BISMARCK, N.D. -- For nearly 30 years Joe Joerger has coached basketball, which made dinner time at the Joerger household a little different than it is for most families.
"We didn't talk about what you did in school, we didn't talk about how things were going," said Dave Joerger, a 1992 Staples-Motley High School graduate. "We talked about basketball. When you grow up in that environment, this is all you live for."
The Dakota Wizards gave father, who coaches the S-M High School girls' basketball team, and son plenty more to talk about May 2, when they signed Dave Joerger to a one-year deal to be head coach and vice president of basketball affairs for the International Basketball Association team. He will be the team's fifth head coach in six years.
Joerger has been with the Wizards for three years as a general manager and assistant coach. The team introduced the 26-year-old as the youngest head coach in professional basketball -- a claim difficult to verify given the explosion of minor leagues, but not hard to believe.
Regardless, given the tone of the press conference at the Elks Club announcing Joerger's hiring, it was clear that owners Bill Sorensen and Wes Norton regard the Minnesota native as a hot commodity.
"I think if we didn't get him this year, somebody else would," Sorensen said. Joerger admitted he was tempted by the possibility of moving to the CBA or IBL, leagues he received feelers from, but he decided the time was right for him to take over a team.
"This was a tough decision for me, tougher than Bill or Wes know, but it's the right thing," Joerger said.
It was an easy choice for the Wizards. The team didn't even look at other candidates to replace four-time IBA coach of the year Duane Ticknor, who stepped aside after guiding Dakota to a record-breaking 30-6 season.
"We didn't consider anyone else because we felt we had our man," Norton said.
Sorensen went so far as to compare Joerger to a son.
"I think the world of him," he said. "It's a little scary to have him step out. It's a little like dropping your kid off at college and you say, 'Go get 'em.' "
Norton said there was no hesitation about Joerger's lack of head coaching experience.
"He's prepared himself well," Norton said. "He's run practices, been involved in dealing on players. We don't have that concern, and if he has a losing season, we're still not going to be concerned because he has to start someplace. He's going to be a successful coach."
Before coming to Bismarck, Joerger played two years of college basketball at Chapman University in California, then transferred to Moorhead State University for his final two years. He set school and conference record for most assists in a game (16) -- although he said he was a better tennis player than point guard.
Joerger went on to spend one year as an assistant with the Fargo-Moorhead Beez before coming to the Wizards in 1997-98.
Joerger outlined what he considered to be the three most important things are for a coach to succeed at the IBA level: Finding good players, motivating them to play hard and teaching them to play together.
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