Mike Brinsko was cut from the basketball squad when he was a sophomore in high school in Webster City, Iowa.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
And guess who has had the last laugh?
Now at age 67, Brinsko has retired from this year as boys basketball coach at Shawnee Mission West after 45 years in the head coaching profession. He retired with a career won-lost record of 687-325, that included a state championship in Colorado in 1990.
He finished second in Colorado twice and third three times.
In Kansas, his Topeka Highland Park and SM West teams made it to the state tournament 13 times and captured nine league titles. He coached 10 years at Highland Park and his last 12 years at SM West.
He had been a head basketball coach in Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico before arriving in Kansas. His last SM West team posted a 10-12 record, losing in the substate final to eventual Kansas Class 6A champion Blue Valley Northwest.
His dream as a youth was to be a major league baseball player, but that dream was shattered with a knee injury while playing third base and the outfield at Webster City Community College.
That was when he made the decision to become a teacher and coach and attend the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
His first job in 1968 was at a small Iowa high school with only 60 students.
“I was head basketball, baseball, track and cross country coach,” he said. “And I had six (teaching) preparations.”
In Iowa, high school baseball is played during the summer months. It didn’t take him long to decide on basketball.
“It was in my third year that I fell in love with coaching basketball,” he said.
And the rest is history.
Basketball has changed in his 45 years of coaching.
“It has changed for the better,” he said. “There are better athletes today, and the three-point shot has been great for basketball.”
He also sees some negatives.
“The influence of AAU basketball has diminished the importance of the high school coaches,” he said. “The game is way too physical.”
His solutions are to bring in a shot clock and calling the game closer.
Brinsko said he has had his best coaching experience at his last of nine schools.
“The people at West are the best that I have been associated with,” he said. “We had a great bunch of parents and administrators. “The kids were hard-nosed, blue collar kids who worked hard. I want to thank all of my assistant coaches.”
One of his assistants, Ryan Darst, will be the Vikings' new basketball head coach for the 2013-2014 season. Darst played for the Vikings and was the girls' head basketball coach at SM West before deciding to become Brinsko’s top assistant.
“He is the perfect man to replace me,” Brinsko said. “He has the respect of the kids.”