Looking for 400: Trinity seeks to help Grinsteinner reach milestone win by hosting Killdeer
Gregg Grinsteinner had originally planned on going to school to be a business major.
For the past 20 seasons, Grinsteinner has been at the helm of the Dickinson Trinity boys basketball program and is one win shy of 400 for his career. The Titans meet Region 7 opponent Killdeer for the regular season home finale at 7 p.m. today at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
“You work so hard to get to the top, but trying to keep your program there is a lot of work,” Grinsteinner said. “That’s where you have coaches and kids that are committed. Getting there the first time is the easy part. It’s getting to maintain that is difficult. I’ve had to learn how to change. You had to be able to change with the kids.
“I don’t regret a decision I’ve made about coaching there. I’d do it all over again if I had the opportunity. I’m pretty blessed to be where I’m at.”
Though No. 400 is only one win away, Grinsteinner said the milestone isn’t just a credit to him — it’s a credit to all of the players and coaches of the last 20 years. During the span, Grinsteinner has compiled a 399-101 record.
“That’s something that the school and the program are proud of, and this isn’t something about me,” he said. “It’s the coaches I’ve been with. It’s the players I’ve had in the program. That’s what makes it special.”
Grinsteinner and the rest of the Titans are treating this game like any other Region 7 game.
With a win, Trinity will have the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the Region 7 Tournament, which begins on Friday. If Killdeer wins, the team has a chance to grab the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the region tournament.
“In the last couple games, it has been lingering in the back of heads,” Trinity senior guard Austin Deichert said about Grinsteinner’s 400th win. “We know it’s a significant game, but at the same time we can’t think about that during the game. In preparation for the game, we are thinking about coming in and playing our best basketball and get a win regardless of the situation.”
Killdeer’s first-year head coach Andy Murphy played for Grinsteinner. Murphy played at the varsity level during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons and was part of the 2004 Class B state championship team as a junior, the first of Grinsteinner’s two state titles. The other state title was in 2006. He coached the Titans to state runner-up finishes three times.
Murphy anticipated the emotions competing against his former head coach. He said there’s a part of him that wants Grinsteinner to win No. 400, but he also doesn’t want the win to come against him.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Murphy said. “It’s kind of always been in the back of my mind all season long on how it’s going to be when I go against coach Grinsteinner. It will be fun. To us, it’s a just another game. To be one of the former kids that he coached, it would be awesome that he got his 400th win, but at same I don’t want it to be against me.”
The start of Grinsteinner’s head coaching career was less than spectacular. The first season — 1994-95 — began with four straight losses. Trinity’s first win was a 64-47 victory against Scranton during the Hettinger Holiday Tournament on Dec. 19. The Titans failed to reach the district tournament that season after losing in the play-in game.
The following two years didn’t get any easier for Grinsteinner and he contemplated whether he made the right decision accepting the position.
“It was tough the first couple of years,” he said. “I didn’t really have a philosophy built in. Have I made a lot of mistakes? I have made a lot of mistakes, but I just keep learning from them.
“Toward the end of my second year and the beginning of my third year, it was one of those were I thought I made a mistake. The turning point came when Craig Kovash and I talked that we had to coach for us and the kids, and not worry about anything else around us. That really changed what we were doing.”
Grinsteinner weathered the initial defeats and learned how to win.
Murphy has experienced initial struggles at the helm. He said it will take a couple years to lay the foundation for a strong tradition.
“Overall, the season has gone well,” Murphy said. “We’ve had our ups and downs as a team. I’m still learning, our assistant coaches are still learning and our kids are still learning.
“Your first couple years of coaching are trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t work. Right now, we are still in that phase of what we can do and what we can’t do.”
After the three tough seasons, Grinsteinner found a groove. The Titans have collected 10 region titles, and he was named Class B coach of the year in 2004 and 2013. He has coached the Class B Lions All-Star team five times.
Deichert, who played on last year’s Trinity’s team that finished fifth at the state tournament, said it would be special to help Grinsteinner reach No. 400.
“It isn’t often you get to reach a milestone like 400 or any of the hundreds,” Deichert said. “If we can be part of that and a piece of history for (Grinsteinner), it’s going to mean a lot to him.”