PEQUOT LAKES -- Garry Grewe found himself in the right place at the right time when he signed a contract for the Pequot Lakes School District.
The mild-mannered Grewe taught and coached for seven years at Bemidji. He still lives in the northern city and commutes daily. But Grewe needed job security and Pequot needed a head boys' basketball coach.
"I was put on unrequested leave up in Bemidji and Pequot offered an opportunity," said Grewe. "It's a growing district and that was huge in my opinion. I wouldn't' have had a job this coming year if I stayed in Bemidji so I was looking ahead a little."
The timing was also advantageous with Pequot preparing for its first season of Mid-State Conference competition. Before Grewe's tour of duty at Bemidji he coached seven years in Park Rapids, a Mid-State team. Before that he was an assistant to Lynn Peterson at Staples-Motley another Mid-State team.
Grewe went to school at Central Lakes College and the new job meant he would be closer to family. But the move didn't just benefit the coach.
The Patriots were coming off a Section 7, Class 2A finals loss to Duluth Marshall. It would have been the schools first state boys' basketball tournament. It graduated it's leading scorer in Matt Royer, two of its post players Jeremy Wiczek and Shane Blowers, sixth-man Joey Neznik and starting guard Justin Biebighauser.
Grewe inherited a program with just two returning starters, a transfer student from the cities, a junior point guard and an inexperienced forward.
First he had to assemble a coaching staff among personnel he barely knew. Then change the entire system to fit the talent he had.
"I've been through it before," said Grewe. "You have to pick certain parts to get in right away so you have a ground work. Then you just build on that ground work all the way through the season.
"We were still building until the end."
Grewe said the transition wasn't stressful and the record shows it wasn't. Pequot rattled off six straight wins to start the season, including a 54-52 victory over Pillager. The team finished 15-8 including a 7-5 Mid-State record to finish fourth in the conference.
"One of the keys was, I was able to get a good coaching staff together right away all the way down to the junior high," said Grewe. "Plus I had excellent support from the administration and school."
It's hard find fault in Grewe's results or the man himself. Pequot center Luke Schramm enjoyed Grewe's coaching philosophy and the senior played well under the coach's system.
"I really liked him," said Schramm who led the team in points, rebounds and blocks. "He was a good coach."
The Patriots received the second seed in the South Subsection 7, Class 2A playoffs and advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual section champions Esko.
But the modest Grewe says it was the players that made the season successful. With high expectations to win and the building of a winning tradition, the players helped make the transition look effortless.
"They were willing to do what every was asked of them," Grewe said about his players. "Everyone fit in there roles.
"We won a lot of close games because they believed they could win. Coaching is all about having kids who believe in themselves. It's just our job to put them in the position to win."
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