John’s Journal: The Pack Is Back At Boys State Basketball
Father And Sons Gather As Part Of Family Tradition
Posted: Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - 11:27 AM
Bryce Pack and his sons know all about the boys state basketball tournament. In fact Bryce, now in year three of retirement after 37 years as an MSHSL football official as well as a life of teaching, coaching and serving as an athletic director – ending his career at Red Rock Central in Lamberton – has missed only four state tournaments since his first in 1967, and that was because the baseball team he played on at Southwest State was on a southern trip each time.
The Pack brigade is a regular sight at state, often staking out seats in the first row at Target Center … and sometimes I’m lucky enough to see them sitting behind my courtside table so we can say hi and check in on each other. (The photo above is from the 2019 NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis.) Here’s the batting order of Bryce and Deb Pack’s four sons…
--Chris is the head boys basketball coach and activities director at Hayfield.
--Nick is a concrete contractor who lives in Baldwin, Wis., and officiates at the high school level as well as in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. His company worked on the Minnesota Vikings’ TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
--Casey is the head boys basketball coach at Maple Lake and is the referee on a high school football officiating crew as well as a crew in the college ranks.
--Colby is the head boys basketball coach at Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, activities director at Fulda and a football official who has worked Prep Bowl games.
It’s pretty clear that the Pack sons have taken after their father as teachers, coaches, administrators and officials. They will gather again this week at Target Center, but Chris will not be sitting with the family. He will be even closer to the action, watching from the Hayfield bench when the Vikings (19-4) meet Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (20-3) in the Class A semifinals at noon on Wednesday. Chris previously coached the Vikings at state tournaments in 2001 (when they were Class 2A runner-up) and 2013 during his 21-year coaching career.
A third generation is part of the picture in 2021, with Chris’ sophomore son Ethan a member of the Hayfield starting lineup along with senior scoring leader Ethan Slaathaug, juniors Easton Fritcher and Kobe Foster and sophomore Isaac Matti.
The state tournament will cap off a busy winter for Bryce and Deb, who have been to more than 50 games involving their family tree. “I’ve been lucky enough to have three head coaches in the family in order to get tickets,” Bryce said of a season that has been played with spectator limits due to Covid protocols.
Bryce dealt with Covid last fall, needing oxygen and being hospitalized for nine days. Deb also tested positive but with less serious symptoms.
“That was a pretty scary time,” said Chris, who has been doing everything possible to keep his team safe. The Vikings junior varsity and C squads are part of a pod separate from the varsity, and those players had to quarantine at one point during the regular season.
“You try not to think about it, but it just seems to always be there,” he said. “We kept a small roster of 10 players on varsity and added five more for the playoffs. We’re trying to limit possible exposures as much as we can, trying to keep it as tight as possible.”
This state tournament won’t be quite the same as past years. Tickets will be good for only one game during the semifinals Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with fans allowed to watch two championship games per session Friday and Saturday. That means the Pack brigade won’t be able to camp out in the front row for all-day viewing. But everyone understands.
“No offense to my dad and my brothers,” Chris said, “but I’d rather be there with my team.”
--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 firstname.lastname@example.org