State Basketball: State tournament family affair in C-I

Her name is Joyce Gindorff, but she's convinced people have forgotten because everyone just calls her "grandma." When you're the grandmother of one of the best basketball players in Minnesota, grandma is really all you need. Joyce Gindorff is the...


Her name is Joyce Gindorff, but she's convinced people have forgotten because everyone just calls her "grandma."

When you're the grandmother of one of the best basketball players in Minnesota, grandma is really all you need.

Joyce Gindorff is the mother of Mike Gindorff, who 30 years ago helped the Crosby-Ironton Rangers to a Class 1A state runner-up finish in the boys basketball state tournament. The Gindorffs are back in the Twin Cities this weekend to cheer on C-I's latest state entrant, which happens to be led by 6-foot-6 senior Noah Gindorff.

This time Joyce Gindorff is enjoying the experience.

"It's so much nicer this time, hands down," the matriarch said. "The anxiety of, first of all, watching your son get on that bus and going down to the Cities without you and he's going to be down there for several days and the only time you're going to see him is when he's playing basketball-it's like sending him off to war.


"I had that same feeling when our girls basketball team went to state (in 2000). I remember watching the bus leave town and I got that same feeling. It was hard. It's hard on the parents. It is so much easier being a grandmother.

"I'm having fun and cheering along. I'm almost giddy, while Mike and Wendy (Noah's mother) get to go through all that anxiety. All I do is watch the games, look at the pictures and read the articles and cheer him on."

Father Mike agrees with his mom. It's hard being a parent of a state participant. Even harder than playing in the games.

"When I was 17 years old, I had no idea what a big deal that was," said Mike Gindorff. "When you're a dad, and you see all that stuff and you remember all those experiences and how cool it is, you're just happy to be there.

"I was more nervous watching (Wednesday) night. I never got nervous as a player because, I mean, you just go play."

Joyce, who will reach 37 years of service as a nurse at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in April, played basketball in her hometown of Richfield. She watched the state tournaments on television, but never knew anyone that went to state until 1987 when C-I advanced. She said the community's excitement was palpable.

"I think it's the same excitement this time, too," said Joyce. "Even if we went more often, it doesn't matter. When you're close to the player, whether you're a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle, when you get that close and you get to be with them as they grow through the season and watch them; you watch that team evolve and the players evolve and you watch them mature and how they respond so well to coach (Dave) Galovich, who I think the world of. It's amazing how he brings them all together.

"It's such a unique situation and I feel blessed that I've been a part of it twice. It's really an exhilarating experience for anyone. I would tell anyone to just soak up every minute and enjoy it."


Despite playing in the tournament himself, Mike didn't have much for advice for his son other than to stay focused on the goal. The Rangers did that Wednesday with a convincing win over Section 8-2A champion Breckenridge at Williams Arena. That was the same floor where Gindorff and the Rangers knocked Jackson County Central into the consolation bracket with a quarterfinal win in 1987. C-I then beat highly-regarded Hawley in the semifinals to advance to the finals. Another trip to the finals would be nice for the Gindorffs.

"The only thing I told him was not to get caught up in all the hype," Mike Gindorff said. "Remember why you're there, and that's to play basketball. I did tell him to take it all in, but we talked about how some teams are just happy to get there so you have to decide early in the week if that's your goal or if you want more. Then you have to work for it and stay focused.

"You have to take care of your body. It's easy in that situation to stay up late and not eat right."

During a home game against Hibbing this season, Crosby-Ironton hosted a 30-year reunion for the 1987 squad. Back for the event was starting point guard and 1,000-point scorer Mike Nagorski. Gindorff and Nagorski reunited Wednesday in Minneapolis as Nagorski is the assistant coach of Big Lake, which made its first state tournament appearance. Nagorski's son, Logan, is a sophomore on the Class 3A team.

"It was really cool because (Nagorski) and I have been best friends since junior high school and to have both our sons down there is great," Mike Gindorff said. "Our families are close so it's just been a real rewarding experience."

Big Lake lost to DeLaSalle in the 3A quarterfinals Wednesday. Nagorski had similar advice for his son. He talked about the pregame routine and what to expect. He had the same feelings as Mike Gindorff about the legacy the two have created along with Trey Stangel, whose father Brent was a junior on the '87 team. Trey Jacobs' father, Shane, was a member of C-I's 1989 state tournament team, too, as was Cayden Turk's dad Brandon.

"Not too many times do friends that played 30 years ago get to come and watch their sons 30 years later play in the same building," Mike Nagorski said. "It's nice to have coach Galovich still coaching and Crosby has been here a few years, but not too many people can say that they played, and then their kid, played at state.

"It's been a long wait, that's for sure. It's neat coming back because my son and I have been coming to the state for the last five years. We would take two days off and come as a spectator, but it's nice to be the first team in Big Lake to be able to make it to state."


And how did players feel about the experience of playing at Williams Arena?

"Noah said it was cool," Mike Gindorff said. "Yeah, he's a man of few words."

Said Joyce: "Noah is just like his dad. He's not going to give any big speeches. He's very thoughtful. He's kind, smart, dedicated and he's a strong person. He has a lot of integrity, as do all of those seniors on the team. Those boys are a really special group of fellas, who are maturing into wonderful men. Their futures are just wide open and that's a credit to the parents and coach Galovich.

"Noah is a great grandson. He's very kind and always has a hug for grandma. And all of his friends call me grandma, too, so it's very nice."

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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