BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. — Stevin Lipp thinks it’s only natural that he became the Breckenridge boys basketball coach. It’s in his blood.
The 21-year-old coach’s grandfather, Steve Lipp, was a longtime head coach at Breckenridge, his father, Rollie Lipp, and his uncles played for the Cowboys, and Rollie called their games on the radio for years.
Stevin himself is just four years removed from his own decorated high school basketball career. He helped Breckenridge to two state tournament appearances, scored more than 1,000 career points and holds the school’s single-game scoring record at 41.
On Friday, the Cowboys earned his first career coaching victory, an 87-45 home win over Upsala.
“I don’t think too much about the history,” Lipp said. “It’s just something that’s in our blood. It’s just natural that I ended up in this role. It had nothing to do with wanting to chase a legacy or follow in anybody’s footsteps. This is just what the Lipps love to do. We love to play basketball.”
After a couple of years away from Breckenridge, Lipp says the most exciting thing about his new job is being a part of the community again. He attended and played basketball at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton and then moved to Fargo, where he worked as an insurance salesman and coached AAU basketball. He was able to keep his job selling insurance and is working remotely.
Now that he’s back, he feels the support from around town. A quick trip to the grocery store can turn into an hour-long affair as people come up to him wanting to talk hoops.
“That passion everyone shares is contagious,” Lipp said. “When the community sees how these kids play and how passionate they are about wanting to compete, I think that will resonate around the community as well.
“But sometimes if I know I don’t have a lot of time, it’s mask on, hood up, so I can kind of get in and out (at the grocery store).”
Despite the only 3- or 4-year age gap between himself and his oldest players, Lipps says he wasn’t concerned at all about earning their respect. He came in confident they would buy in and follow his leadership. Many of his players were his biggest fans when he was playing. And between then and now he’s been an active presence in the program.
Anytime he and his old teammates found themselves back in Breckenridge, they liked to stop by and work with the current players.
“I think it’s really big that I’ve had previous relationships with all of these guys,” Lipp said. “They’ve seen some of the work the teams I was a part of put in — playing with Carson Yaggie, Nate Lorenz, Noah Christensen. Even after we graduated, we were all in the gym with these guys making sure they can become the best basketball players they can be. No matter what city we’re in, any time we’re back for holidays we’d go back and make sure the program knows we support them.”
Despite the previous relationships he has with some of the Cowboys players, Lipp said he made it clear he was starting with a clean slate. He didn’t want any previous experiences to impact what the team can do going forward.
“Everybody had to prove everything,” Lipp said. “There are no handouts. I don’t care if you were on varsity the last two years, you’ve got to come out and compete. The older guys understand that and the underclassmen are understanding that they may not get that varsity jersey early on. But as the season goes along, each and every one of those underclassmen will get an opportunity to prove themselves.”
His time coaching AAU — first at West Central United in Alexandria and then at Inspired Athletics in Fargo — prepared him for the job but he knows that coaching at the varsity level is a different animal. At the AAU level, he said, he took everything on a game-to-game basis. He wasn’t scouting and watching film of the opponents his teams would face. He was just concerned with coaching his team and developing their skills. But being at the varsity level and knowing who will be on the schedule will require a new level of preparation.
“We expect these kids to be prepared and for us coaches to be prepared and making sure that we’re doing our due diligence for whatever opponent we may play,” Lipp said.
As he learns how to prepare for games at the varsity level, the young head coach has a network of mentors to help him learn and grow in his role. He says his former coaches at Breckenridge, Arly Ohm, whom he is replacing, and Tyler Bormann, who went on to coach at Moorhead High School before moving on to Concordia College, have been great resources as well as Stu Engen, his college coach at NDSCS.
“The things Arly Ohm has done for this community have been unreal,” Lipp said. “He has left his mark on this community, for sure. He is a pleasure to work with. Stu Engen right across the river has been a great coach for a long time and he’s been great. And I like to keep up with Tyler Bormann at Concordia. He did a great job here at Breck and at Moorhead. And he’s going to do great things for the Cobbers. Having a great network of high-class, highly respected coaches like that has been great.”