A historic girls’ basketball season for Hopkins came to abrupt end in March. Now, mentor Brian Cosgriff’s coaching career has done likewise.
The architect of the perennial state power stepped down from his coaching position after directing the Royals to seven state championships during his 21-year tenure. Hopkins made its initial state tournament trip in 2002, his third season as head coach.
“I was very fortunate to have a lot of great players,” said Cosgriff, who told his players of his decision Monday. “I also had a very supportive community and administration.”
The Royals (30-0) were on the verge of completing back-to-back unbeaten seasons in March when the pandemic prompted the Minnesota State High School League to cancel the season a day before their Class 4A championship matchup with Farmington. Hopkins beat the Tigers 77-52 earlier in the season.
“Coz is the best coach in the state and country. He wants every player to give 110 percent at all times. He expects absolute greatness.”
“We ran into an unfortunate set of circumstances at the end of the season that was very hard to understand at the time,” Cosgriff said. “It didn’t make any sense. Looking back on it now, it makes a lot of sense, but we didn’t know that at the time. I was really disappointed for the kids, especially the seniors. They were part of something very special.”
ESPN named the Royals the No. 1 girls’ basketball team in the nation following the season.
“What a great honor,” Cosgriff said. “It’s a nice consolation prize.”
Cosgriff’s seven championships are one short of the state record held by Myron Glass at Rochester Lourdes and Faith Johnson Patterson at Minneapolis North and DeLaSalle. Cosgriff owns a 35-6 record in state tournament play, the second-highest winning percentage (.854) for coaches with a minimum of four state tournament appearances.
“It’s not about what you accomplish as an individual,” Cosgriff said. “It’s about what you accomplish as a team.”
He is the 13th winningest girls’ coach (569-67) in state history.
“It’s not about the wins and losses or championships,” Cosgriff said. “It’s about the journey along the way. It’s been a great ride.”
He leaves the program riding a 62-game winning streak, the second longest in state history. Fosston won 78 consecutive games from Dec. 21, 1999, through March 7, 2002.
Cosgriff benefited in recent seasons from having the nation’s No. 1 player on his roster, senior guard Paige Bueckers.
“Coz is the best coach in the state and country,” said Bueckers, bound for Connecticut. “He wants every player to give 110 percent at all times. He expects absolute greatness.
“He gave me a lot of confidence by playing me when I was younger. That was the tipping point of me being successful.”
The Royals have three starters — 6-4 junior forward Maya Nnaji (ranked No. 8 in the country by HoopGurlz recruiting), 5-11 junior guard Amaya Battle and 5-11 sophomore forward Taylor Woodson — returning next season as well as their top bench players, junior guard Alayna Contreras and sophomore guard Sunaja Agara.
Other standouts at the top of Cosgriff’s accolade list are Nia Coffey (most athletic) and Leslie Knight (best leader). Coffey led Hopkins to three state titles in a row from 2011-13. Cosgriff attributes his successful run all to his players.
He said he will never forget the relationships he built with his players and coaching staff as well as opposing players and coaches. His brother, Barry, was part of the Royals’ staff.
“I’m blessed to have coached with my younger brother,” said Cosgriff, who will be part of the third class to be inducted into the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame in April.
During his journey, Cosgriff lost both of his parents, Collette and Don, and older brother, Brad. He also has a sister, Bridget.
“Losing a family member makes me want to get in the gym immediately and be with my other supportive family,” Cosgriff said.
“There is nothing more important than the bond you have with family.”