Grinsteinner captains Titans in year 25 as head coach
Gregg Grinsteinner has seen it all while on the sidelines for the Dickinson Trinity boys basketball team.
Since his tenure as head coach got underway in 1994, Grinsteinner has won 464 games, delivering the program two Class B state championships, 12 regional titles and 13 Roughrider tournament titles. This past summer, he was inducted into North Dakota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Meeting every challenge that's been presented, Grinsteinner is set to begin his silver anniversary season as Titans head coach. The challenge he faces this year is coaching a group of kids with varying degrees of experience on the floor.
"The biggest thing is getting kids to play at the speed of the varsity level," Grinsteinner said. "Last year, we had a couple of these kids going against our better kids on a daily basis, and what happens is eventually they'll turn into some pretty good players. ... What I tell our kids is sometimes you have to try to find your niche and make yourself marketable, everybody has a role."
Two of the players who will see their roles expand are junior forward Seth Herner and junior guard Matthew Stafford.
Stafford came into his own during last year's Region 7 Tournament. The then-sophomore guard made the game-sealing steal and layup in a 63-55 semifinal victory over Hettinger-Scranton. He followed that performance with 10 critical points during crunch time of a 74-71 championship game defeat to Beulah.
"Last year, we kind of hit a dry spell where we did do very good, and toward the end of the season, we kind of figured out what we needed to do," Stafford said. "This year, hopefully we can figure that out a lot sooner and get things rolling a bit quicker than we did last year."
Herner was a reserve post player who saw increased playing time due to mid-season injuries. Scoring in the final two regional tournament games, Herner says he focused on fine-tuning his fundamental skills while putting in a lot of work in the weight room with the rest of the team during the offseason. With that, the 6-foot-3 forward is aiming to have a greater impact.
"I think this year, a few of us younger guys, especially without having very many seniors on the team, are going to have to step up a little more and be a little bit more of a leader," Herner said. "I know a lot of players are excited. We expect to do pretty well this year. We're rated pretty high, but we know that doesn't always mean everything. We're ready to work."
Averaging 17 points through three postseason games last year, forward Aric Knopik will be one of three seniors on the roster this season, joined by forward Alija Karsky and center Isaac Fridrich.
With its size in the frontcourt, Dickinson Trinity will also feature a pair of sophomore 5-foot-10 guards in Cole Fitterer and Jake Daniel, each looking to fill the Stafford role from a year ago.
"We've generally had kids that are pretty muscular in that they look a lot like football players. This is a team that's going to look a lot like basketball players," Grinsteinner said. "We are going to have kids that have length, can cover ground quick with their first step. We're athletic and we're long."
The Titans will open the season at home against Shiloh Christian on Saturday, Dec. 8. Grinsteinner points to a stretch in early January where the team will play four out of five games on the road as a potential speed bump. If the team can get through its schedule and further develop depth, the head coach likes the Titans' chances.
"We think that we have an opportunity here, as long we stay focused on what's ahead, not worrying about how we got to the end, but enjoying the journey to get there," Grinsteinner said. "We're excited about the kids we have; we just have to do it on a consistent basis and teach kids how to compete, especially when you have a new group every year."