Former Hopkins coach recalls Paige Bueckers’ high school days

Former Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff vividly remembers the first time he saw Paige Bueckers playing basketball.

“She was in second grade, playing at halftime of a University of Minnesota women’s game,” Cosgriff told KSTP’s Chris Long on Thursday afternoon. “I think she was playing against fourth and fifth graders and was dominating. I was like, ‘Who’s this little peanut out there?!’ You could see she was special, even at that age.”

Click the video box on this page to watch KSTP Sports’ Chris Long chat with former Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff, who recounts stories and heaps superlatives upon his former superstar Paige Bueckers as she returns to Minnesota to play in the NCAA Final Four

This weekend, Bueckers is back home hoping to lead her Connecticut Huskies to an NCAA Championship as the NCAA Women’s Final Four plays at Target Center.

“I’m probably going to get a little emotional about this because it’s a dream come true,” Cosgriff said.

Cosgriff coached Bueckers for five years at Hopkins High School, where she won a state championship, won the Ms. Basketball award and was named the National H.S. Player of the Year.

“I keep saying to myself – I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be around such greatness,” Cosgriff said. “You never know how big the moment is until it becomes a memory. I just feel so blessed to be part of her career.”

In her first season at UConn last year, Bueckers became the first freshman to win the Naismith Award, given to the top college basketball player in the country.

She also won the ESPY Award for Most Outstanding Female College Athlete, addressing inclusion and racial and gender equality in her acceptance speech.

Cosgriff attributes Bueckers’ success not only to her commitment to being the best basketball player she can be, but also her commitment to being the best person she can be.

“I’ll never forget after every game her senior year, we’d have 200-300 people waiting outside our locker room. She would stay and sign (autographs) and I’d tell her, ‘You gotta get a ride home with your parents because the bus has to go’. She would sign or take pictures with every one of them.”

RELATED: Paige Bueckers, Chegg partner to battle food insecurity

The talent he first saw in that “little peanut” of a second grader blended with Bueckers’ character and drive has her former coach projecting she’ll reach remarkable heights down the road as a professional.

“If she stays healthy and continues to grow the way she is in terms of being the person she is – you’re going to see someone, in my humble opinion, the next Sue BIrd or Diana Taurasi. I think she’s that special. That’s rare air.

“And to say she’s from Minnesota? And for me to say I got to spend five years with her? God is smiling on me, my friend.”

Cosgriff stepped down from coaching at Hopkins after Bueckers’ senior class departed. That final team was 30-0, riding a 62-game winning streak (second longest in state history), ranked #1 in the nation and preparing to play in the Championship game when the pandemic shut the State Tournament down. The cancellation denied Cosgriff a chance to match the record eight state titles won by Faith Johnson-Patterson (Minneapolis North / DeLaSalle) and Myron Glass (Rochester Lourdes).

Cosgriff’s Royals teams went 35-6 in State Tournament play over his 21 seasons coaching.

He spent last season as an assistant at Providence Academy, which just won the Class AA State Championship.