As Brian Hegseth enters his final week as activities director at Centennial, he anticipates a pleasant sensation a couple months from now.
“I’m kind of looking forward to that first August since kindergarten to roll around, without going back to school,” said Hegseth, 64, who's ending a 42-year education career.
But it’s been a great ride for the former basketball coach who arrived in 1991 to become the first full-time A.D. at Centennial, which had just gotten big enough to need one. He's held the post for 27 years.
Asked what he enjoyed most about the job, Hegseth said it was watching the school steadily grow — and handling all that growth entailed. “We needed to learn to compete at the large school level, and we have done so,” he said.
Also: “Helping determine the culture of our athletic teams as we share common values as a coaching and leadership staff. Seeing young people grow, learn and compete! Working daily with wonderful people, dedicated professionals.”
A singular defining moment was the Cougar boys hockey team under coach Erik Aus breaking through in 2004 to capture the school’s first state championship in any sport.
”That kind of proved we could do it, and we have been very strong in numerous programs since then. We have a number of programs that are section title threats year in and year out. And our music programs are second to none.”
Hegseth, whose official final day is June 30, hired all the current coaches, except Neil Kruse in cross country and Mark Quinn in speech/drama, who’ve been there longer than him. Overseeing the staffs starting July 1 will be his successor, Brian Jamros, who’s been A.D. at two small Lutheran colleges.
Growing up on a farm, Hegseth enjoyed just about everything a high school has to offer as a student at tiny Wanamingo High School. He was in football, basketball, baseball, track, and class plays, and played trombone in the band. That’s also where he met his wife Penny.
Hegseth planned to play football at Hamline, but suffered a back injury that ended his playing career. However, he ended up with an exciting role in the basketball program as a student coach, heading the JV team his last two years and assisting on the Pipers varsity which reached the NCAA Division III Final Four.
“That was a great experience that prepared me for head coaching when I graduated,” said Hegseth, who later earned a masters in Athletic Administration from St. Thomas.
He was boys basketball coach at St. Paul Academy for six years and at Forest Lake for nine years, while teaching physical education — and tasted some coaching success.
“At SPA, we won the school’s first basketball conference championship. At Forest Lake, we had the good fortune to win the section championship and go to state (1988) for the first time in school history. Fire truck ride through town and the whole deal – lots of fun.”
Brian and Penny’s three sons were basketball players at Forest Lake and went on to interesting careers — Pete, 38, with Fox News in New York’ Nate, 36, with the U.S. Embassy in Chile; and Phil, 26, with Hudson Institute, a policy think tank, in Washington.
There’s also four grandchildren and another on the way. Hegseth said he no concrete post-retirement plans yet, except: “My three sons all live a ways away, so we will do more visits with them and be involved with our grandkids.”