team in the fall). Onika Peterson, who was one of Schultz’s assistants, became head coach when he retired. She was more than happy to add Schultz to her staff a couple years ago.
There also was a family dynamic to his return to the bench. John’s daughter Sidney, a varsity player since seventh grade, is a junior who reached the 1,000-point milestone last week.
The Panthers won at Blooming Prairie 68-44 on Tuesday night to improve to 3-0 on the season. After chatting for a few minutes on the court afterwards, John Schultz excused himself because he had to warm up the bus for the trip home on a cold night.
“It's amazing,” Peterson said. “Why would you not want him on your staff? All the experience he has, having the state run and back-to-back state titles.”
Sidney was a little kid when the Panthers had their championship run, and she was on the inside of it all.
“I was at all the practices,” she said. “I always tried to listen in on everything and take it all in as much as I could. I tried to learn from everything they did.”
Another key player on those teams was Sidney’s sister Jade, who now is a special education teacher at Maple River (while she misses a day of teaching this week, the substitute teacher will be her dad).
John has lots of wonderful memories from the Panthers’ state tournament experiences, including taking the court at Target Center.
“When we walked into Target Center for the very first time and that place was packed, that was breathtaking,” he said. “But the biggest thing was those kids. I had them from third grade on and they were the toughest kids I’ve ever seen. They were so fine with their roles, it didn’t matter what it was; they were so happy and proud of what they did for the team. We didn’t talk about scoring because everybody knew we would score, we worried about defense and rebounding and things like that.”
The current players also had John Schultz as a coach before he returned to the bench. He worked with Sidney’s class beginning when they were in third grade, which helped make his return to the staff seamless. John’s career record as a head coach is 225-58.
“He has a lot of knowledge and the girls are obviously comfortable with him since he's coached them for so many years,” Peterson said. “And it's always great to have another set of eyes, and more experienced eyes when he's coached way more games than I have. It's been really, really great.”
Sidney Schultz is the 13th girls player from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva to score at least 1,000 points. The list is a who’s-who of talented athletes, led by the top three of Carlie Wagner and her younger twin sisters, Maddie and Marnie. Jade Schultz is No. 5 on the list and current senior Sophie Stork is No. 12.
Sidney is a 5-foot-5 point guard who is talented, relentless and poised.
“She's an absolutely hardworking, extremely driven athlete,” Peterson said. “I want to call her a bruiser, but she has more finesse than that. But she's just tough and she has been that way since she was in seventh grade. She works extremely hard, she attacks the basket really well. She has a good three-point shot and as a point guard she sees her teammates well. She gets knocked down, she hops back up, kind of shakes it off and starts sprinting the length of the court.”
Sidney wore a big smile when posing for a postgame photo with her dad Tuesday night.
“I’m very used to it,” she said of being coached by her father. “It's actually comforting. I'm always looking for him to be there on the bench, cheering me on, and he's always there.”
--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]