Column: Biedenbender is back, even if it’s just for 1 year

In a sense, Dave Biedenbender is back to where he belongs.

Biedenbender will be the interim women’s basketball coach this year while current head coach Dan Gawrisch works on his Ph.D at the University of Illinois. The former Minnesota Valley Lutheran girls’ basketball coach will serve as a one-year leader of a team that went 6-19 (4-12 in Upper Midwest Athletic Conference) last year under Gawrisch and Biedenbender, who served as the assistant coach a year ago.

For basketball fans at any level who have followed Biedenbender during his time in New Ulm prior to last year, it marks the return of one of the most successful coaches at the varsity level in any sport.

Biedenbender coached at MVL for 15 years and he had a record of 316-99 during that run, a winning percentage of .761. In that time, he was one of the best coaches in the area and his resume speaks for itself.

He took the Chargers to the state tournament three different times (2005, 2006, 2008) and he also led them to two more section title games (2001, 2003). After the 2014-15 school year, he took a job in Texas at Sienna Lutheran Academy, where he was the Athletic Director and a basketball coach and teacher at the middle school level. He came back to New Ulm in 2017 after his wife took a job here at the Early Childhood Center at MLC.

College basketball is obviously a different game as far as scouting goes. At the high school level, Biedenbender was always out on the road watching future Tomahawk Conference opponents or teams in the section he might battle once the playoffs rolled around. Now he can piece together video of any of the UMAC teams or any future opponent, meaning he doesn’t have to endure the long trips to scout games in person.

At the same time, he said the Division III game is still about the basics.

“I would say it was a neat, new experience to be involved with,” Biedenbender said. “It was a different level of basketball that I had ever coached in, it was a fun level of basketball to coach with because you’re getting all these kids that are well-schooled in the game already.

“Division III basketball was just a step up and just a different level of basketball, yet deep down it’s the same game,” he said. “It’s just a different level of preparation and some upgraded things that I’ve never been able to do before.”

As an assistant last year, he and Gawrisch collaborated on ideas and Biedenbender said that two worked well together. It took a little while because the two were getting used to each other and both were in new roles, but they learned a lot from each other.

“Dan was very welcoming to me, he knew that I had some years of experience behind me and he was more than willing to accept some advice and ideas that I had and try them,” Biedenbender said. “But also, I was willing to step back too and just learn from him. He puts a lot of time and energy into it, for his four years [of coaching at MLC] and one year as an assistant, he’s put his heart and soul into it.”

As someone who called the shots before, Biedenbender admitted it was a learning process for him last season.

“Basically the first half of the year, I did a lot more observing than I’ve done in the past and not a lot of offering of things,” Biedenbender said. “By the time we got about midway through the year, we hit our stride with being comfortable with stuff, him asking me for advice, me giving advice unsolicited. But we really grew into it throughout the year. We got along and we’re friends and at the end of the year, he even said that we were in sync with each other.”

The Knights begin practice this coming Monday. Biedenbender, for one, is ready to go.

“I’m excited, ever since I agreed to do it I’ve been excited for it and I’ve been working towards it,” he said. “It’s different, I haven’t been the head coach of a team like this for a few years, going back to when I was at MVL. It was nice to sit back and be the assistant last year and I’ll be more than content to do that next year again. But to be the guy that’s calling the plays and making the decisions, I’m really jazzed up to do that again.”