Bob Brink played two seasons of basketball for Yankton College. Then he returned home to Plankinton, S.D., married his high school girlfriend, Judy, and started attending Dakota Wesleyan in nearby Mitchell.
"I also went to work at the training school, because I needed to make some money," Brink said. "The Lincoln Loggers were the first team I coached."
Lincoln was the training school, which was a nicer description than reform school. Brink was the basketball coach and bus driver to games. He always made sure to know where the keys were located.
"When a kid would jump the barrier and take off from the school, I would have my basketball team go after him," Brink said. "And they always brought him back."
There was the occasion when the AWOL student was a basketball player. "He came back on his own -- with a new pair of tennis shoes," Brink said.
Brink stayed at Lincoln for three years after getting his college degree, then moved to Tyndall, another small South Dakota town. He was there for a half-dozen seasons, eventually taking a team that had won one game the season before he arrived to a state tournament appearance.
A few hundred miles away, in Cold Spring, Minn., the populace was so heavily Catholic that the only high school was St. Boniface. Then, in the late '60s, a public school opened -- Rocori, a composite of the cities of Rockville, Cold Spring and Richmond.
Brink arrived in the fall of 1968. Again, he was inheriting a basketball team that had one victory the previous season.
Early Wednesday, Rocori opened play in its 12th state tournament, with Brink still on the sideline: standing at near-attention much of the time, occasionally offering criticism to the officials and giving precise orders to his athletes.
"As a kid, I spent a lot of time sitting behind the bench, hoping to get a chance to play for Bob Brink," Aaron Burtzel said. "My two older brothers played for him, and now it's my turn to play for a legend."
Burtzel is a 6-5 senior and one of the interchangeable pieces in a Rocori offense that calls for constant motion and screens. If the Spartans are holding a lead in the final minutes of a half or a game, the coach will have them go through the offense until they get a bunny of a shot.
Brink put his team in this semi-delay with 5 ½ minutes remaining Wednesday and a 55-43 lead over St. Michael-Albertville in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Target Center. There was a turnover that cut the lead to 10, then Burtzel went to the basket and was mugged with no call, and the lead soon was 55-47.
Brink's face turned a bit red. Was that redness aimed at Burtzel?
"No, he said it was a good take [to the basket]," Burt- zel said. "He just wanted me to make it."
Burtzel came back with a drive and a basket to push the lead back to 10, and the Spartans went from there to a 67-52 victory.
This is Rocori's third consecutive state tournament appearance. The Spartans have a 74-12 record in that time, pushing Brink's career victory total to 849. A year ago, Rocori lost 57-51 in overtime to St. Thomas Academy in the first round. The teams will have a rematch in today's Class 3A semifinal at noon at Target Center.
"I give St. Michael a lot of credit; they were as scrappy as you can get," Burtzel said. "We came out tight, though. We have better basketball ahead of us."
There was a time when the Spartans might have faced a public chewing-out for their early turnovers. Now, Brink gets his trademark unhappy blush but then tries to reason with the lads.