Coach Osborn joins state’s 700-win club
CRESTON (Jan. 31) -- Diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in August of 2014, Harlan Community boys basketball coach Mitch Osborn contemplated that his long career might be over.
He wasn’t exactly sure what the future held, but he was darn sure ready to fight.
Remarkably, nearly five and a half years later - through the chemotherapy treatments, stem cell transplants and 83 more wins on the court - Osborn has yet to miss a single game.
Friday night in Creston, the joy of that fact was evident in Osborn’s voice as he addressed the team following the Cyclones’ 68-60 win over the Panthers.
This wasn’t just any win. Osborn became only the fourth boys basketball coach in state history to reach 700 career victories.
His current record of 700-169 in 36 seasons at HCHS (23), Pomeroy-Palmer (7) and Elk Horn-Kimballton (6) computes to an amazing winning percentage of .806 that is unmatched by the three men ahead of him on the state’s win list.
After the game, Osborn was greeted in the locker room by whoops and hollers from a jovial group of players. Assistant coaches Chad Swanson and Kevin Osborn (Mitch’s son) and current girls assistant coach Mark Kohorst all spoke about the impact that Coach Osborn has made on their lives and in the community. Osborn’s oldest son, Joel, also talked to the team.
Joel is a cancer survivor as well. So is Kohorst.
This was a happy occasion so no one quite lost it emotionally, but some were close.
“I really wasn’t thinking about it during the game until [HCHS girls coach] Zach Klaassen hugged me afterwards, but then we got in the locker room and the guys... It was very special and emotional,” Osborn said.
“Waves of emotion come on because the other thing is just my health. August of 2014 - don’t know if you’re going to coach again. I have not missed a game at this point - a couple practices - but I’m very fortunate. Between a lot of faith in God and great medicine at UNMC (and) the Buffett Cancer Center, I’ve had great results and my tests have been good.”
“You’re not counting as a coach,” he said of the milestone. “It is another game; (700) means you’ve coached a lot. You’ve had a lot of great players. You’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches. We have a great community... It's been a great run."
As for Friday’s game, the Cyclones (11-4 overall, 8-0 H-10) found themselves in a classic battle at Creston through two and a half quarters as the lead changed hands 10 times to go along with four ties. The final lead change occurred about midway through the third when Michael Heithoff’s three-pointer put Harlan up 40-39 and ignited a game-changing 20-4 Cyclone surge.
Harlan’s three senior starters - Connor Bruck, Johnathan Monson and Heithoff - all finished with 14 points, McLaughlin tallied 11, Connor Frame had eight off the bench and Michael Erlemeier added six.
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