GRAND RAPIDS — It will be a different Grand Rapids High School boys basketball team that will take the court for its season and home opener on Thursday.
Gone is long-time head coach Dan Elhard who resigned recently after serving as the head coach for 18 years and being a coach in the program for three decades. In is long-time assistant coach Scott Bachmann who takes over the head coaching position.
Also gone is the John Sutherland era where the now UMD player was the big gun for the Thunderhawks, averaging more than 31 points a game his senior season. In is a group of players that Bachmann hopes works together to provide the same punch as Sutherland did.
Bachmann brings a wealth of coaching experience as he served as head coach of the Northland-Remer Eagles for 10 years before joining the Grand Rapids program. He served as ninth grade coach for a few years before taking over as junior varsity coach for a handful of years. The last few years he has been a varsity assistant working with both the defense and the offense.
“It is exciting,” Bachmann said about taking over the head coaching duties. “Having been in the program for so long, and knowing all the kids in the program and the quality kids that we have, it’s exciting for me.”
The Thunderhawks have a good core of experience returning led by seniors Trent Johnson, Brady Bachmann and Ty Pederson. Junior Austin Hanson, who started some games last year, also returns.
Bachmann said it will be a challenge to replace Sutherland’s 31 points and 15 rebounds a game, but he said he feels he has the personnel to succeed in that regard.
“I told the kids that our offensive output can be similar to last year,” Bachmann explained. “We just have to go about it differently. Each kid has got to do what they can do and make some contributions. So instead of looking to one guy and maybe two, we are going to look at four, five, six guys to carry the load.”
Bachmann said everything Grand Rapids tries to do this year will be based on its defense.
“We have to be able to grind on the defensive end and be willing to do all the little things – dive on the floor for loose balls – and all the little things are going to add up to big things for us this year.”
Bachmann feels that the Lake Superior Conference will be fairly balanced this year with several good teams at the top. Some of the top teams include Duluth Denfeld, Hermantown, Duluth Marshall and Proctor.
“I think the conference will be pretty balanced this year. I think we can definitely compete within the conference,” said Bachmann. “In Section 7AAA, I would say that Hibbing is probably the clear-cut favorite but until someone knocks Princeton off – they are the defending champion – they have to be considered. I think on any given night one team can beat another.”
Assisting Bachmann in the coaching department this season will be Eric Anderson, ninth grade coach, Derek Bauer, junior varsity coach, and Chad Persons will be the assistant varsity coach.
“We have been at it a week so far and there certainly is no question about effort,” the coach said. “They are a great group of kids and they are working hard. We have a bunch of good student/athletes in grades nine through 12.”
The Thunderhawks will face Duluth East Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at home in its season opener and then will face Duluth Marshall on the road on Saturday.