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After 30 years, Wade Grinde steps down as Spring Grove's boys basketball coach

Apr. 12—SPRING GROVE, Minn. — Wade Grinde figured he would be in Spring Grove for one year and then leave.

Thirty years later, he is stepping down as the head boys basketball coach of the Lions, but he will remain in the small southeastern Minnesota town.

Grinde has spent the past 29 years as Spring Grove's head coach and over that time he guided the Lions to a stellar 566-197 record and two Class 1A state tournament berths. The Lions went 25-4 during the 2023-24 season and Grinde recently announced his "retirement."

"The time was right," he said.

Grinde was an assistant coach at Spring Grove his first year, back in 1994. He enjoyed the season, but thought he would depart because he wanted to be a head coach. But following the season, the Spring Grove head coach stepped down and Grinde took over.

"And here I am, 30 years later just wrapping up coaching, but I'm still teaching here," he said. "I've really enjoyed my time here in this community."

Spring Grove went 2-3 in five Section 1, Class 1A title games under Grinde. The Lions hadn't won a Southeast Conference title in nearly 25 years before he arrived. But during his 29 seasons, Spring Grove rattled off 18 SEC championships.

Leaving with Grinde are assistant coaches Tom Vix and Al Lochner. Vix, a Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach, has been an assistant at Spring Grove the past six years. Priot to that, he was a boys basketball head coach for 33 years at Rushford and Rushford-Peterson. He had a 683-229 career record and guided the Trojans to three Class A state championships.

Lochner has been an assistant coach under Grinde for the past 28 years. Grinde said he had a great relationship with his assistants, including Dave Konz who spent 23 seasons at Spring Grove before retiring.

The relationship with Vix was also special. Grinde called Vix his "No. 1 competitor" and a mentor.

"He and I have really enjoyed coaching together for the last six years," Grinde said. "That was a big highlight for me. To have my coaching mentor to coach with me was a lot of fun."

Vix, who owns and operates Cushions Peak campground between Rushford and Houston, admitted he wouldn't have been assistant under many coaches, but he was willing to work with Grinde because they had similar coaching philosophies and engery levels. Vix and Lochner, both 63, also got along well with Grinde.

"It was a lot of fun," Vix said. "We gave each other a hard time. It was almost like a brother situation between Al and Wade and I. Three brothers kind of fighting once in a while, but most of the time, we've got your back."

Getting a chance to coach all three of his sons was also special for Grinde: Chase (a 2017 grad), Caden (2021) and Tysen (2023). Chase played college basketball at the University of Sioux Falls. Caden is still playing college basketball at Valley City State University while Tysen is playing football and competing in track and field at Dakota State University.

Getting a chance to see his two younger sons play more in college was part of the reason Grinde stepped down as the head coach.

"I was going to go out last year, but I have some really dedicated families here in Spring Grove that have been with me for many years," Grinde said.

With seniors Elijah Solum, Jaxson Strinmoen and Jacob Olerud returning, Grinde and his staff came back for one more season. The Lions had a stellar 25-4 record, but with Solum still not 100 percent in a return from an ACL injury, the Lions fell short in a bid for a second straight state berth.

Being part of the tight-knit Spring Grove community was one reason Grinde never left, even though he had had other offers over the years.

"Over the years, I think a lot of the success we've had is just the fact that we've had excellent support here," he said. "You hear a lot of horror stories from coaches in other communities and I've been blessed here. I haven't had to deal with any of that."

And of course Grinde cherishes the time coaching and bonding with the hundreds of players he's guided over the years. Two of his sons, Caden (in 2019) and Tysen (in 2023), were part of Spring Grove teams that earned state berths and finished third each time in Class 1A.

"To get to raise your three sons in the gym, that was a big part of what my wife, Sarah, and I wanted to do," Grinde said. "We wanted to stay in a small community because we felt like we'd have the opportunity to have a big hand in raising them."

The 6-foot-7 Grinde and the 5-3 Sarah met when they were both playing college basketball at Mayville State University.

Vix said Grinde has a great knowledge of the game and worked to improve his coaching. He also had a deep desire to win.

"I don't know if there's a more fierce competitor that I've ever met," Vix said. "He's a very competitive person and he brought that to the table in practice and games. He wanted the best out of everybody."

Despite his longevity as a coach, Grinde will just turn 54 this summer.

"I'm not sure if I'm completely done coaching, I just don't want to run a program," he said. "It's a lot (of work). To be the head coach in a high school sport now, and a teacher, it just gets to be a lot. And I'm going out on good terms."

Spring Grove has begun interviewing candidates to replace Grinde and could have the position filled within a week.