Denfeld News

July 1, 2010
Duluth News Tribune

Spring prep coaches get picked for Duluth schools
By Rick Weegman

Somebody may have to make sure Nat Brown ends up in the right dugout when Duluth East’s softball team plays the combined Denfeld-Central team next year.

Brown, Central’s varsity coach the past 10 seasons, was hired to coach East when the Duluth school district announced its spring coaching hires Wednesday in preparation for moving to a two-high school system in the 2010-11 school year.

“The weirdest thing about this whole thing will be next year when I go, as the coach at East, up to Central to play Denfeld-Central,” Brown said. “Sitting in that other dugout will be bizarre. I’ve coached every home game at that field since it was built.”

Brown, a 1985 Central graduate, recalls the schools’ rivalry as heated.
“They were our natural rival, the ones who in assemblies — and it didn’t matter who we were playing — we’d chant, ‘Beat East!’ That rivalry is going to be missed,” said Brown, a special education assistant in the district, mainly at Morgan Park Middle School, the past 14 years. “But it’s a good opportunity with the schools consolidating. There may be fewer (roster) spots, but it’s a chance to build a really strong program.”

Brown’s wife, Lisa, is a 1986 East graduate and their daughter, Ella, will be an eighth-grader at Woodland Middle School this coming year and attend East in 2011-12, so he had no reservations about applying to coach the Greyhounds.

Longtime Denfeld coach Dick Swanson, who retired earlier this year after teaching social studies at Denfeld full-time since 1987, was retained to coach the consolidated program. The 61-year-old Swanson, a 1966 Denfeld graduate, reached the Rule of 90 (combination age and years of service) in February, but didn’t want to stop coaching.

“This is an opportunity to still teach,” Swanson said. “It gives me a chance to hang around kids; you get old in a hurry if you’re not around younger people. I enjoy it.”

Swanson, who coached softball at Central from 1984-87 and spent nearly 20 years in charge of the Hunters’ girls basketball program, said he expects players to handle the changes without much difficulty. That was evident, Swanson said, when the Denfeld and Central players held an impromptu on-field dance together during a rain/fog delay at a game this spring.

“I’m a little more concerned about how the parents deal with it than how the kids do,” Swanson said. “The kids work things out and understand it.”

Other spring coaches hired at Central were: Greg Goman (boys track and field); Chad DeRosier (boys and girls golf); Paul Sandholm (boys tennis); Pat Bergquist (baseball); and Erik Hanson (girls track). East’s coaching hires included: Brian Rud (boys and girls golf); John Rudolph (baseball); and Dave Wicker (boys track).

Tim Sworsky, human resources manager for the school district, said the East boys tennis and girls track and field openings will be reposted after only one person applied for the tennis job and nobody applied for track.

“The one applicant (for tennis) was not a returning head coach, and we wanted to see if we could find any additional applicants,” Sworsky said. “I wouldn’t say that person won’t be considered — they will be considered — but we wanted to see some other applicants.”

That conflicts with what current East boys tennis coach Mark Welinski believes. Welinski sent an e-mail to administration officials earlier this month indicating he was not re-applying for the position due to his displeasure with the process used in hiring winter sports coaches. But he reversed course after talking to supportive parents and players and re-applied shortly before the deadline last week.

“There’s only one applicant, as far as I know, and it’s me,” Welinski said.

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