DL-B’s Wagner fulfilling his calling in life
In one way or another, every individual has a calling to fulfill in life.
In the case of Des Lacs-Burlington’s Doug Wagner that calling has been to coach boys basketball.
For the past 37 years, most of those at DL-B, Wagner has worked with young men, teaching them basketball and other valuable life lessons.
After several years of ups and downs in the sport he grew up playing, Wagner recorded his 600th win on Jan. 20 in a road win at Stanley. Unofficially his career coaching record now stands at 600-300.
“To reach a milestone like that is a good feeling,” Wagner said. “But it’s also been a blur. I have worked with so many young men.”
Wagner graduated from Max High School, where he played basketball. He went on to graduate from Valley City State University. He earned a double major in mathematics and physical education with the idea of some day landing a coaching job at the collegiate level.
After graduating from college, Wagner accepted a coaching job at Mora High School in Minnesota. He was there for two years before making the move to DL-B, and has never left.
And while he had a desire to coach at the college level, that desire soon went away following graduation.
“I was coaching for a couple of years and I realized I was where I wanted to be,” he said.
With 600 wins under his belt, Wagner points to a win over Bishop Ryan during the 1992-93 season as one of his most cherished moments as a coach.
“It was in the region tournament, and we were down 13 in the second half,” the DL-B coach said. “And we came back to win.”
From there, the Lakers went on to win the regional tournament, and advanced to the state tournament where they finished second.
While Wagner is quick to point out not many coaches stay in the profession as long as he has, he gives credit to the support he has received from all the individuals close to him.
“Having great kids to work with,” he said. “And great assistants, and a great wife, who supports me. This is a 12-month job.”
But to be a successful coach, Wagner says you got to know more than the X’s and O’s.
“You have to focus on what is important,” he said. “And what’s important is giving these young kids life lessons.”
And that seems to be rubbing off on his current group of players.
“He has confidence in every player on the team,” said DL-B senior Mark Medalen. “He’s been really big into making us not only into great ball players, but also into fine young men.”
DL-B senior Drew Pearson, who is averaging 27 points a game this season, echoes the sentiments of his teammate.
“He has engraved in our team to defend, rebound and move the ball,” Pearson said. “But the best thing I’ve learned from coach Wagner is that he wants us all to succeed not only as basketball players, but more importantly as young men.”
Away from basketball, Wagner enjoys spending time with his family, which includes monthly trips – when time permits – to Minnesota to see his grandchildren. He also runs a carpentry business and is currently helping his father-in-law rebuild a 1949 Ford.
So, how much longer does Wagner plan to coach?
“I get asked that a lot,” he said. “I’m taking it a year at a time.”
And for someone fulfilling his calling in life, there isn’t anything wrong with that.
Mark Jones covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MarkJones27_MDN.