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'Heart of a teacher': Dragons name Tim Bergstraser head men's basketball coach

Tim Bergstraser was an assistant men's basketball coach at Minnesota State Moorhead for six seasons before being named the program's head coach.

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Minnesota State Moorhead assistant men's basketball coach Tim Bergstraser is set to be the program's new head coach.
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MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead turned to a familiar face to lead its men's basketball program.

Dragons assistant Tim Bergstraser was named Dragons head coach Monday, May 16. Bergstraser takes over for Chad Walthall, who retired this spring. Walthall led the program for 12 seasons, averaging 21 wins per season. Bergstraser was an assistant for Watlhall for six seasons.

“He has the heart of a teacher," said Dragons athletic director Chad Markuson. "You watch him work with our student-athletes, he’s an incredible teacher of the game.”

The 31-year-old Bergstraser was the program's acting head coach since late March when Walthall stepped down. This is Bergstraser's first college head coaching job.

“It means a lot," Bergstraser said. "I know how big of a job this is at MSUM. It’s a spot that a lot of people would want to be at. They’ve had a great winning tradition here and it’s an amazing campus community. ... It’s a big deal and I understand that and I take my job very seriously. This is something I do believe I do deserve and I’m ready to take that next step.”

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The Dragons posted a 19-12 record last season, winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament championship, the first in program history. MSUM lost to eventual Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"I can sell this university and program well, better than anybody, and I’m going to bring in high-quality athletes to help us compete for championships and contend on the national level," Bergstraser said on the day of his final on-campus interviews .

Hillsdale (Mich.) College associate head coach Keven Bradley and Eastern Washington assistant coach Mark Darnall were finalists along with Bergstraser. All three recently had their final on-campus interviews.

Bergstraser and graduate assistant Cade Niehaus currently make up the Dragons coaching staff. Bergstraster would like to add a lead assistant coach as soon as possible. Bergstraser plans to stay heavily involved in recruiting players, which was one of his key duties as a top assistant, along with his staff.

“I’m going to still stay hungry in recruiting," Bergstraser said. "I absolutely love that part of this job. It can be stressful sometimes because you don’t always get the guys you want. ... Especially in the Midwest, we need to know what’s going on and we’re going to be hungry to dig and find guys that fit how we do things. We’re going to go after D-I type players.”

Bergstraser was the top assistant coach for the Dragons since May 2018, helping the program reach the NCAA D-II tournament twice during that span. From 2015-2017, he was a graduate assistant for MSUM, which posted a 54-12 record in those two seasons with two NCAA tournament appearances.

“He has a tremendous pipeline in our region for recruiting," Markuson said. "He has a great reputation in the basketball community and great knowledge of the Northern Sun and our region for Division II men’s basketball.”

Bergstraser said there will be similarities to how the program has operated in recent seasons.

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“I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by any means because what we’ve done since I’ve done here and seemed to work," Bergstraser said. "In the end, I’m going to coach this the way I believe will help this team. ... The way we recruit kids, the way we handle ourselves as a team, it will all be very similar. We’re going to try to do things the right way and get better and do it together.”

In recent seasons, Bergstraser said Walthall allowed him to run the team's defense. Bergstraser doesn't envision too much changing on that end of the court.

“I know to the core I am a defensive guy. I like that side of the ball," Bergstraser said. “There will be some new things we’ll add, but I like where our team is at playing a free-flowing offense, where they’re not always looking over their shoulder at me.”

While the Dragons lost multiple key players off last year's team, Bergstraser likes the returning group. He would like to add another frontcourt player through the transfer portal to help fill out the roster.

“I’m very excited to be able to coach these guys because they are great to be around and they are dang good basketball players," Bergstraser said.

In 2020, Bergstraser was named on of "50 Impactful Division II Assistants," according to Silver Waves Media. Bergstraser played at St. Cloud State and was on the Huskies team that advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four during the 2009-2010 season. His college career was cut short due to multiple knee surgeries.

Markuson said that Bergstraser didn't have prior head coaching experience wasn't a concern because at some point a coach needs to make that transition from assistant to the head spot.

“His experience level didn’t pose any concerns for me at all," Markuson said. “Tim was the right choice for the short term and he’s also the right choice for the long term and transition-wise it will be a very smooth process.”

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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