They played basketball at the same high school and college. They were assistant coaches at the same college. And now they can say they have been head coaches at the same college.
Despite all the identical stops, the paths in the basketball careers of Thomas Dryburgh and Adam Jacobson never really crossed.
Within the last month, Dryburgh stepped down as the head women’s basketball coach at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton to become the girls basketball coach and career advisor/workbase learning coordinator at Moorhead High School. Coincidentally, a few weeks later, Jacobson was named Dryburgh’s replacement.
“It seems like each time I got done at one place, he was on my tail,” said Jacobson, who this time was on Dryburgh’s tail.
It all goes back to 1998 when Jacobson was a standout freshman who helped Fargo Shanley win a North Dakota Class A boys state basketball championship. Dryburgh transferred to Shanley one year after Jacobson graduated in 2001.
Jacobson ended up playing for Rich Glas at the University of North Dakota where he averaged 10 points per game as a senior. Dryburgh, after playing two years at Science where he was the team’s most valuable player, ended up playing at UND after Jacobson graduated.
Both ended up being assistant coaches at UND — before Dryburgh landed his first head coaching job at Science in 2014. Like Dryburgh, Jacobson now is a head coach for the first time at Science.
“I think it is one of the better jobs you can get,” Jacobson said. “Tom Dryburgh did a great job with this program. You can come into this job and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is a lot of tradition here with the women’s program.”
Dryburgh did indeed do a great job at Science. In his six seasons at the two-year school, Dryburgh had six 20-win seasons, three NJCAA Division I national tournament appearances and an impressive 156-37 record. Dryburgh’s team had a 27-6 record this past season, advancing to a national tournament that was never held due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a book that is left without an ending,” Dryburgh said. “I am leaving after we had one of the better teams that we’ve had here. We are not leaving on a bad note or a sour note at all. It’s all bittersweet.”
Dryburgh said making the move from a junior college to the high school level goes deeper than the coaching side of it. He and his wife Sherri, who have an 11-year-old son and daughters ages 9 and 5, discovered a lot of pluses with the move to the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“It will be a change,” said Dryburgh, who is also looking forward to his job as career advisor. “Realistically, it’s not much different than coaching. You give students the tools to be successful. And with this job, maybe there will be a little bit more freedom to watch our kids do their thing.”
Jacobson and his wife Ann, meanwhile, have a 1-year-old daughter and are expecting their second child in late August. Jacobson finds himself finally settling down after 12 years of a long-and-winding coaching road that took him from Scottsdale, Ariz., to Sioux Falls, S.D., to Jamestown, N.D., to Gillette, Wyo., to Grand Forks and Bismarck.
There was even a time Jacobson was thinking about becoming a policeman, attending a four-month long police academy in Fargo.
“I realized it wasn’t my personality,” Jacobson said. “When I went through the academy, it was a great experience. I have a ton of respect for that profession. I was just more geared towards the coaching aspect of things.”
That makes sense. His dad is longtime coach Tim Jacobson, who has had coaching stints at Finley-Sharon High School, Lake Region Community College, Shanley, Roseville (Minn.) and most recently at the head girls coach at Fargo Davies. Jacobson’s brother Nick was a standout men's basketball player at Utah before playing overseas for eight years. And Jacobson’s cousin, Ben, has been the Northern Iowa men’s basketball coach for the last 14 years.
In the last 12 years, Jacobson has worked with six different coaches — like Augustana men’s coach Tom Billeter, UND women’s coach Travis Brewster and most recently University of Mary women’s coach Rick Neumann.
“I’ve been grinding away for these last 12 years,” Jacobson said. “It’s been good to work with a lot of different coaches. I’ve taken a little bit from each of them.
“Now this is what it had led to. To be honest, I wasn’t ready for this four or five years ago. It wasn’t until the last three years that I really started thinking about being a head coach.”
In addition to being a head coach, Jacobson will also be in charge of the athletic department’s fundraising, marketing and promotions. That means shaking more hands in the community of Wahpeton than a typical head coach is accustomed to.
But Jacobson said he is looking forward to that challenge as well. And he is more than willing to listen to advice that he got from Dryburgh.
“I just told him that it’s a great community and that the community is behind the Cats,” Dryburgh said. “I told him just come in, be yourself and do your thing.”