Curt Grachek, a social studies teacher at Mora High School and boys head basketball coach was awarded the 2021-2022 Class 6AA Section Coach of the year by the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association. Grachek is currently coaching in his 10th season as Mora head coach.
In the past three seasons, the Mustangs have compiled 63 victories, going 25-4 in the 2021-2022 season, 16-2 in a shortened 2020-2021 season, and 22-7 in an astricted state appearance during the 2019-2020 season due to COVID-19 abruptly shutting down a section final match-up against Melrose on March 13, 2020.
Grachek currently has a 121-121 overall record as the Mustangs head coach. He credits the award and the success of the program to his players and a dedicated and skilled coaching staff.
“I have been very lucky to have these fellow coaches to work with: Jamie Wright, Pete Balmer, Brandon Ostien, Chris Venhuizen and Nick Axtell,” said Grachek. “We collaborate and challenge each other when it comes to strategy, tactics, and skill building.
“We try to do what is best for the players we have; that is, we are going to adjust what we are doing to the players we have and we are going to do what is best for those players to take advantage of what they have to bring to the team.”
Coaching is a huge passion for Grachek. He started coaching in 1982 during his sophomore year of high school at Brooklyn Center High on Saturday mornings for elementary in-house teams. He also coached baseball for 23 years, where he and his Mora baseball teams racked up Section 7AA championships in 2006, 2008, and 2009. He also coached football for 11 years.
Grachek credits much of his learning after he graduated high school in 1985, when he volunteered on the varsity basketball team under coach and mentor Mike Blanski and B-Squad coach Mike Gliddon, who was the coach at Onamia Crosier.
“I learned so much about basketball from Blanski and Gliddon,” Grachek said. “I learned incredible lessons about coaching and how what we put into our time with the kids is more than just about basketball.”
After three years as a volunteer, Grachek focused on finishing his teaching degree, where it landed him at Buffalo Lake-Hector schools in western Minnesota. For the eight years he was there, he spent two seasons as an assistant girls coach, two as an assistant boys coach and four years as the boys head coach.
He then came to Mora in 2001 where he was Jamie Wright's assistant for 12 years before taking over the head coaching position.
Basketball is his favorite
Basketball is Grachek’s favorite sport to play, watch and coach.
“As a coach in general, I love seeing the players develop over the years. I am excited to see players gain confidence in themselves and I am hopeful that confidence will carry over to their lives off the court.”
After years of experience and involvement, what it means to Coach Grachek to receive such an award is players and coaches working hard together.
“It means that our players and my coaching staff have worked very hard and have trusted in each other to accomplish an outstanding 2021-2022 season,” said Grachek.
It also means that the Section 6AA coaches, who vote for the award, acknowledge that the Mora Mustangs outworked the rest of the section and made the greatest improvement of any section team. This includes the 2022 State AA champion Annandale Cardinals, who also are Section 6AA.
“One of my favorite things to say to the players,” said Grachek, “and they have made this a true statement, is ‘if you do the work, you get the rewards.’” It turns out, the same advice holds true for Grachek and his coaching staff.
Grachek’s Mustangs 2022-2023 team features four returning starters: seniors Dallas Fix, Max Sampson, and James Oslin, and sophomore Gage Braiedy, along with two players who received significant varsity time last season, senior Madox Balmer and Jonah Smart. In the past two seasons, Mora has allowed only 43.4 points per game. They look to defend the Granite Ridge Conference Title and once again be one of the top teams in Section 6AA.
The boys travel to Pequot Lakes on Wednesday, Dec. 28, to face Warroad at 6 p.m. Depending on the outcome, they could face Rock Ridge (Eveleth-Gilbert-Virginia) or Pequot Lakes, the next day.