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Girls Basketball: Muelken nabs coaching honor

Red Wing head girls basketball coach Dave Muelken (center) talks to his team during a timeout in the Class 3A semifinals on March 14 at the Target Center. Muelken was recently named the Class 3A Coach of the Year, according to the Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association.

The 2012-13 season keeps getting better for the Red Wing girls basketball team as head coach Dave Muelken was recently named the Class 3A Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association.

The Wingers made the championship game of the Class 3A girls state basketball tournament, falling to second-seeded DeLaSalle on March 16 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, but Muelken was shocked he received the honor.

"I told my kids, 'I think I'm going to retire now,'" Muelken joked. "Two years in, two state tournaments, two section championships, I should retire now. I got a text from (Red Wing head boys basketball coach) Doug Toivonen. His comment was 'You might want to retire now.'

"You can coach a lifetime and not make a state final or have something like this happen. I don't take it for granted. It was a really fun run."

Muelken took over head coaching duties before last season and in his two years at the helm, Red Wing has compiled a 42-19 record, winning the Section 1AAA title both years and continuing a three-year run to the state tournament. The Wingers also won their first state tournament game this season en route to the state final. Muelken credits his coaching staff, the players and former head coach Kraig Ulveling for his success.

"The run we were able to put together was really special," he said. "It says a lot about our youth and our association program. It says a lot about what Kraig has started. I just tried my best to continue it on. We were able to have really good kids in the program and they bought into what we were trying to do."

The biggest bit of coaching Muelken said he tried to drive into the minds of his players was that the Wingers had the talent to beat any team, including the Islanders.

"What I like to instill in them is the confidence that they are capable of doing what they were doing," he said. "Our goal was to win sections and get to state. We said, 'Let's make sure we're playing on Saturday night.' It was kind of a joke, but you keep talking about it. We didn't talk about individual stats."

It worked.

"I think the kids believed so much. I think that was the confidence we instilled in them to get them to buy in and believe in themselves. They probably were not surprised that they were playing Thursday and Saturday at Target Center because that's what we were telling them all year. We played to our strengths," he said.

Tesha Buck, Macy Kelly and McKenna Schaffer were Red Wing's biggest strengths. Buck, signed to play for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, was an Associated Press Second Team All-State player and led the Wingers in nearly every offensive category.

But in the state semifinals, all three seniors fouled out, and Red Wing's reserves held on for a 61-59 victory over top-seeded Richfield. It showed the improvement the Wingers' underclassmen made throughout the season and was a testament to Muelken's coaching.

"We got better from November to March," Muelken said. "You look at that Richfield game. If I had said that at the (Red Wing) Tip-off Tournament that we would win with all three of them out of the game, you'd probably call me a liar.

"This season was more than we ever dreamed of," he added. "When you go back to when Kraig first came to me and said he was done, I was shocked then.

"In the first year, you go to state. Second year, the kids do what they did and you end up in a state final. It says more about the program and the kids than it does me. What a deal though. I'm pretty appreciative, I will admit."

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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