When Ken Pauly became a high school hockey coach in 1990-91 at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, his calls to coaches seeking scrimmage opponents went unreturned save one – Duluth East’s Mike Randolph.
Schools weren’t shunning Pauly because he coached a private school program, though that would come later. No, the simple fact is Benilde-St. Margaret’s, located in St. Louis Park, stunk.
The Red Knights were 15 years removed from winning a conference title. And it showed on the trip north to face Randolph’s Greyhounds.
“They pounded us,” Pauly said. “The only way we could get shots on their goalie is when we practiced our 5-on-3 power play.”
By season’s end, however, Pauly coaxed his new team to the Missota Conference title with an undefeated conference record. The conference went away but the milestones kept coming. Class 1A state tournament champions in 1999 and 2001. A Class 2A title in 2012.
And on Thursday, Pauly won his 500th game, a 6-3 victory at Bloomington Jefferson.
“What’s been touching to me is how proud everyone is to be a part of it,” said Pauly, who in his 30th season became the 15th coach to reach the mark. “It’s not about you; it’s about something you built.”
Pauly took over the Red Knights at age 26. He wasn’t yet married, nor a father of two children. He wasn’t yet a social studies teacher at the school. His current assistant coach Chris McGowan was a senior and the team’s top line center.
McGowan was a transfer from Edina. More players arrived in similar fashion as the Red Knights became more successful and less appreciated.
“I was totally naïve about the level of rancor people had toward private schools,” said Pauly, a Wayzata graduate. “I walked into a coaches clinic wearing a Benilde sweatshirt and [former] Mound Westonka coach Pat Furlong says, ‘You stole a bunch of our guys.’ ”
Pauly, 55, who coached three seasons at Minnetonka before returning to Benilde-St. Margaret’s in 2007-08, noted the symmetry in achieving his milestone at Bloomington Jefferson. He said all his heroes were coaches, including the Jaguars’ Tom Saterdalen, who retired with 545 career victories.
“When I was coming in, Jefferson was the best team and we were a program that could not compete at that level,” Pauly said. “To know that over the years we had teams as good as anyone in the state is pretty cool.”

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