Basketball: Hearts are heavy in C-I
Paul Hoge had a unique laugh, but it was welcoming and kind.
His presence when visitors and fans walked into the Ranger Gym at Crosby-Ironton High School had the same effect.
Like the rest of the Ranger boys coaching staff, Hoge was synonymous with C-I basketball for more than 21 years as an assistant coach. The husband and devout Catholic raised his own five boys and so many more as a coach, a role model, a father and friend. He dedicated many hours to youth sports in the C-I school district, and for his work, was honored by the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association with the Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Shortly after receiving the award, Hoge died July 6 at his home. This past season, Hoge took a step back from coaching to deal with health issues that kept him from his favorite seat, on the bench of the C-I boys basketball team.
While many might best know Hoge as an assistant basketball coach for one of the top programs in the area, Hoge meant more to the student-athletes he guided.
One example was former Ranger guard Caleb Baker, whose father died when he was young. Baker grew up with Michael Hoge, Paul's youngest son.
"Especially for me, I grew up without a dad," Baker said. "Just having a figure like Paul, just a positive male role model who was always there for you, was important. The impact he had on me and everyone around you is hard to put into words. He was always there for you. You felt like he had your back and always supported you. It was more than just an athletics thing. Paul was just a real loving and caring guy."
Baker reminisced about the many stories of Paul and his sometimes goofy antics. He said he and his teammates would often bust out laughing at some of the funny things Hoge would say in a huddle.
"I just recently saw Paul and I knew he wasn't doing so hot, but I just kind of reflected on all of the things that he did for the community with sports or church or whatever it was, and he did it so willingly," Baker said. "Then you stop to think, who is going to step into Paul's role? He was the behind-the-scenes guy with all the sports. He was involved in every single thing. He had his boys, but he had all of us. We all loved and appreciated what he was doing, but to be honest I don't know how many people sat down with him and said thank you to him. He just did it so selflessly."
Ranger head boys basketball coach Dave Galovich said Hoge's impact on the community was enormous, but often went unnoticed.
"In the basketball program we all know he coached the ninth grade for years, but then again on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings, he's there to help the elementary program," Galovich said. "We have five teams, seventh, eighth and nine, B squad and varsity, but we only have four coaches, so Paul would help out in the junior high, too. He's got his hands in seventh through ninth grade and also had input at the varsity level.
"He kept stats for us and also he was our main fundraiser for the Ranger Classic Christmas Tournament. He did a lot of things behind the scenes that we and I are certainly grateful for, but the general public wasn't aware of."
Brock Tesdahl played and graduated with Mark Hoge, Paul's fourth son. Tesdahl teaches and is an assistant basketball coach at Hopkins High School, and he now sees just how much an assistant coach does. Yet, he always appreciated Hoge's presence.
"The thing about Paul, he was my coach starting in fourth grade and then all the way up until I graduated from Crosby, and he really distilled in our group and our class what hard work really is," Tesdahl said. "He would always be in the gym with us each time there was an opportunity to work with us on or off the course. He was more like a father than a coach and that's why the news of his passing really hurt. He is family and that's why it's so difficult to see him go."
Tesdahl called Hoge a role model and a positive influence to anyone in the community.
"Every player in Crosby-Ironton had the opportunity to succeed on and off the court and that's one thing I feel most grateful about when talking about Paul," Tesdahl said. "Paul was a mentor. He would push you to the limit, but once practice was over he was always a father figure. Sports are important, but the biggest thing for him was making sure you were growing up to be a great person."
Galovich said he was one of the more caring people he's met.
"I would see him take a first-grader and work with him individually and just give that little first-grader all of his attention with a great deal of sincerity. Paul had a tremendous amount of positive attributes," Galovich said. "The fact that he's such a caring individual, that really sticks out. He cares about people and like all coaches we want to keep kids accountable and we all do it in different ways, but when it's all said and done, Paul did what was in the best interest of the kid."
The sidelines will be without Hoge's smile, but he'll still be cheering and watching over the many players and people he impacted and helped mold into Rangers.