Greendale basketball, baseball coaches enjoy honor of directing stars

Peter Zuzga
Greendale head boys basketball coach Ryan Johnsen was chosen to lead the Division 2 South team in a state all-star game on June 21. Baseball head coach Brian Johnsen was picked to direct the East team in a state all-star series one week later.
Published on: 7/15/2014

From Rob Stoltz on the football sidelines at Camp Randall Stadium in November to Ryan Johnsen on the basketball bench at the Kohl Center in March, Greendale coaches have made their presence known at WIAA state events this past school year.

Baseball head coach Brian Johnsen would like to join that club and work from the dugout at Kapco Park next week.

Besides the Panthers' appearances at the WIAA Division 3 football championship game and the Division 2 boys basketball tournament, and the possible participation in the state baseball tourney on Friday, July 25, Greendale has also put its name out there at a state level in other ways this year.

Both Ryan and Brian, who happen to be cousins, were selected to be head coaches in their respective sports' state all-star games on consecutive weeks.

Greendale participation

Ryan directed the Division 2 South squad in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association's all-star contest on June 21 at Justagame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells.

He brought along his Greendale assistant, Mark Petitgoue, the son of Cuba City coaching legend Jerry Petitgoue, and he had the chance to coach Greendale's standout player Jordan Perez once again.

Brian piloted the East squad in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association's All-Star Classic in Oshkosh on June 28, and one of his players was Greendale star Zack Henderson.

Both coaches were thrilled with the chance to hold such a prestigious position.

'This was a tremendous honor and a great opportunity,' Ryan said. 'It's exciting to coach the 10 best seniors in the Division 2 South area. It is just an honor to be around those fantastic players.'

Brian added, 'It was an honor to coach in the games and represent Greendale. This also puts Greendale baseball on the map.'

Memorable week

Ryan said his entire basketball all-star week was memorable.

'We practiced in the Greendale gym on Monday and Tuesday; then we spent the rest of the week in the Dells,' he recalled. 'We saw some water shows and had nice dinners, and we raised money for the MACC Fund.'

On June 21, the South team took the court and beat the North 89-83 behind 30 points from New Berlin Eisenhower star Reed Timmer and 25 points by Donovan Jackson of Pius XI.

Ryan said coaching Timmer was much more enjoyable than coaching against him, as he had done in the Woodland Conference for the past few seasons.

'I received an even greater appreciation of how good he is,' Ryan said of the Drake University recruit. 'I could instruct him firsthand instead of trying to find ways to stop him.'

Ryan said he will always carry special memories of the weekend in the Dells.

'I was humbled to be a part of it and to be around such great coaches, such as Jerry Petitgoue,' he said. 'Some of these people were my mentors, and I learned a lot from them.'

Besides Mark Petitgoue, Ryan had former New Berlin West head coach Jeff Lewiston on his bench.

'I wanted someone from our conference, and I had played and coached against Lewiston at Greendale,' he said.

The game turned out to be the final appearance in coaching for the now-retired Lewiston.

This was also the final high school game for Perez, who led the Panthers to the Division 2 tournament in spring. Perez will continue his career in college at Northern Michigan University, Johnsen said.

Baseball memories

As for baseball's Brian Johnsen, the all-star games brought back some fond memories.

'This was personally very special, because I had the opportunity to play in the 1999 All-Star Classic as a member of the Franklin Sabers,' Brian said. 'To be one of the best 72 seniors in the state of Wisconsin means a great deal.'

Brian's East team finished 1-2 in the two-day event.

Things did not start well, as his team was no-hit by the West in a 3-0 loss. Henderson worked two innings on the mound in that game, allowing one hit while striking out three and walking one.

The East came back in the other two games, downing the North 7-5 as Henderson scored one run and the South 3-2.

Brian especially enjoyed being on the same team as Henderson.

'Being able to coach him in these games was special and something I will not forget,' he said. 'He has been a special player for us, and in the history of Greendale baseball, he will go down as one of the best.

'What makes coaching so rewarding is having relationships with your players like Zack that will carry on past high school. I look forward to being a mentor and friend to him as he moves on to his career at (the University of Missouri) and beyond.'

State trifecta?

The next step for Brian, Henderson and the Panthers is to complete the Greendale state trifecta and reach the WIAA tournament.

'We are having a great year, and that is a credit to all our players,' Brian said.

Regardless of what happens in baseball, basketball's Ryan Johnsen said this has been a memorable year for the Panthers.

'Greendale sports is headed in the right direction,' he said. 'Football had a great run, boys basketball had a great run and baseball could do it as well.'