Baumann being inducted into MSHSCA Hall of Fame
Baumann being inducted into MSHSCA Hall of Fame
Growing up in the small town of Waseca, Minnesota, Bill Baumann was a star on the basketball court. He wasn’t bad at baseball, football and track and field, either, but his real passion was on the hardwood courts. Through his talent, Baumann earned a spot on St. John’s basketball team in college, but a serious knee injury ended his playing career abruptly. But that wasn’t going to stop him from staying the course in the sport that he loved.
And now he is being rewarded for it. Baumann will be inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 12 Baumann’s coaching career began in 1974 at tiny Villard High School in West Central Minnesota. Baumann said he was the finalist for four or five jobs, but each time, the employer would pick the other guy because he had experience. Frustrated with the process, Baumann took three jobs at Villard. He estimates the school was the size of what the old Taylors Falls High School was. He was the head baseball and football coach there and the assistant basketball coach. Three years later, he was named the District Football Coach of the year at Villard. In 1979, Baumann made the journey up north to become the head basketball coach at North Branch.
“I was originally coming up to North Branch to be the assistant coach of the basketball team, but before the season started, the head coach left and I took over,” Baumann said. He would remain in that post for 31 years until 2010, when he retired from the position and from teaching. During his time at North Branch, Baumann had six Rum River Conference titles, two state tournament teams and was named the Rum River Coach of the year four times and the region/section coach of the year five times. For most of his tenure, he also served as an assistant football coach, and in 2004 won the Butch Nash award from the Minnesota Football Coaches Association. He also dabbled as the school’s Athletic Director for eight years and was named regional AD of the year in 1991.
During his tenure, Baumann’s teams were disciplined and defense-oriented. They played fundamental basketball and always gave a tough game to the opponents. In fact, Baumann said that was what he wanted coaches who game-planned against him to remember. “I want them to think of my North Branch teams as well-prepared and to expect a good game against us,” he said. Baumann was intense in his early years, but in the late 90s and early 2000s, his two sons, Brad and Britt, played for him and he became a little less in-your-face. “I had to learn to calm down,” he said. “I wish I would’ve mellowed out a bit earlier in my career.” Despite his calmer demeanor, Baumann still had an icy stare and a gruff voice. He didn’t need to yell at the players if they did something wrong. They knew.
But they also knew that Baumann truly cared about their success, not only on the court, but in life. “Working with kids and the relationships you build with them was the best part of the job,” Baumann said. “Sometimes people saw me up and down on the sideline and didn’t see the relationships that were being built together in practice. Even as a coach, you don’t always realize how much you influence people.” One such player who played for Baumann who influence him was Matt Fletcher. Fletcher was a star in the early 2000s for the Vikings. He went on to play for four years at Southwest Minnesota State and then immediately started coaching at Concordia Moorhead. He has been the head coach at South St. Paul High School and Anoka High School and is currently an assistant coach at Upper Iowa University.
“Coach expected a lot from us. He was disciplined and made us play hard and believe in the system,” Fletcher said. “But he also let you know why you were going to succeed. He showed me how important it was to relate to players outside of basketball.” Fletcher said Baumann basically got him his first head coaching job at South St. Paul and helped point him in the right direction and get his feet wet. “He’s been a reference for every job I’ve applied for since,” Fletcher said.
Although things have slowed down considerably for Baumann since his retirement from teaching and coaching, he isn’t at a standstill. Last year, Baumann decided to take the assistant coaching position at Cambridge-Isanti High School with former rival Mike McDonald. “We had a real rivalry,” Baumann said, referring to the fact that it wasn’t just the geography that made the two coaches fierce rivals. “But we smoothed it over. And now, I get to just coach. I don’t have to deal with the paperwork, the adminstration, bus times and all that. I get to just coach. And 95 percent of the time, the players think of me as the good guy.”
Baumann says he’ll coach until he doesn’t find joy in it anymore, but that doesn’t sound like it’s coming any time soon. The coach said he was thrilled when he got the call about the Hall of Fame induction. “I’m really honored and humbled to be inducted,” he said. And for it to be recognition from my peers is great. They’ve recognized my career and had respect for the North Branch program.” Baumann, though, said he couldn’t have done it without the support of his family and the coaches he’s had throughout his career. His wife Carol, he said, was a perfect coaches wife. “She had to put up with a lot and it was a lot of work for our family, but they’ve been great,” Baumann said.
Baumann said he got into coaching because after his father died when Baumann was 16, his two biggest idols became Manny Beckman and Tink Larson his basketball and baseball coaches at Waseca. With his distinguished career behind him, it only seems fitting that Baumann will be to some young athlete and coach out there what Larson and Beckman were to him.