Sherman column: coach Kenny Novak Jr. joins the 700-win club
Hopkins High boys basketball coach Kenny Novak Jr. moved into rarified air Jan. 19 when he joined the 700-win club.
Only three other boys hoops coaches in state history, Bob McDonald of Chisholm, Bob Brink of Rocori and Ziggy Kauls of Mounds View, have reached the 700-win mark, and Novak did it faster than any of them.
As usual, Novak was quick to share the credit for his success.
“I think about all the kids who were a part of this,” he said. “We are all smart enough to realize that you don’t do this by ourselves. It takes a team.”
What was Novak’s immediate reaction when the Royals beat St. Paul Central 82-66 for No. 700?
“Well, I was thinking, we survived another one,” he said.
I might be one of the few people around town who remembers coach Novak’s playing days at Hopkins Lindbergh High School. Kenny Jr. didn’t play a lot on varsity until he was a senior. He joined seniors Dick Malotky and Kevin Tuck and juniors Kevin Diepholz and Bill Molzahn in the starting lineup for the 1973-74 season.
That crew gave coach Kenny Novak Sr. his first state tournament team after the elder Novak had endured a series of near misses. The Lindbergh Flyers lost a first-round state game to Minneapolis Washburn, and then came back to earn the fifth-place trophy.
Kenny Jr. was a smart player and a great shooter, and at the same time, probably the least athletic member of that memorable starting five. Had there been a three-point line during the 1973-74 season, he would have had a few more 20-point games because most of his shots came from 20 feet and beyond. He was the top long-range marksman in the Lake Conference, and the Lake really was a shooter’s league during that era.
I always thought Kenny Jr. was kind of quiet back then. He had an inner intensity, but nothing like the outer intensity you see on the sidelines when he coaches.
Seven hundred wins didn’t happen by accident. For many years, Hopkins’ man-to-man defense has been the staple. Novak’s attention to detail is another key factor. His scouting is thorough, and his game preparation is second to none. The Royals play fast, oftentimes looking like the modern version of the 1973-74 Lindbergh Flyers.
Reflecting further on his 700th win, Novak Jr. said, “It’s just a number.”
There is another number that’s even more significant. Novak is the only coach in Minnesota boys basketball history with six state championships.
Winning the last game of the season never gets old for the newest member of the 700 club.
Home-ice advantage is almost a foreign concept in the Edina-Minnetonka boys hockey rivalry.
Minnetonka’s 4-3 victory over the Hornets in a Lake Conference game Jan. 17 was its third straight at Braemar Arena.
By the same token, Edina knows how to win at Pagel Activity Center.
“We have three losses in six years at Pagel, and two of them are to Edina,” said Minnetonka head coach Brian Urick.
In Minnetonka’s win over Edina last week, Urick used four senior defensemen, Charles Burton, Joe Lindberg, Jimmy Schuldt and Tommy Vannelli.
“Those four are doing everything we ask of them,” said Urick.
The Skipper coach put sophomore Jacob Berger in goal against the Hornets.
“As the game went on, Jacob became more confident,” said Urick. “He made a couple big saves in the third period.”
Berger followed up in the next game with a 6-0 shutout of Hopkins. Max Coatta was brilliant for the Skippers, recording the hat trick while controlling the flow of the game.
The University of Minnesota women’s hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 24-0-0 record.
Two local players are among the leaders for the Golden Gophers. Hopkins High graduate Becky Kortum is the sixth-leading scorer with 22 points on 10 goals and 12 assists. Minnetonka’s Rachel Ramsey is among the nation’s premier defensemen and has contributed to the scoring with 15 points on 4 goals and 11 assists.
Both Kortum and Ramsey are among the Gophers’ leaders in plus/minus stats. Kortum is sitting at plus 29 and Ramsey is at plus 30.