PARK RAPIDS -- For decades, Jim Musburger compiled coaching anecdotes and accolades that could fill a book.

So his daughter wrote it.

Musburger, a 1948 Bemidji High School graduate and 1956 Bemidji Teachers College graduate, went on to coach basketball in small-town Minnesota from 1956-79. And this month, his daughter, Jill Johnson, published the book to chronicle it all.

“It’s been very rewarding,” Johnson said. “The intent of the book was certainly to honor my father and the impact he had on these small schools, but also to honor the entire culture of that area.”

“A Tale of Two Basketball Towns and Their Coach Jim Musburger” highlights Musburger’s coaching career through his eyes, as well as the eyes of his former players and fellow coaches. Musburger coached in Strandquist and Karlstad during his tenure, two towns now joined as part of the Northern Freeze in Newfolden.

Jill Johnson published a book about her father, Jim Musburger, who will be inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in October. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
Jill Johnson published a book about her father, Jim Musburger, who will be inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in October. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

More than 80 players and coaches supplied their memories for the book, something that caught Musburger by surprise.

“I just can’t believe it. I really can’t,” he said. “I’m really shocked with all these responses she’s got in the book, because I didn’t know that. How would you? The kids don’t say anything to you. So I’m completely taken back. It’s really something.”

The idea for the book first sprouted for Johnson at the suggestion of one of Musburger’s former players.

“I didn’t think about really doing this until one of his athletes said, ‘Why don’t you write a book about your dad, about his coaching memoirs?’ And I said, ‘The only way I can do it is if all of you send your stories,’” Johnson recalled. “Truly, (it’s) the story of a bygone era: when small towns celebrated basketball as the center of their universe.”

Of course, Johnson, 66, needed a little assistance to fill in the blanks for games from generations ago. But she had plenty of help in that department.

“Dad has a great memory and can recall almost every game that (he) ever coached. So could the players,” she said. “They could remember what happened, who scored the most points, what mistakes they made. … It was unbelievable that, after so many years, they could still recall everything.”

The finished product came about a year after Johnson began. And even though the book hasn’t been available long, Johnson said it’s already resulted in positivity pouring in.

“From the responses we’re getting, it worked,” she said. “People are loving it. They’re just enjoying reading about an era that was very special. The 50s, 60s, and 70s. So it’s kind of a trip down memory lane for people.”

The book first hit the shelves Aug. 6, also just in time for another honor for Musburger. He is set to be inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in October, which came as another surprise to him.

“I come from coaching a small town. It was a shock,” Musburger said. “It’s certainly a highlight of my life at the twilight of my life. I’m 89 years old. It was 40-some years ago that I coached.”

The book is available throughout the region, including at Bemidji Woolen Mills, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery in Park Rapids, The Red Poppy in Fosston and Nordisk Hemslojd in Karlstad.

Johnson hopes the stories help keep alive a golden era of basketball.

“For me, the intent initially was to honor Dad and his coaching impact on the small towns,” she said. “But as I wrote it and as I look back at it now, I really do want it to have a broader impact to let future generations know that there was an era when basketball ruled in small towns.”