Last month, announced that Tim Sension would be its .
Sension, who spent the last seven years as the associate head girls basketball coach at , will be taking over for Ha-Keem Abdel-Khaliq, who took the head boys basketball job at Mound-Westonka. Abdel-Khaliq led Park to a 5-21 record last season.
Hopkins went 30-1 and won a second-straight 4A state title in 2011-12.
We recently caught up with Sension to talk about expectations for the Orioles and what it was like leaving Hopkins.
St. Louis Park Patch: What got you interested in the St. Louis Park job?
Tim Sension: It's been a long process in many ways. I got to know some of the girls last year when we would talk about basketball during down times during the day (Sension works at St. Louis Park High School). They asked a lot of questions about what we did at Hopkins and would tell me about what they did at Park. The biggest thing that I noticed was that there was a group of girls who were really motivated that just needed some direction. When the position opened up earlier this month, I talked with my wife and son about it, and they agreed that I should apply.
Leaving Hopkins was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It had nothing to do with leaving a successful program, but more with leaving relationships behind. I had coached some of the players for three or four years, and leaving them behind was hard. I also had so much fun with the coaching staff. The amount of time we spent together was crazy over the past few years, and in many ways we became like brothers. We went through so many things together that we became like family. Like all good things, though, it was time to move on.
St. Louis Park Patch: The Orioles went 5-21 last season, while Hopkins won state. How do you bring some of that championship vibe with you?
Sension: The biggest thing that I have been trying to share with the girls is that the teams in Minnesota who have been successful year in and year out are the ones who work the hardest. There are a handful of programs that are always in the state tournament, and they get there because they prepare. One of the trademarks of Hopkins has been that they work harder than anyone else in the state. Coach Cosgriff is tireless in his efforts to prepare the players, and every player that has worn a Royals uniform has worked tremendously hard to achieve the success that they have had.
In order for us to improve at St. Louis Park, we need to learn how to work hard every day. We may use some of the same systems as Hopkins does, but we will be different. They are a very unique place, probably one of only 10 or so programs in the country that do what they do. We can't match that, but we will work hard to create our own identity and build our own success. I have made a promise to the girls that I will never compare them to Hopkins, simply because it is like comparing apples to oranges. My goal is that we take St. Louis Park to the highest level it can be, not to become Hopkins. There are six state tournament banners in our gym that signify that the Orioles were once the cream of the crop in Minnesota basketball. We will focus on living up to their standards.
St. Louis Park Patch: What are your expectations for this coming season?
Sension: The only expectation that I have is that we improve each and every day. That began already this summer and the girls are doing a great job of building a strong work ethic. We won't talk about wins and losses or winning conference championships or state championships. We will work hard every day to improve and let the scoreboard take care of itself.
St. Louis Park Patch: Have you met with any of the players yet? Who should fans keep an eye on?
Sension: I have been able to meet most of them. We started working together the day after I was hired, and worked on basketball related skills every day until the summer waiver period ended on Tuesday. Now the girls are getting involved in a conditioning program that will help increase the core strength between now and the first day of practice.
My advice for fans is to keep and eye on all of them. I don't mean that lightly. My goal is to play a very fast paced game, and in order to do that you need to play a lot of kids each game. We won't play 6-7 kids like some programs. We will play closer to 10-12 kids in order to wear out our opponents. The practices that we had this summer focused on playing fast and developing the skills to do so. It is very hard to play the tempo that we will play, and there is a lot of work to be done.
St. Louis Park Patch: Describe your coaching style and philosophy.
Sension: My coaching style is intense. I promised the girls that between myself and the other coaches, we will do everything we can to put them in a position where they can succeed. I try to bring energy to practice each day and motivate the girls to work harder than they think they can. I have seen them benefit from that already this summer. I also want to make sure that their experience as an Oriole is one that they can look back on and have fond memories of their high school career. We have the longest season of any high school sport, about four months, and my feeling is that you need to be able to enjoy that time. It is incredibly stressful at times, and if you don't have good relationships with your team it becomes a chore for everyone. We will work hard, but we will also make sure that at times we simply have fun.
St. Louis Park Patch: If you were to describe a Tim Sension coached team in one word, that word would be...?
St. Louis Park Patch: You currently work at SLP HS. How long have you done that, and what do you like about the school?
Sension: This will be my second year at the high school. I am a Grade Level Coordinator. Kind of a combination of hall monitor, counselor, Dean, teacher, dad, and whatever else the day throws at you. One thing I noticed right away about St. Louis Park is that even though there is a huge diversity of students, both racially and economically, everyone fits in somewhere, and unless a student really decides to separate themselves, they are accepted for who they are. It's a lot like the movie The Breakfast Club. All the different types of students come together and succeed without any of the social issues most high schools fail at. I also have gotten to know a lot of the staff, and really think that they provide a great structure for the students. You can tell from day one that there is a genuine caring for the students from them, which is rare these days.
St. Louis Park Patch: Besides coaching basketball, what are some of your hobbies and interests?
Sension: It is really tough to be a high school coach these days and have hobbies. The reality is that each sport has become year round, and that if you want to provide opportunities for your players to succeed you need to work with them all year round, within the state high school guidelines, of course! In the few hours each week outside of coaching I try to spend time with my family. My wife teaches in Minnetonka, and our oldest daughter plays basketball in Green Bay. We will take a lot of trips to northeast Wisconsin this winter, as this will be her senior season of playing for the Phoenix. Our youngest daughter works in the boundary waters, and we will try to get there as often as possible. Our son is going to be a sophomore at Hopkins, so I will be back there a lot to watch him play football and basketball. I guess my one true hobby right now is trying to raise our puppy, a 13-week-old Alaskan Malamute. She is a bit of a handful right now, and will eventually grow to about 130 pounds of sled pulling power. Every day brings a different challenge in raising her.