Girls basketball: Another milestone is in the making for New London-Spicer's Mike Dreier
Veteran girls basketball coach goes for his state-record 1,000th career victory Tuesday against the Litchfield Dragons.
NEW LONDON — With Mike Dreier on the cusp of his 1,000th career victory, those involved with the New London-Spicer girls basketball program expect a large crowd Tuesday.
One who won’t be there is Vonnie Dreier, Mike’s wife. She’s on an annual vacation in Mexico to a family timeshare.
That’s fine with Mike, though Vonnie is usually keeping the Wildcats’ official scorebook.
Making a big deal of his looming milestone isn’t his focus. It’s always been about the task at hand and that’s getting NLS ready for an important Wright County Conference game against Litchfield, a good team.
He doesn’t plan to even bring up the milestone to his players unless it’s needed to assure them it’s just a number and that the Dragons represent an important game to their season.
Dreier already is the winningest girls basketball coach in state history and has been since 1995 when he surpassed Carol Visness of Kittson County Central, according to Matthew Pederson of Starbuck, a Minnesota high school basketball historian and stats freak.
Dreier also ranks 12th nationally for career victories.
His main concern? “It might be extra motivation for them (the Dragons),” Dreier said. “I’m not sure how our team will react. My players, they might try too hard to get it. I just want them to play their regular game to the best of their ability and worry about the task at hand. That’s what we’ll try to do, anyway. Of course, if we lose, it’s just another game.”
The Dragons are 12-6, tall and athletic. New London-Spicer is 14-1 and not tall after having three 6-footers in the lineup last year.
“Litchfield is a good team,” Dreier said. “We’ll need to play well and even if we do play well, we might not win.”
Not winning much hasn’t been a problem for Dreier, 70, who took over as head coach at age 26 and hasn’t looked back. He holds the state record for most state tournament appearances with 19 and set a state record with 21 consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins from 1991 through 2011, according to Peterson. He’s currently on another streak of nine consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins from 2013 through 2021, with this season representing a good opportunity to again surpass the 20-win mark.
Dreier is highly complimentary of the great families and community support he has experienced over the years. Long retired as a social studies and physical education teacher, he said he seriously thought of retiring a few years ago.
“Our numbers in the program were down and I thought it might be time to get a fresh face to lead it,” he said. “But they came back right after that.
“As long as we have so many enthusiastic kids to work with that we do, I’ll try to be a part of it as long as that’s happening.”
Joey Dreier, Mike’s son and in his fifth year as an assistant coach, said his father’s success is partially based on his drive, focus and intensity, but also on what the program has become.
“It doesn’t start at the varsity level,” Joey Dreier said. “It’s the youth coaches getting players to all the tournaments and teaching the fundamentals.
“It all starts in the off-season. You need parents and community members who coach to have bought in and they have. We have wonderful coaches and parents.”
It’s also helped that his family is around him. Joey’s on the bench and lives kitty-corner from his parents with his wife and young daughter. Vonnie’s usually at the scorer’s table. Son Matt is the head girls basketball coach at Annandale, another Wright County Conference rival. Son Tim lives in Las Vegas, where Mike makes an annual trip after every basketball season. Tim has bought property back home in the New London area and is planning to build a house, Joey said.
Mike, one of nine children and a 1969 Burnsville High School graduate, is in good health. He works out regularly and takes walks. Retired for 10 years, he gets plenty of time to study video, usually at school, and prepare for practices and games. A night owl, it’s not unusual to find him at school doing just that after practices and games.
In games, he’s the definition of intense. He yells when needed, mostly at his players but also the occasional official. Talk to him off the court and he’s cordial, polite and affable.
Joey said growing up with him as his father was interesting.
“He parents like he coaches,” Joey said with a chuckle. “There was no messing around.”
It’s added up to 999 career wins and counting.
Next on the list is Minnesota’s all-time boys basketball coaching wins leader, Bob McDonald of Chisholm who retired in 2014 with 1,012 career victories. But, no doubt, he’s not spending much time thinking about it.
There’s another tough Wright County game on Friday with Watertown-Mayer and then a game Saturday at St. Clair near Mankato. It’s a Cancer Awareness Night and an opponent Mike knows little about, saying former activities director John Vraa added it when both schools were looking for a game.
“To tell you the truth, I hadn’t even heard of St. Clair until I knew we were playing them,” said Dreier, who admitted he has already watched “a little” video of the Cyclones. “This is a really big week for us.”
New London-Spicer girls basketball coach Mike Dreier has 999 career wins heading into Tuesday’s game with Litchfield (7:15 p.m. at New London).
Here’s a look at his career with statistics compiled by Matthew Pederson of Starbuck:
- He has a 999-184 career record in 44 seasons.
- State tournament appearances: 1985 (5th place); 1987 (fourth); 1988 (third); 1991 (second); 1992 (second); 1993 (second); 1994 (second); 1995 (third); 1997 (first); 2001 (second); 2002 (first); 2003: 2004; 2009 (third); 2014; 2016 (second); 2017 (fourth); 2020; 2021.
- Career win No. 700 came on Dec. 2, 2009 vs. Eden Valley-Watkins.
- Career win No. 800 came Jan. 18, 2014 vs. Paynesville.
- Career win No. 900 came Jan. 2, 2018 vs. Montevideo.
- NLS was a member of the West Central Conference from 1982-2012. In 31 seasons, NLS never finished below second place, winning 24 conference championships. The Wildcats’ record was 366-32 (92.0%).