SPICER, MINN. – Mike Dreier starts to cross the street after having lunch near picturesque Green Lake when a man driving his side-by-side all-terrain vehicle spots him and pulls over.

They've been friends for decades. The man asks Dreier about his team's close win the previous night. Dreier responds by giving him friendly grief about not being there.

The two chuckle and spend a few minutes catching up.

It is practically impossible to look left or right in the neighboring small towns of New London and Spicer, 100 miles west of Minneapolis, without seeing someone who has a connection to Dreier, the winningest high school basketball coach in Minnesota history.

In his 46th season at New London-Spicer, Dreier has coached hundreds of girls while compiling 1,069 victories, two state championships, six runner-up finishes and only one losing season. That one was in 1978, his first season, when his team won three games.

"Thank God we got three," he jokes over lunch a few days before the section playoffs begin. He'll look to notch No. 1,070 on Tuesday night against Minnewaska in their section semifinal.

His lone senior this season, Delaney Hanson, has a mom, older sister and two aunts who played for Dreier. One aunt, Sue Olson, was his first 1,000-point scorer in the mid-1980s. Stop anyone in either town and they likely have a sister, aunt, mother, niece or cousin who played for the 72-year-old coaching lifer.

"I'm trying to think if I've got grandmas," Dreier says, only half-serious.

He peppers conversations with equal parts sarcasm and self-deprecating humility.

On attending four different colleges: "I squeezed my four years into six and two-thirds years," he says.

On the momentous achievement of surpassing Chisholm boys coach Bob McDonald last season for most wins in state history: "I read about it in the paper."

On his team's offense system: "Some kids who can shoot and a few who can make it, too."

On receiving only three technical fouls in 46 seasons: "Of course, I didn't deserve any of them."

His aversion to technology is hilarious. Dreier owns a TracFone with preloaded minutes, but he rarely uses it. Don't even think about texting him. If you need him, it's best to find him in person or call his landline.

"He has probably never read or sent a text in his life," oldest son Tim says. "I can't tell you how many times I've had to turn his ringer on for him because he's hit something that's turned it to vibrate."

And emailing? Only slightly better.

"I read emails," he says. "I'm getting to a point where I think sometimes I can push … is it forward or something? You can get a message out that way."

The Dreier way

When he says "I'm not necessarily a big-change person," that applies to coaching, too. His 2-3 zone defense has long been a staple of his teams.

"Everybody in the state of Minnesota knows he's going to run it," says Earl Rich, whose four daughters have played for Dreier.

Trisha Hanson, mom to Delaney and a program alum, is such an expert on Dreier's zone that she agonized while watching her son's seventh-grade team attempt to incorporate it this season.

"I'm like, 'No, you're not supposed to be there,'" she says. "The other moms are looking at me like I'm crazy, but I'm like, 'No, they're not doing it right.'"

The Dreier Disciples know there is a certain way he expects things to be run. It was that way in the 1980s, and '90s, and 2000s.

"Sometimes when he calls [plays]," Trisha Hanson says, "I know exactly what's going to happen."

That Dreier has lasted nearly half a century at one school is a testament to his success, of course, but also his ability to earn the trust of players and parents across multiple generations.

He describes his coaching style as demanding but caring. His booming voice can sound intimidating echoing across the gym. He is a perfectionist with details and fundamentals.

"He'll look at the way you shoot the ball," says Delaney Hanson, "and he'll know exactly what you did wrong."

Coaching longevity also requires a willingness to adapt and innovate. A recent practice began with every player in the program putting on goggles that look like those worn in racquetball. Some players made theirs sparkle by bedazzling them. The goggles obscure vision at the bottom, forcing players to keep their eyes up in ballhandling drills.

Dreier insists that players understand where they should be positioned on the court "by the inch almost," says his middle son Matt, head girls coach at Annandale High. When executed properly, New London-Spicer's 2-3 zone and various full-court presses function as five players flowing in unison, as if tethered by a string.

"The kids know exactly where they're supposed to be in every moment," Matt says.

His dad's coaching can sound old-school gruff, but he wants nothing more than to bring the best out of his players. He also knows how to lift them up with his jokes and praise. His players greet him at the gym with a playful, "What's up Dreier?"

"He's got the biggest heart," says Trisha Hanson, a 1994 graduate. "He's just a big teddy bear."

Family ties

Few people know that side of Dreier better than Rich, the father of four girls who have played for Dreier, including current junior Dakota.

Rich bounced between foster homes growing up in New London, his mother too ill to care for him. Rich was told near the end of his freshman year that he had to move to Willmar to live with a new foster family. He was devastated to leave his friends and school.

When Dreier heard that news, he offered to let Rich live with him. Single and in his late 20s, Dreier became Rich's foster parent for his final three years of high school.

"He needed a stable life," Dreier says.

Rich played college football and baseball at Southwest Minnesota State, then returned to New London to start a family and real estate career. He and his wife had four daughters in five years, incapable of knowing then that Dreier would still be around to coach them or that three of the Rich girls would become 1,000-point scorers.

All four sisters played on the same team — and together on the court at times — a few years ago.

"I was recruiting back then but didn't know it," jokes Dreier about his stint as a foster parent.

He has won a remarkable 85% of his games, a few of those victories coming at the expense of his son, Matt, now that their schools share a conference. Dad calls it "uncomfortable" coaching against his son. He still wants to win but he doesn't want Matt to lose.

Matt didn't install his dad's 2-3 zone, choosing instead to tailor schemes around his talent and carve out his own coaching style. The lessons learned as a coach's kid are immeasurable, though. The Dreier web stretches far and wide in Minnesota, leaving Matt to marvel at how often he faces an opponent that has some connection to his dad.

"He will be the last to take credit for any of the success that he's had," Matt says.

Youngest son Joey, now 29, experiences that humility every day as his dad's assistant coach. Joey's goal is to take over as head coach once his dad retires, but he hopes that day remains far in the distance.

"I want to enjoy as much of this as possible," Joey says. "Who gets to coach with their dad and be able to develop and learn from him every day?"

As for the finish line, Dreier shrugs when asked about it. "Could be anytime, I don't know," he says. Too many other things to focus on.

He and wife Vonnie now have five grandchildren after Matt and Joey welcomed newborns five days apart in February.

"Grandma's in heaven," Dreier says.

Grandpa, too. He has enough grandbabies to run a 2-3 zone, and his basketball team is 26-2 and vying for another state tournament appearance.

A third state championship would be a sweet topper to an unparalleled career, but Dreier has never defined success by his record. He's only asked that each of his 46 varsity teams fulfill its potential, whatever that might be.

"You get a group of kids who are going to give everything they've got every day," he says. "Whatever they achieve is what they worked to get to."

He intends to keep that perspective as he tries to keep on winning, because, as noted, Mike Dreier is not necessarily a big-change person.