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Chris Murphy, Published November 29 2012

Friendship on opposing benches: Former classmates make switch from boys to girls basketball to be closer to family

Glyndon, Minn.

Fergus Falls girls basketball coach Brad Strand has a framed picture of a moment that his old Hawley teammate, fellow 1986 graduate and current Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton coach Tom Critchley Jr. would rather not relive.

It’s a picture of Pelican Rapids’ Casey Restad going up for a layup with a scoreboard in the background showing 1 second remaining and Strand’s Vikings squad down one. Critchley is featured in the photo with his hands on his hips, defenseless to stop what’s coming against his Ulen-Hitterdal team. Strand doesn’t remember his record versus Critchley in his 22 years of coaching boys basketball, but he’ll always have a reminder of that game.

“It was a kiss off the glass,” Strand said before his Fergus Falls girls basketball squad knocked off D-G-F 75-57 Thursday. “I can’t tell you what my record is against him, but I know we won that one.”

Critchley has a better memory.

“That was the one time he beat us,” Critchley said. “We beat them like three times after that.”

Strand’s record coaching girls high school basketball moved to 1-0 all-time Thursday.

Critchley’s girls basketball record in Minnesota moved to 1-1 overall, as the two coaches, whose friendship spans over three decades, both made the move to Minnesota girls basketball this season after nearly 40 years of Minnesota boys basketball coaching between them.

They may be on opposite benches, but there’s a lot the two coaches agree upon.

Both left coaching boys basketball – Strand from Pelican Rapids and Critchley from Marshall – for a chance to spend more time with their daughters. Strand is currently coaching his daughter Bailey at FF, and Critchley has the possibility of coaching his four daughters at D-G-F.

“The last couple of years, I’d be coaching 26 games and scouting games and my daughters would be playing 26 games and I was missing them,” Strand said. “Now I get to coach my daughter.”

As best friends from sixth grade often do, the two decided the change together.

“A high school coach today has so much going on with youth programs and such,” Critchley said. “I was having a hard time being part of my daughters’ basketball careers. (Strand and I) always talked about changing when we were in the summertime in the gym with boys and our daughters were off playing somewhere else. It’s not a guarantee I’ll get to coach them, but it’s nice to have the chance now.”

They also share a mentor in their old high school coach and Critchley’s father, Tom Critchley Sr.

“I can’t say enough good things about Critchley Sr.,” Strand said. “It’s amazing how many coaches have come from playing for him.”

Strand watched his daughter Bailey sink a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead Fergus Falls in the Otters’ season opener.

“It’s special to be with my own kid,” Strand said. “It’s not only special to coach her, but the rest of this group. It’s one thing to coach her in club or AAU settings, but to represent a community like Fergus Falls with her is something special.”

FF (1-0): Smith 4-0-1 8, Strand 10-4-4 29, Rasmusson 5-5-8 16, Traiser 2-0-0 2, Swenson 1-1-2 3, Monke 5-1-1 12, Capouch 0-1-2 1, Sawtell 1-0-0 2, Boese 1-0-0 2

D-G-F (1-1): Mercil 6-8-11 20, Bergee 2-8-8 12, Highness 0-1-3 1, Honek 0-2-4 2, Molstre 4-3-4 12, Geiser 1-1-2 3, Zutz 0-2-2 2, Driscoll 1-0-0 3, Larson 1-0-0 2.

Half: FF 35, D-G-F 29. 3-point goals: Strand 5, Rasmusson 1, Monke 1, Molstre 1, Driscoll 1. Total fouls: FF 24, D-G-F 18. Rebounds: FF 24 (Rasmusson 7, Swenson 5), D-G-F 26 (Mercil 10). Turnovers: FF 15, D-G-F 24.

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Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548