BARNESVILLE, Minn. — Todd Henrickson has been on a bench coaching basketball in the area since 1983. His career began coaching seventh-graders in Moorhead and will end coaching high school in Barnesville.

Henrickson, 55, has decided to walk away from coaching, handing over the Trojans varsity boys basketball team to longtime assistant Chad Suter. Henrickson will stay on as principal of Atkinson Elementary School and athletic director of Barnesville High School.

"I always wanted to leave the program in good shape," Henrickson said. "I think we have some great leaders coming back. It felt like now was the right time."

Henrickson fell in love with basketball in third grade. Saturdays were spent putting on gym clothes and running drills with the varsity players of Ulen-Hitterdal.

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"Those were the guys we sat and watched on Tuesday and Friday nights," Henrickson said. "That sold me."

Henrickson played for Ulen-Hitterdal in high school and played a couple years of junior varsity for Concordia in college. That's when the idea of his basketball career changed.

"Basketball has always been my first love," Henrickson said. "It's the greatest sport in my opinion. I wanted a career as a player, but reality set in pretty quickly at Concordia. They were bigger, faster and stronger than me. I knew I wanted to be a physical education teacher and basketball coach. I've been able to live my dream."

Henrickson got his first coaching job coaching seventh-grade boys basketball in Moorhead in 1983. He moved to eighth-grade boys at Agassiz School in Fargo in 1985. In 1986, he headed to Fargo South where he was a freshman girls basketball coach and assistant varsity girls basketball coach until 1997. From 1994-96, he was also an assistant varsity boys basketball coach, serving as the interim head coach in 1996.

"I got my start with some phenomenal coaches, and I owe them more than they will ever know," Henrickson said.

The rest was Barnesville, as Henrickson took over the Barnesville varsity boys basketball team in 1997. He coached 22 years at Barnesville, winning a section title in 1999, ending a 24-year drought. The Trojans have won three section titles in school history, winning in 1919, 1975 and 1999.

Barnesville won the section title with Henrickson on March 12, 1999, in Bemidji, Minn. The Trojans beat Sebeka 65-56 for the Class 1A, Section 6 title behind 44 points combined between Brady Carlsrud and Jay Jerger. The team expected to take the bus ride back to Barnesville, walk into the gym, get their stuff and go home.

Instead, the players were escorted to the stage and were greeted by most of the community and the pep band.

"I get goosebumps thinking about it, it was the thrill of a lifetime," Henrickson said. "Getting the opportunity to coach in Barnesville was huge for me, getting to come back to a small town and lead my own program. The support and they way you're treated in a small community, there's nothing better."

Henrickson says he'll miss all the intricacies and things away from the court that goes into being a coach.

"It's always on your mind," Henrickson said. "You're always looking for things to make your team better. It's a 12-month-a-year job. With Twitter and Facebook, there's all these different resources and that's great. I love the game. If I didn't, I would have got out a long time ago."

At the same time, he won't miss time away from family.

"Without the love and support of my wife, Lori, sons Taylor and Jason and daughter, Brooke, I would have not been able to do this," Henrickson said. "They mean everything to me."

Henrickson will finish his coaching career 344-254 as a head coach. More importantly for him, he's finishing his career still loving the game.

"I wanted to get out while I still enjoyed it," Henrickson said. "It's never seemed like work to me. I love the scouting, watching film, working the camps, going to clinics. There's not a single part of this job that I have not loved. It would have been a disservice to the kids to wait until I didn't love the game to walk away."