Everything’s new for St. Cloud Tech girls basketball, from the coaching staff to the starting lineup.
The Karl Heine era formally begins Thursday with a large number of question marks.
“We’re a clean slate,” Heine said Tuesday.
Tech has its home opener at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against St. Michael-Albertville. It’ll be Heine’s first game as head coach.
He takes over for Sascha Hansen, who resigned this fall. Hansen, who was the head coach for five seasons, is a teacher in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district and will coach in that program this winter.
Also gone from the Tech coaching staff is Megan Foley, Hansen’s assistant. Foley is now the head girls basketball coach at Sauk Rapids. She’s a teacher in the Sauk Rapids-Rice school district.
Hansen’s Tech teams went 84-53, including 54-27 in the Central Lakes Conference. Her best squad was in 2013-14. The Tigers took second in the conference with a 13-2 record and were 23-4 overall.
Heine, meanwhile, has been an assistant coach in the boys basketball program since 2008. A 2005 Tech graduate, he teaches sixth grade science at South Junior High School.
“To be honest, when (the coaching position) was presented as an option with Sascha’s resignation, it wasn’t on the radar,” Heine said. “I had ambitions of being a head coach for some time.
“But I wasn’t thinking about it at the time.”
Heine also is an assistant football coach and a junior varsity boys golf coach and has helped coach boys tennis.
He said he had long discussions with Tech head coach Mike Trewick and Trewick’s assistant, Gregg Martig, about the program. Martig, also the Tigers’ head football coach, once was Tech’s head girls basketball coach.
Heine is enthused about the team.
“We’re off to a great start,” he said. “The kids have done everything we’ve asked. It’s a hard-working group from grades nine through 12.
“It’s a really nice bunch of kids.”
Two seniors return after receiving varsity minutes in 2014-15: senior guards Mara Weaver and Beth Ann Nikolas.
Heine sees “seven or eight juniors” playing key roles, led by forwards Kelsey Kline, Amanda Parries, Georgina Simon and Kalen Brown and guards Sidney Angell, Amaya Murray and Abby Wolters.
He also has 16 ninth-graders out and 37 players in the program.
“We’re excited,” Heine said of he and the coaching staff, which includes longtime St. Cloud Apollo assistant Tammy Fandel and former College of St. Benedict player Katie Hultberg. “The girls are excited.
“Our potential is endless.”
The schedule is doing the new staff no favors. The Tigers play seven games in 15 days, starting with St. Michael-Albertville on Thursday. The Knights were 27-4 and took third in the state in Class 4A last season.
Then, Tech plays five straight on the road, including next Tuesday at St. Cloud Apollo, Dec. 10 at Willmar, Dec. 11 at Buffalo, Dec. 15 at Rocori and Dec. 17 at Rogers before returning home Dec. 18 against Fergus Falls.
“As a new staff, we’re really blindfolded somewhat,” Heine said. “We have no assistants back to tell us about teams from last year.
“We’re going to have to watch a few games the next few days.”
Heine’s father is Marty Heine, a former Tech great who played basketball at St. Cloud State. His grandfather, Paul Heine, was the Tigers’ head boys basketball coach in the late 1960s.
“We’re implementing a new system,” Karl Heine said. “It’s going to be interesting to see the progress.”
After a couple of tough seasons, St. Cloud Apollo head coach Jill Lipp is optimistic about her third year as the Eagles’ head coach.
“It’s been going really good,” Lipp said. “We have a nice group of freshmen this year.
“Our kids worked hard all summer and a lot of the girls played fall ball. It’s been exciting and fun to see the transition to us at least being competitive.”
Apollo went into Tuesday’s opener at St. Cloud Cathedral on a 51-game losing streak. The Eagles were 0-25 last season after going 0-24 in 2013-14 when Lipp was a co-head coach with Steve Wagner.
They last won Feb. 18, 2013, at Bemidji, 62-49.
“It’s not something we’ve really talked about,” Lipp said. “I’m sure the kids know about it. I’m sure they hear about it at school.”
Two ninth-graders were expected to start Tuesday: Lariah Washington and Ashley Koepp. Ninth-grader Jessica Timpane also should see minutes, as should Amelia Heinen, a 6-foot-2 junior.
Also expected to start against Cathedral were senior Mary Thuok, junior Calli Lynch and junior Abby Nystrom.
Nystrom was to start in place of senior Kali Mathiasen, who sprained an ankle at Saturday’s jamboree in Brainerd. One of the Eagles’ best players, she’s day-to-day, Lipp said.
“I have a group of kids who love to play the game,” Lipp said. “It’s really nice to see a group that has the sheer joy of playing basketball.
“I really sense a different attitude with this group. They’ve put in the hard work and time. I feel it.”
Cathedral head coach Ron Prom agreed.
“They’re a lot better team,” Prom said. “There’s no question they are going to win some games this year.
“There’s no way they’re going 0-25 again. They’re a lot better team than last year.”
The Crusaders return four starters from a squad that went 9-18: Annie O’Hagan, Maddie Curtis, Morgan Prom (the coach’s daughter) and Julia Meyer.
They also have 5-10 sophomore Kate Tomczik and 6-0 senior Katie Auger, who played last season. Also returning is senior Emily Walsh, who started as a sophomore but missed last season because of a concussion suffered in soccer.
“We will definitely have more depth than we’ve had in a few years,” Ron Prom said. “We’ve got at least four freshmen who could help us along the way.”
Prom said he thinks the Granite Ridge Conference is going to be very good this year, led by Albany and Becker. He expects Zimmerman, Foley, Milaca and Little Falls to all have competitive squads.
“I think the Granite Ridge is one of the best conferences in the area,” he said.
Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.