Basketball: Getting clinical with coaching and Cloutier

Princeton Tigers head coach Brett Cloutier guides his team from the sideines.
Brainerd High School graduate Brett Cloutier coaches his Princeton Tigers boys basketball team during a regular season game this season. Cloutier and the Tigers advanced to the Class 3A state tournament that will begin Wednesday. Photo by Joel Stottrup Union-Times/APG Newspapers East-Central Minnesota
Joel Stottrup / Union-Times/APG Newspapers East-Central Minnesota

Social distancing hasn’t stopped Brett Cloutier from reaching a new audience.

The Brainerd High School graduate was fresh off a Section 7-3A boys basketball title as head coach of the Princeton Tigers when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the remaining Minnesota State High School League state activities.

With schools closing and implementing distance learning and talk of the entire spring sports season being canceled, Cloutier took to the internet “air” waves and began “The Minnesota Basketball Coaching Podcast.”

He released his first episode April 4 with guest and new Nova Classical Academy head coach John Carrier. Twenty-five episodes later, Cloutier is gaining popularity and using his voice for basketball, coaching growth and even societal insight.

“There was a lot of quarantine content that came out in late March, a lot of virtual coaching clinics,” Cloutier said. “I had like 15 to 20 different browser tabs of clinics that had already happened and I wanted to watch and then all of a sudden I just stopped and asked myself ‘What am I doing?’ It was so ridiculous because there was so much content out there and a lot of it didn’t relate. I mean it’s great to hear Billy Donovan (head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder) talk about how he gets Chris Paul going. But that’s a whole different level of basketball player so it became one of those things where I wanted to do some professional growth, but listen to coaches who are similar to me.”


Cloutier gets deep into coaching philosophy, building relationships with players, talking Xs and Os and the proper way to build successful programs. He spent a year pondering the podcast and then COVID-19 presented the perfect time to launch.

“I talked to Rhett McDonald a lot, he’s a good friend of mine and coach up at Duluth East and I asked him whether or not he would listen,” Cloutier said. “Most of us are teachers and we have maybe a 40-minute prep period, so I wanted to put something together that was 30 to 40 minutes that they could have playing in the background during their prep.

“Maybe they could take something from it and bring it to their teams. That was where this started. Did I think it would get this long? Yes and no. It’s been challenging at times to fill a couple of guests a week, but the coaches that reach out it keeps me motivated and keeps me going.”

Cloutier’s second guest was Minnetonka head coach and Crosby-Ironton graduate Bryce Tesdahl who he’s known since high school followed by South St. Paul head coach Matt McCollister and many more high school coaches across the state.

Episode No. 23 featured new Benilde-St. Margaret’s head coach and former University of Minnesota Gopher Damian Johnson, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School head coach Stanley Clay and Roseville Head coach Alexander Culver. The episode was released June 15 and the talk was race.

“Three African American coaches and we talked about the race issue and the bias they see on a daily basis,” Cloutier said. “It was a really powerful episode, and for me, it was something that I was extremely proud of. As someone who feels I’m pretty open-minded about things, I was just in awe. I don’t know a fifth of what these people go through on a daily basis and the bias they face in coaching and everywhere else in their walks of life.”

The podcasts are slowly growing in popularity with new listeners coming to every episode, but Clouteir’s main goal is to provide insight into the minds of Minnesota high school basketball coaches for others to learn from.

The social studies teacher has learned a lot himself, but more importantly, he’s gained confidence in the things he’s already doing at Princeton. He’s also relearned to keep things simple.


“You can really drown in the Twitter Universe within the coaching world,” Courtier said. “You can then become someone who you aren’t. Kris Fadness is at Austin (High School) and he’s been to the state tournament seven-straight years and has been super successful, Mark Klingsporn at Tartan, who has 500 wins, and David Cresep from Perham, who has 600 wins, and just hearing how simplistic their programs are is almost like a life preserver in the coaching world. Because you can get so overwhelmed with all the coaching content that’s out there.”

Cloutier has also been reaffirmed in his goal to develop the individual and not just the basketball player.

“I try to reach out and ask these coaches what their strengths are and what can they share with the coaching world,” Cloutier said. “I don’t want this to be where coaches are writing down 25 pages of notes because then they aren’t learning anything. But what is the one or two things that these coaches can share for coaches in not just basketball, but football, baseball, track and field or any sport can use.

“The main thing that keeps coming up is the relationships and how important those are. Every coach will say we can be better at Xs and Os or some other thing, but what it really boils down to are the relationships. That’s the driving factor in high school sports.”

Cloutier’s podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts. Also, check out his Twitter page @brettcloutier to keep up to date on what is coming next.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
What To Read Next
Get Local