Former Madison and Lac qui Parle Valley basketball and current golf coach Dan Besonen passed away on Saturday of an apparent heart attack. He was 69.
Besonen left behind a legacy and a lot of positive memories.
"Dan was a mentor to many fellow teachers and coaches, including myself," said Dick Newman, a former Madison baseball and wrestling coach. "He was respected by all his peers and students and used the E.F. Hutton approach; when Dan spoke, people listened. He was a real student of the game, whatever it was."
Besonen was a standout high school pitcher, as well as a football and basketball player for Litchfield, graduating in 1957. Upon his graduation, he signed a pro contract with the San Francisco Giants and played from 1957-59 in what would now be classified as Class A.
He got to rub shoulders with legendary Giants pitcher Juan Marichal, as well as other major leaguers during his brief tenure that was abruptly ended due to an arm injury.
He then went to St. Cloud State to get his teaching degree and landed his first job as a teacher and head boys basketball and track coach in Java, S.D. He was there for six years before moving to Madison in 1970, where he was head baseball coach from 1970-78. Newman took over for him as head baseball coach so Besonen could coach boys and girls golf. He was the boys coach from 1980 until last spring and the girls coach from 1980 until Madison became part of Lac qui Parle Valley in 1990. Besonen was a senior high social studies teacher until his retirement in 2000.
"I think I will always remember that my father tried to incorporate life lessons into his coaching," said his son Barry, a 1988 Madison graduate, who is also the Ridgewater College assistant men's basketball coach. "He was so good with his teaching skills. All coaches have the X's and O's part of it. But I think kids learned from the example he set and the way he conducted himself."
Dan amassed at 311-279 record in 27 years of coaching boys and girls basketball, and he took two boys golf teams to state in 1993 and '94. He also coached two individual state champions and his 1993 team was the state runner-up.
"Last Thursday I was sitting by myself in the corner of the Yellow Medicine East gym in Granite Falls scouting Minnewaska," said Benson boys basketball and boys golf coach Roger Lindahl. "And who should see me but 'Bes'. He said he knew I would be there because I scout a lot and he had checked the paper to see where he thought I would be. He was always at a game somewhere. I ran into him a lot at various games. He always went around the area to watch games. He was a classic."