When looking back at his coaching roots, it is no wonder that Justin Hager ho-hummed reaching the 300-win milestone in his own basketball coaching career.
Hager is a proud North Dakotan, hailing from Linton, a farming town of about 1,500 people, where two coaches influenced the Mountain Pointe girls coach to become the coach he is today.
Dan Imdieke coached football and wrestling and Dan Carr coaches boys basketball.
They are North Dakota’s all-time leader in wins for football and basketball, respectively, along with being in the national high school sports hall of fame.
So 300 wins, which Hager achieved on Dec. 30 with a win over Cimarron-Memorial, is a blip on the radar compared to the 700 or so wins his two mentors have in their careers.
Imdieke had more than 325 wins in football and more than 400 in wrestling before retiring last year, while Carr set the state record last year with his 689th win and has Linton in the top 10 this year.
“I went to Kansas last year to see (Carr’s) induction,” Hager said. “We were lucky to have these two guys in the same K-12 school.”
He does his best to stay in contact with his mentors.
“I talk to these guys weekly,” said Hager, who found out about No. 300 via a postcard from Seton Catholic girls coach Karen Self.
The winning ways has followed Hager, who runs very efficient practices that some Division I college programs would be smart to mimic, wherever he has diagrammed plays on the whiteboard.
He has the Pride in the 6A Conference semifinals, where they will face Valley Vista on Thursday, in his first season after previous coaching stops at Antelope for two years and at Yuma Cibola for about a decade.
“Hager is unbelievable,” Pride athletic director Mike Griffith said walking out of Hamilton after Mountain Pointe knocked off the second-ranked Huskies last week.
“He just knows how to get them to compete and win.”
– Contact Jason P. Skoda at 480-898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.