After 626 wins, Barnum’s Myhre steps away as girls basketball coachRandy Myhre leaves the Bombers after compiling a 626-165 overall record over parts of five decades and winning the 2010 Class A state title. His victory total ranks third in Minnesota history.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
Perhaps the biggest testament in Randy Myhre’s 33 seasons as coach of the Barnum girls basketball team is how far the program came from beginning to end.
“When I started, it was kind of a mess,” Myhre said Tuesday, the day he submitted his resignation to the school district. “The very first game that I coached, we got clocked by a state tournament team from Moose Lake by what seemed like 1,000 points. It was like a varsity team playing against a junior high team.
“Afterward, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I said to myself, ‘You can do one of two things: find another coaching job or roll up your sleeves and go to work.’ ”
Myhre chose the latter, compiling a 626-165 overall record over parts of five decades and winning the 2010 Class A state title. His victory total ranks third in Minnesota history.
When Myhre moved up from the JV to take over the varsity team in 1978, girls athletics was in its infancy and constant coaching turnover was the rule rather than the exception.
“It’s hard to sustain anything when you’ve got that kind of turnover,” he said.
Myhre soon turned losing into winning, starting with teams featuring Sarah (Bislow) Jurek in the early 1980s.
“She couldn’t run, couldn’t jump and wasn’t very quick,” Myhre said, “but the kid became a basketball wizard because of her work ethic. She was one of the best point guards we’ve ever had.”
It took several more years to reach the state tournament but the Bombers finally broke through in 1996.
“I’ll never forget when we got to the state tournament in ’96 — I thought my life was complete then,” he said. “It never got old going to the state tournament in basketball or softball.”
Myhre took eight more basketball teams to the state tournament — earning a runner-up finish in 2008 before becoming the first Northland champion in 26 years in 2010 — and went seven times in 22 seasons as softball coach. He also spent seven seasons as athletic director.
Stef (Halverson) Coughlin, who was on the first two basketball section champions and went to three state softball tournaments, believes Myhre’s dedication to the youth programs played a key role in the team’s ultimate success.
“We all thought it was very special to have the varsity basketball coach at our Saturday morning games,” said Coughlin, a 1997 graduate, who was a volunteer assistant coach last season. “It inspired us. We’d say, ‘Oh my gosh, coach Myhre is here. We better play harder and try harder.’”
Barnum won at least 20 games in each of Myhre’s final 20 seasons at the helm.
“We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in the last 20 years; we went from the poor sisters of the north to thriving,” Myhre said. “I’m really proud how that program evolved and all that it’s taken to do that.”
Former Minnesota Duluth men’s assistant Jerry Erickson spent six of those years on the Bombers’ bench.
“He put so much time in the program from start to finish; he was the guy who made the entire thing go,” Erickson said. “He started building his teams in the elementary and junior high school. The amount of time that he spent (with the program) is the reason they were always consistent.”
Justine (Axtell) Miller remembers Myhre always was willing to give his time to help players.
“He was in the gym every single day in the summer with us,” said Miller, winner of two of Barnum’s six News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year awards in the last 10 years. “If we wanted to go in when the gym was closed, we could call him and he would go open it up for us. He was there whenever we needed him.”
Myhre was a noted taskmaster who took losses hard and demanded a lot from his players. Those same players say they appreciated the stern approach.
“I’m very thankful for that,” Coughlin said. “He realizes that it’s a life lesson to teach the girls to work hard because nothing in life comes easy.”
Myhre coached all three of his daughters, Megan, Sarah and Katie, a memory that will stand among his most lasting.
“It’s a scenario where I could connect with my kids — I’m not so good at some other things that girls like to do — but that’s one thing I could do to connect to my kids,” he said. “That’s quality time, working hard at something worthwhile with your own kids. That’s meant everything to me.”
Katie Myhre plans on playing at St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn., so retirement means her father will have time to travel to watch her play. He also expects to move to Duluth so his wife, Julie, won’t have far to drive to work in her job with St. Louis County.
“Coaches’ spouses absolutely do not get enough credit,” he said. “It’s my time now to give back to her.”