In 2007, Jon Noreen coached the Albany girls basketball team to the Minnesota state tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
The trip ended in heartbreak and controversy as Albany lost to Pipestone by one point in the Class 2A championship game.
During the awards ceremony after the game, a replay of Pipestone’s winning three-point basket was shown on the scoreboard at Target Center in Minneapolis. The replay showed that the winning basket should have been a two-point field goal, which would have left the score tied. Albany fans loudly voiced their displeasure at the call, but the play, which occurred with 16 seconds remaining, was not reviewable.
Talking to reporters afterward, Noreen refused to criticize officials or blame the loss on a bad call. “A game isn’t lost on a last-second shot,” Noreen told the Star Tribune.
In 2008, the Huskies returned to the state tournament. That trip ended in celebration as they defeated Jordan 62-52 for the state title.
Jennie Noreen, the youngest of Noreen’s six children, led the Huskies with 18 points.
“To win a state title with my last daughter — that’s something special,” Jon Noreen said.
Noreen died unexpectedly on Feb. 1 at his home in Avon, Minn. He was 67.
“What stood out most to me, and what I believe was the secret to his coaching success, was how passionate Jon was,” said Scott Buntje, Albany’s activities director.
Under Noreen, who was elected to the Minnesota Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010, Albany reached the state tournament seven times. In 26 seasons as the Albany coach, he led the Huskies to a record of 476-186.
Noreen, who was born in St. Paul to Clarence and Darlene Noreen, graduated from Edina High School. He earned a degree in education from Mankato State (now Minnesota State Mankato).
He started his career at Elgin-Millville High School, where he taught art and coached football and boys basketball. He moved to Albany in 1987.
Noreen retired from coaching in 2011 and from teaching in 2012. He returned to coaching in 2016 to coach the women’s basketball team at St. Cloud Technical and Community College for two seasons.
Noreen, who was an avid hunter and angler, bred and trained Labrador retrievers and owned a kennel in Avon. In 1989, Noreen and his German shorthair Boomer became the first Minnesota pair to earn the American Kennel Club Master Hunting title for pointers.
In 2007, Noreen was surprised when his 35-year-old boat — a 20-foot Sea Ray — was selected from 200 entries in a “Bling My Boat” contest sponsored by the Minneapolis Boat Show. The entry had been submitted by his oldest daughter, Darby. The boat received a $50,000 makeover.
“The boat holds lots of memories,” Noreen said at the time. “The kids really enjoyed it. Every year we went to Otter Tail [Lake] for a family reunion. We sometimes put 90 hours a summer on that boat. It was a way of doing things as a family that was most important to us.”
Buntje said, “As much as Jon liked talking basketball and about past teams or athletes and games, there was always an extra excitement for him when he was talking about his family, an excitement you could hear in his voice and physically see on his face. He was certainly very proud of his family.”
Noreen is survived by Lynette, his wife of 36 years; sons Jake, Seth and Zach; daughters Darby, Joanne Thomason and Jennie Helget; 10 grandchildren; and sister Karen Carlson. Services have been held.