September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Basketball to the barn

Settergren recalls Gopher Men's Basketball team championship in 1971-72
Don Settergren, who milks near Dassel Minn., holds the plaque he received 40 years ago after the Gopher Men’s Basketball team he managed in 1971-1972 took the championship title. Photo by Emily Lahr
Don Settergren, who milks near Dassel Minn., holds the plaque he received 40 years ago after the Gopher Men’s Basketball team he managed in 1971-1972 took the championship title. Photo by Emily Lahr

By By emily lahr- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

DASSEL, Minn - It has been 40 years since dairy farmer, Don Settergren, managed the Minnesota Gopher Men's Basketball team during their championship in 1971-1972, but a memory like that is hard to forget.
"It was an amazing year," said Settergren, who was a junior at the University of Minnesota and in his first year of vet school.
Settergren milks 60 cows and runs 200 acres with his brother near Dassel, Minn. Recently, he celebrated a 40-year reunion with the championship team he helped managed while in college.
Settergren became a manager of the team his freshmen year in 1969 and served until 1975. He said he saw a notice in the college paper and applied for the position.
"I thought there would be a lot of interest, but I was the first one to apply," Settergren said.
His responsibilities were getting the practice uniforms ready for the players, help with rebound during practices, assisting the coaches and helping at games.
"The managers are the first ones there and the last ones to leave," Settergren said.
It was a miracle the team won that year. Bill Musselman was going into his first year as head coach and the team only had two or three returning players.
Anyone who follows basketball remembers the big fight that broke out early in the season between Minnesota and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Two of the Gopher players were suspended for the rest of the year.
Settergren said it was pretty much only five guys who played the entire season; those five players had played on five different teams the year before.
"Not a lot was expected of the team," Settergren said.
The coach stressed defense; he wanted the best defensive team in the nation.
"That was the reason they won, because they played good defense," Settergren said.
He did not travel with the basketball team because of his demanding vet school schedule, but he made it to the last game of the season against Purdue University. The Gophers won by one point, which ended an exciting season.
Some of the players from that team went on to play professionally. Settergren got to work with Jim Brewer, who was the best known player. He played for the 1972 Olympic basketball team and later for the NBA after school.
Dave Winfield was also on the team. He was at the U of M on a baseball scholarship, but after playing well on the champion intramural basketball team, he was invited to play for the Gophers as a starter. He later went on to play baseball for the New York Yankees, California Angels, Minnesota Twins and others, and was elected as a Baseball Hall of Famer in 2001.
Settergren said one time when he was helping the opposing team at a game, he got to sit next to the UCLA defending national champion team's head coach, John Wooden.
Somehow he balanced his college schedule and basketball management but he said college always came first. He learned to manage his time from growing up on the farm and playing sports.
"I was use to being busy [in high school]," said Settergren. "It helped to fill in the schedule, especially the first few years before vet school. You learned how to take responsibilities, and that was what managing was; it wasn't new."
Settergren played basketball and football in high school. It was his older brother, Paul, who started in sports and the younger brothers followed.
"My mother became the fan," said Settergren. "Dad stayed home with chores and mom came to the games."
He remembers getting up in the morning and doing chores before school. After he graduated in 1975 from the U of M, he came back home to help run the home farm and do some relief vet work. Gradually, his brother, Peter, partnered with him and they took over the farm in 1979. They became the third generation on their family farm that was established in 1919.
Although most of his day is focused on his herd, Settergren still gets Gopher Basketball season tickets and tries to make it to as many home games as he can. The night and road games he listens to in the barn.
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