60 basketball seasons at St. Paul’s in Grafton led by a member of the Thiede family: ‘Something that’s really special’

GRAFTON --St. Paul Lutheran Church and School in Grafton has seen plenty of change in 60 years, but there's one thing that's always remained the same: The Thiede family coaching Panthers basketball.

"It's just amazing that one family would take on that responsibility for 60 years. It's something that's really special," Lyle Sperber, former Panthers player said.

Sixty seasons of basketball have been led by a member of the Thiede family.

"My son played here and my grandson also played for the Thiedes, so a few generations of us have played for the Thiedes here at St. Paul," Sperber said.

Harold Thiede

It began in the 50s with Harold Thiede at the helm, the first head coach of the Panthers.

"We didn't have a gym at that time. We practiced in the old high school gym," Sperber said.

"I remember my dad coaching and my brother and I going over to watch games when we were like 3, 4 years old, somewhere around there," Hal Thiede said.

From then on, a legacy was born. Gil and Hal Thiede stepped into the world of coaching and for the past 49 years, the Panthers have called Gil Thiede coach.

"I've been blessed, and honored and really its been a pleasure doing this," Gil Thiede said.

"They're great coaches. Gil is just an incredible basketball coach. He knows the game. He knows how to teach the game, but the thing he did better than anybody I've ever been around is he taught me how to believe in me," Mark Newman, former Panthers player said.

Hal Thiede

Countless games, players, memories and the love of basketball have kept Gil Thiede on the court decade after decade.

"I'll be 66 in a couple weeks and they're always the same age, so you're getting way away from when you used to play and it's a treat really, and it keeps me from hearing guys my age say how bad my back or knee hurts, you know? I don't wanna hear that," Gil Thiede said.

"They love basketball. They love the ministry that's taking place here, but most importantly they just love the kids," Newman said.

Gil Thiede

"I think being around younger people helps your perspective because otherwise you sit and talk to older people all the time. At least this gives you a different outlook on life," Hal Thiede said.

They're young at heart and busy working toward another successful season, but just how long will the Thiedes keep the coaching legacy alive at St. Paul?

"It's a year-to-year thing. My son lives in DeForest and unless he moves closer, I don't think there's gonna be another Thiede, and he had a girl, so the Thiede name is down the drain if he doesn't have a boy," Gil Thiede said.

"When they brought me back again the last couple years, it's almost like we thought we can get another year in, and another year in and we don't wanna see it go downhill because it's been a lot of time invested and we'd like to keep it going as long as possible," Hal Thiede said.

"As long as the Thiede's are here, basketball is always gonna be here," Newman said.

Gil and Hal Thiede

They're continuing to teach the fundamentals and ministry while remembering the man who started it all.

"He would've been proud of us, I hope. I hope he would've been, that we would've kept this going," Gil Thiede said.

Gil Thiede's wife, Donna is the athletic director at St. Paul, so it's truly a family affair.