Cobbers head coach turns to father to be one of his assistants
When Grant Hemmingsen found out last December he was going to be the next head men's basketball coach at Concordia, he knew where to first look for an assistant coach.
There was going to be some sort of family flavor.
"It was going to be my brother or my dad," said Hemmingsen, now in his first year as Cobbers head coach. "It was always a plan that whoever became a head coach first, we were always going to be together. The dream would be three."
Hemmingson turned to his father, George Hemmingsen III, to fill out one of the assistant spots on his staff. The move made sense for the 33-year-old Hemmingsen, starting his first collegiate head coaching job this season.
In his father, Hemmingsen added experience and someone he could trust to his staff.
"He's always been my sounding board after games," Hemmingsen said. "I've always bounced ideas off him so I trust him with my basketball knowledge and his basketball knowledge."
The Cobbers (3-5, 1-3 MIAC) next play host to St. Scholastica on Saturday, Dec. 30, to end a two-week break from games. Concordia resumes Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play on Wednesday, Jan. 3, when it hosts St. John's at Memorial Auditorium.
"Sometimes he puts the clamps on me so it's kind of funny because I've had to put the clamps on him before," George Hemmingsen III said with a laugh.
Grant said his parents got him interested in basketball. His mother, Brenda, was his first traveling team coach. His father played men's basketball at the University of Jamestown and then was an assistant coach for the Jimmies. He also coached at St. Paul Academy for 10 years.
The older Hemmingsen remembers when his oldest son, George Hemmingsen IV, and Grant would go to St. Paul Academy (Minn,) sophomore basketball games when both were in their youth.
"They would disappear in the back gym for three hours. I don't think they ever watched our game. That is where they got the love," he said.
"I grew up in the gym," added Grant, who graduated from Mounds View High School (Minn.) in 2002 and also played college basketball at Augsburg. "I was always in the gym. The court has kind of been a home for us."
George Hemmingsen IV got Grant his first college coaching job. Both were assistant coaches for Kentucky Wesleyan, an NCAA Division II program in Owensboro. Grant coached for the Panthers from 2010-2013 before he became a Cobbers assistant in 2013.
"Every change I got, I brought him with me," George Hemmingsen IV said. "He rejected me most of the summer when I offered him an assistant job there (Kentucky Wesleyan). ... Once he got his feet wet, he knew that this was what he was meant to do."
George Hemmingsen IIII is a part-time assistant for the Cobbers as he lives in New Brighton, Minn. He was in Moorhead for the first full week of practice this season. He makes it to every road game and Concordia home games played on the weekend.
Grant said his core coaching philosophies are similar to his father. They both like hard-nosed, man-to-man defense and pushing the pace off turnovers. In their last game before the break, the Cobbers lost 90-78 at home against Bethel on Dec. 16.
The dad gave one of the speeches in the locker room postgame.
"Almost the exact same speech I gave the team two days (earlier) about leadership," Grant said with a laugh. "I had to jump in and tell the guys, 'Can you tell we're from the same blood.' "
His brother watches Concordia games online when it works with his coaching schedule. He said he beamed with pride last December when he watched the stream of his younger sibling being named as the successor to former Cobbers head coach Rich Glas.
"At the end of the day it's awesome all three of us get to experience the game we love," he said.
Grant takes comfort in knowing his dad is on the bench during games and his older brother is a phone call away.
"It's nice because I have two coaches who are always trying to make me better," Grant said. "We're just very passionate people. All three of us as coaches, we love the sport."