Basketball in Clintonville was forever changed when Coach Carl Bruggink stepped on the court with his first team at the beginning of the 1960-61 season. Fifty-one years later, Bruggink returned to the boy’s varsity basketball scene.
A special ceremony was held Nov. 22 at the Field House to dedicate the court in Bruggink’s honor as “Carl Bruggink Court”.
During his 41 years as coach of the Trucker boy’s varsity basketball team, Bruggink amassed a 549-368 record and led his teams to the playoffs 21 times. His teams made eight appearances at state, winning championships in 1977 and 1989. Under Bruggink, Trucker teams finished runner-up at state three times and went to sectionals 20 times. It can be said that Bruggink went out on top, retiring after his team posted a 17-4 record and earned a Valley 8 Conference Championship in 2000-01.
WBAY TV 2 news personality Bill Jartz served as master of ceremonies for the court dedication, and legendary Badger men’s basketball Coach Dick Bennett spoke to congratulate Bruggink on a tremendous career. Bruggink then was introduced to a standing ovation from a packed house.
“I would like to thank the school board and the administration for this tremendous honor,” Bruggink began. “I am greatly honored and thrilled, but also humbled that you would name the basketball court the ‘Carl Bruggink Court’. However, I wish to share this recognition with all of my former players, managers, statisticians, and assistant coaches. They all deserve just as much credit as I do for our success on the basketball court. I am just the lucky guy who got to coach them. My hope is that they will all feel an important part of this name on the floor every time they are in the Field House.
“Other than my marriage to my wonderful and understanding wife, Judy; the birth of our children, Sheri, Jeff and Steve; our grandchildren Jeremy, Jennifer and Justin Jirschele and Megan, Michael and Abby Bruggink; our great-grandchildren Keagen, Taelyn, and Paetyn Jirschele and Parker Soldner, this is one of the greatest things that have ever happened to me,” Bruggink continued. “I will not name any players as there are too many to name over 41 years but I do want all of them to feel a part of this-and not just the starters and high scorers, or the eight state teams or the 20 sectional teams.
“Every player was a vital part of our success and I especially want to include the non-starters as they were able to understand and accept their role, which is not always the easiest thing to do,” said Bruggink.” Over the years they heard me say over a hundred times that everybody can not be the boss or foreman at work. They all have their job to do. Basketball is merely life played with a ball.
“I would like to recognize a few teams that did not get the recognition they probably deserved-all of the teams in the 60s and early 70s when there was only one class and most of our opponents were twice our size,” Bruggink commented. “The 1970 team (17-7) that lost to eventual State Champion Appleton West by two points in the sectional final (West also had two players from New York). Then finally they added a Class B in 1975. We made it to state in 1976 and stressed the fact that we were representing all those great teams of the 60s and early 70s.
“Our 1980 team was 21-1 going into the Class A sectional final and lost a heartbreaker to a Manitowoc team that had four starters returning from their state team and was the only team moved into our sectional,” recalled Bruggink. “Some people said they thought the WIAA was sick of us going four straight years.
“Our 1978 team upset #7 ranked Racine Case at state and then lost to State Champ Neenah while our 1979 team lost at state to State Champ Milwaukee Tech,” said Bruggink. “In the 1990s we were again the smallest team in the Bay Conference but when we got into the new conference with teams our size we went 11-3 (2nd) in 2000 and 13-1 (Conference champs) in 2001. Five times in those last 10 years we lost to state tourney teams in the regionals. However, I feel every one of our teams played to their full potential by years end.
“Lastly, I would like to thank all of the faithful Trucker fans who were so very supportive. We truly have the best fans in the state,” stated Bruggink. “I would also like to thank my church family that has always been there for us. Clintonville is a great place to raise a family. We should all be very proud of our Clintonville area and our school district. Thanks again to everyone!”
Bruggink left the podium to another standing ovation and exchanged hugs and handshakes with family and friends before unveiling the emblem on the court with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Truckers then took the court to face off against one of Bruggink’s old Bay Conference foes-the Pulaski Red Raiders. Though Clintonville couldn’t earn the win, nothing could put a damper on the evening’s events. The court dedication will forever be a reminder of the man who changed the basketball landscape in Clintonville and touched so many lives in the process-Coach Carl Bruggink.