It's Friday. Gameday. Less than five hours before tipoff, Mounds View boys' basketball coach Ziggy Kauls takes in a pep fest held in the school's gymnasium on his floor.
Future generations will run, dribble and dive for loose balls on Kauls Court, named in January for the man who began coaching at Mounds View in 1967 and will retire in March after 45 seasons.
Kauls leaves the main gym and heads toward a smaller gym down the hall to conduct a walk-through in preparation of the evening's game against White Bear Lake.
Bending down to pick up a Mounds View Viewer student newspaper, Kauls speaks highly of the arts and editorial pages while flipping to the sports page.
One of four coaches asked, "How has your sport changed?" Kauls was quoted about the occasional horrors of short shorts.
Asked what's changed about him after more than 40 years, 700 victories, three Mr. Basketball winners and two state championship teams, Kauls becomes more serious.
"My philosophy has been to be a simple person," Kauls said. "I never wanted to create a basketball organization. The best teams I had were made up of a bunch of friends who liked to play and worked to get good at it. I'm just a facilitator."
Kauls facilitates a 10-minute dress rehearsal, reading a scouting report of opposing players' tendencies and directing offensive plays. Four of his guys were pep fest royalty and are wearing jackets and ties.
Kauls announced his retirement prior to the season, resulting in what he feels has been an undesired but appreciated farewell tour.
At Woodbury, coach Scott Swansson outfitted Kauls with a wealth of golf gear. A warm reception greeted him at Forest Lake, his alma mater.
Kauls' family, from Latvia, arrived in Minnesota by way of a refugee camp in Germany -- located in NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki's hometown of Würzburg -- where they fled during World War II.
His post-basketball plans include spreading what's left of his parents' ashes in their hometown.
Senior captain Kevin Sharpe said players learned just this season of Kauls' family and golf interests. Stoic by nature, Kauls has kept his focus on the court.
"He'll go out, smile and wave and take the applause but when he comes back to the bench, it's game time and it's all about us," Sharpe said.
Kauls' final Mustangs team has been a pleasant surprise, starting 12-3 and, Kauls said, "beating teams expecting to beat us."
A group of eight seniors whose "abilities are more balanced" lead the team by playing hard and playing their roles.
Just three Mustangs teams in the past 24 seasons finished with losing records, a testament to Kauls' ability to maximize his teams' talents. He rode top players to the mountaintop twice, the Mark Landsberger-led team in 1972 and Nick Horvath's 1999 team.
It's creeping closer to game time Friday when Kauls is asked to pick his all-time Mounds View top five, plus a sixth man. Seven if he needs it.
"I refuse to do that," Kauls said with a smile. His hands are folded on his head and his feet are up on the chair across from him.
On what grounds?
"I span 45 years," Kauls said. "It would be an injustice to leave off some player who was just as valuable as anyone was to his team."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574