Terry Culhane was an all-around athlete at Marshall High School. He attended the hometown university, Southwest Minnesota State, where he participated in basketball and baseball, although not with regularity during games.
He graduated in 1979 and landed a teaching and coaching job in Milroy, a tiny high school 15 miles to the east. He returned to Southwest State a quarter-century later as a volleyball coach of regional notoriety, and turned the Mustangs into high-level competitors in the fierce Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference for nearly two decades.
And now, 66 this summer and having lost his closest friend, Paul Soupir, to cancer last December, he has decided a bit more relaxed time with wife Sandy, two daughters and other friends might be the way to go.
The school announced last week that Culhane will retire at season's end, which could be later this week in the Northern Sun tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.
On the surface, Culhane comes off as someone who already might have relaxation down, but that's only true for non-athletes who had no practice time with Culhane in volleyball or girls' basketball.
Taylor Reiss was a two-time AVCA Division II national volleyball player of the year for Culhane in 2017 and 2018. Shannon Bolden (now Nelson) was a superstar basketball player for Culhane at Marshall High School.
When asked what's behind Culhane's success, they offered a similar theory.
Reiss: "He really pushed you. He expected you to give your all. Some players might have looked at it as too much. To me, I appreciated it. He never wanted you to slack off. His goal was for you as an athlete was to get the best out of yourself."
Nelson: "He was tough, and he was a great guy. He was both. As a coach, he had high expectations. He knew what you were capable of, and he wouldn't allow you to sell yourself short. He would not permit it."
Culhane's successful coaching run could not have come from a shakier foundation.
He was looking for a teaching job after graduation from Southwest State. Milroy had an opening for a grade-school teacher and a girls' varsity basketball coach. He was told the job would be his, with one caveat:
He would also have to become the school's first varsity volleyball coach. What was Culhane's volleyball knowledge in the late summer of 1979?
"I didn't know anything," Culhane said. "The one thing I did have was Dave Ahmann as a friend. He was coaching Marshall's volleyball team and they were already good. I spent a lot of time with him.
"He took me to a clinic at Apple Valley. There were national coaches speaking there. I said to Ahmann, 'Dave, they might as well have been speaking Russian.'"
He turned to what would become the Culhane method for coaching: Don't sell yourself short.
By Season 5 in 1983, Milroy was in the Class A volleyball tournament. It helped that Culhane had his first sensational athlete in Mary Jo Miller, then an eighth-grader.
"Mary Jo started for me in basketball as a seventh-grader," Culhane said. "She was an amazing kid. She could have played for me in the fourth grade, if it wasn't for high school league rules."
On Tuesday, Mary Jo Miller (now Hmielewski) was asked about that, laughed slightly and said: "With seven players on his team, he might have taken me."
Milroy merged with Tracy for the 1986-87 school year. The merged schools won their first state title in basketball with Miller as a senior in 1988, when she was also named Ms. Basketball.
Culhane continued to coach volleyball and basketball. State championships started to arrive for Tracy-Milroy:
Five Class A volleyball titles in seven seasons from 1990 through 1996; Class A basketball titles in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
Culhane was hired by Marshall High to teach and coach basketball for the fall of 1997. "I was told that also coaching volleyball at a school that size was not doable," he said. "Three years later, they changed their minds."
Culhane added volleyball in 2000. Marshall had Bolden and other standouts and won Class 3A basketball titles in 2001 and 2002. The volleyball team also went to the state tournament from 2001 to 2003, reaching the title match in 2002, before Southwest State hired Culhane to coach volleyball in January of 2004.
When talking of his greatest athletes, Culhane mentions Bolden in the same sentence with Reiss and Mary Jo Miller.
"Was Shannon a volleyball player?" he was asked Tuesday.
Pause. "No," Culhane said. Pause. "She was in marching band." Pause. "Marching band."
Shannon Nelson, now the successful basketball coach at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls, Minn., laughed when Culhane's reaction was mentioned.
"I can hear him," she said. "I loved volleyball. I don't know why I chose marching band my last two years."
Two decades later, as retirement beckons, neither does Terry Culhane.