Cosgriff scores his 500th win as girls coach
Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins High’s girls basketball coach for the last 19 years, won his 500th career game Feb. 13 when the Royals beat Minnetonka 69-36 at Hopkins Lindbergh Center.
In the aftermath, Cosgriff’s players were far more excited about the milestone than their coach.
“It is an amazing achievement for him,” said senior forward Angie Hammond. “We work hard every day, and coach Cosgriff always has us prepared. He has helped me become a leader on and off the court. The main thing he does is create relationships among everyone on the team.”
Raena Suggs, a senior guard who scored 20 points in Hopkins’ historic win, said, “This was a very important game. We wanted coach to enjoy the night.”
Suggs made that possible with her dead-eye shooting in the first half. She made back-to-back three-pointers to push Hopkins’ lead into double figures. Then at the end of the half, she dribbled full court and scored at the buzzer for a 44-18 Royal lead.
“This was a fun game,” said sophomore point guard Paige Bueckers, who played her usual game for the Royals with 21 points, 11 assists and four steals.
Last season Bueckers became the first ninth-grader, boy or girl, to win a Lake Conference basketball scoring title. She credited Cosgriff for helping her build confidence, and now she is the top recruit in her class among Minnesota players.
“When coach brought me up as an eighth-grader, it gave me confidence,” she said. “We have a strong connection.”
With 500 wins in 19 years, Cosgriff is averaging 26.4 wins a season. That’s awfully good considering teams play only play 26 regular-season games, plus playoffs.
Cosgriff’s success in the playoffs is unmatched. He has six titles, three runner-up trophies and two third-place trophies in 11 State Tournament appearances.
Before becoming the girls head coach at Hopkins, Cosgriff assisted head coach Kenny Novak Jr. in the Hopkins boys program for nine seasons.
He credits Novak for helping him become a successful coach.
“The transition to coaching girls was easy for me,” said Cosgriff. “In nine years with Kenny, I always looked for what made him a great coach. When I moved to the girls side, I applied what I learned from Kenny and his dad [Kenny Novak Sr.].”
The staples of Novak’s success were preparation, attention to detail and relationships with players, Cosgriff noted. It wasn’t always about winning. Rather, winning was the by product of doing a lot of other things the right way.
“At the time I was hired as the girls coach, I had no experience coaching girls,” said Cosgriff. “[Athletic director] Ron Sellnow took a chance on me.”
Cosgriff has different ways to motivate his teams, depending on the situation and the opponent.
He will write messages on the white board such as:
• “Make it an A-plus practice.”
• “What legacy do you want to leave?”
• “Control your destiny.”
All of the themes he shares are positive and upbeat. On the rare occasions when he loses, he works harder on the next game.
“Unfortunately, sports are pass-fail situations,” Cosgriff observed. “You either win or you lose. I can enjoy a win for about an hour, and then I start thinking about what we have to do against the next opponent.”
No coaching staff scouts more games than the Hopkins’ girls staff. Cosgriff admitted that the Hopkins coaches scouted Minnetonka 13 teams the year the Skippers won the state Class 4A title (2016).
Hopkins and Tonka split during Lake Conference play to share the title, then Minnetonka beat the Royals in the state title game.
Cosgriff said it is important to balance winning with other goals in the program.
“Winning is important,” he said. “But the main things are the relationships you have with your players and coaches and coaches from other schools. I have been fortunate at Hopkins to have great players every year.”
Cosgriff was asked which coaches are the toughest to coach against?
“The coaches in the Lake Conference,” he said. “You have Leah Dasovich at Minnetonka, Matt Nilsen at Edina and Mike Schumacher at Wayzata. They all do a great job. And Ellen Wiese, the new head coach at Eden Prairie, has 14 wins this season.”
Cosgriff, who graduated from Golden Valley High School, and later Macalester College, said he decided to go into teaching and coaching because of his high school football coach, Mark Lundgren.
“I could feel Mark’s passion for helping student-athletes and decided that’s what I wanted to do,” said Cosgriff.
Now that he has won 501 games, the next logical milestone would be 600.
His current players hope he will have a long coaching career and offered predictions on how many games he might eventually win.
“Probably 700,” said Suggs.
“At least that,” said Hammond.
Bueckers took longer with her answer, and finally said, “Infinity.”
• Coaching Philosophy: “We’re here for the kids. The kids are not here for us.”
• Years as Head Coach: 19.
• Career Record: 501-64.
• State Appearances: 11.
• State Titles: Six.
• Played collegiately at Macalester.
• Physical education teacher at Alice Smith Elementary.