MELLENBRUCH: Winczewski already one of North Dakota’s all-time greats

There aren’t many coaches in the history of North Dakota high school basketball that have laid claim to four state titles.

Even fewer to have won two championships for two different schools.

On Saturday, Minot High boys basketball coach Dean Winczewski secured his place in both companies.

The Magicians claimed their second state championship in as many seasons, topping West Fargo 65-59 in a thrilling championship contest, one quite worthy of its title.

The title is Winczewski’s fourth as a head coach, and second with Minot High.

There’s no sense denying it. Saturday’s win proves it, really.

Winczewski is already one of the greats.

“He just loves the game, and he loves to be in the gym,” Minot activities director Mitch Lunde said. “He works hard in so many different areas. He puts in the effort during the summer time, and he just competes. He wants his kids to compete all the time. He never likes to lose, and that carries over with his teams.”

And the scary part – at least for his West Region competitors – is that he’s just getting started at Minot High.

Winczewski won two state titles with Dickinson in 2003 and 2007 – still the only two championships ever won by the Midgets – before joining the Magicians in 2008.

Things didn’t get off to the best of start for him, either.

Minot missed the state tournament twice in Winczewski’s first five years with the team. The Magicians also failed to win a first-round game at state in his first six seasons.

That all changed in 2014.

With just three combined losses over the past two years, the Magicians have quite simply been the toast of Class A basketball in this state.

And Winczewski’s the reason why.

But that’s not how he’d explain it.

“No coach has ever made a basket. No coach has ever gotten a rebound,” Winczewski said. “The kids have to do it, and when you’re blessed with great kids, good things happen.”

Winczewski has always been one to deflect credit to his players.

In fact, one morning last winter – a bit earlier than my normal wake-up time, to be honest – Dean called me to complain about a picture of him he saw in the paper that day.

“It’s not about me,” he told me. “It’s about the kids.”

And in many ways, he’s right.

But his players know what he brings to the table.

“If there’s one coach that deserves all the success he’s had, it’s coach Winczewski,” Minot senior Ben Bolinske said. “I love the guy, and he loves all of us to death. It’s so special to win another one for him.”

“There aren’t enough good words to describe him,” Minot senior Jesse Roberts said. “You need a coach that knows exactly what he’s talking about, and that’s him. We just have to go out and execute what he tells us to do.”

The Magi did that all season.

And on Saturday, they were justly rewarded for their hard work.

“For the first time in my life, I’m speechless about how awesome our kids competed and awesome our kids are,” Winczewski said.

Take a bow, coach.

With you, Minot will always be a contender.

This is the opinion of Joe Mellenbruch, sports editor of The Minot Daily News. Joe covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.