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John’s Journal: Remembering Bob Brink, The Pride Of Rocori

A Coach For 51 Years, Including 42 In Minnesota

Posted: Monday, October 11, 2021 - 6:30 PM


Bob Brink, a legendary figure in Minnesota boys basketball, died peacefully Saturday at Cherrywood Assisted Living in Richmond, surrounded by the love and comfort of his family. He was 84 years old. (In the photo above, Bob is inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2015.)

As is written in Bob’s obituary, “His battle with Alzheimer’s in the recent years showed his strength, courage, and continued fight in facing life challenges which has left an unforgettable impression on all of us.

Services will be held Friday at Peace Lutheran Church in Cold Spring. The full obituary is available by clicking here: https://www.wennerfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Bob-Brink/#!/Obituary

I wrote about Bob after the final game of his coaching career. It was a loss in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Class 3A state tournament and the coach was emotional. Here is that story…

After 51 Years, Rocori’s Bob Brink Is A Coach To The End

Before the first game of the boys state basketball tournament tipped off at Williams Arena on Wednesday morning, a veteran hoops observer surveyed the court and made a declarative statement: “Rocori always plays hard.”

For 42 years, that phrase has been uttered about teams coached by Bob Brink at the school in Cold Spring. Bob is 74 years old and ready to travel with his wife Judy to visit his brothers, who live in South Dakota and Wyoming, and see the countryside. He announced earlier in the season that this would be his last, and the end came Wednesday with a 52-49 loss to top-seeded Minneapolis Washburn in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.

Here’s another declarative statement: There has been a boys state basketball tournament in Minnesota for 100 years, and Bob Brink has been coaching boys basketball for 51 years, spending nine seasons in his native South Dakota before coming to Rocori.

“Great season, great kids,” Bob said after the end had finally arrived. “Reflecting back, if anybody had told me I was going to coach 51 years and be at Rocori for 40-some years…” His voice trailed off. He was still thinking about the game that the Spartans almost won … what might have been done differently … if only the kids had made a couple more layups … if some crucial turnovers had not occurred late in the game … he was still in coaching mode.

“Down the stretch we had the lead and that’s usually our game,” he said. “We just didn’t execute in the last two or three minutes, and that’s unusual for my teams. We normally do it. It’s a little different playing in the state tournament against one of the top teams in 3A. They beat a lot of 4A teams.”

Brink had taken 12 previous teams to state, including a 26-0 season in 1988 that included a Class 2A championship.

As a player, Brink led his high school team in Plankinton, S.D., to the 1956 state tournament. His first teaching and coaching job was at the State Training School in Plankinton, a place for kids who had come from troubled home lives or had been in hot water with the law.

“When I first started coaching I taught in a school with kids that really needed some help in their lifestyle,” he said. “You tried to pick out their priorities for them, what they needed to do outside of just sports. I think that’s one of the main things that I tried to leave with (players over the years), the things that are taught on the court, believing in people and keeping your nose clean.

“We take a knee sometimes and we believe in that; between their family and their religion and stressing some of those things a little bit without overdoing it. And academics next and extracurricular activities. That’s probably the most compliments (I’ve received) from my ex-players, and I’m proud of that.”

Brink ranks second in all-time career boys basketball coaching victories in Minnesota behind Chisholm’s still-active Bob McDonald. The No. 3 coach on the list, Zig Kauls of Mounds View, also retired this season. Brink is a member of the Minnesota basketball coaches association hall of fame, the MSHSL hall of fame and the Rocori athletic hall of fame.

A person learns some things over 51 years, and Brink knows that you win some and you lose some.

“It was a good game, great atmosphere and someone had to lose,” he said. “And we happened to be on the wrong end of it.”

Before meeting with the media, Brink spent time in the locker room with the last team he will ever coach. As he exited, he said softly, “That was hard.”

During the postgame interview – in fact, in what turned out to be the final question of the postgame interview – I asked Bob if he thought his players had felt pressure in knowing that if they lost it would be the end of their coach’s career.

“I think they did,” he said. And then, something happened that has rarely happened during the coach’s long and successful career. He became emotional. Tears welled up in his eyes as he thought about his players. His team. His boys.

“They wanted to win it for…” He was unable to say the word “me” because it’s never been about him. “But usually the most pressure is to get here …” His tears were stronger now and the small cluster of reporters all said the same thing.

“Thanks coach.”

--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 jmillea@mshsl.org 

 


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