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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 2, 2010
At 939, Klinge is king
Waukon Coach Gene Klinge kisses his wife Pat after their win over MFL MarMac, 48-38, for his 939th career victory during their Rivalry Saturday game at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

Waukon Coach Gene Klinge kisses his wife Pat after their win over MFL MarMac, 48-38, for his 939th career victory during their Rivalry Saturday game at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The buzzer rang, and the Waukon Indians stripped.

Off came the black uniform tops. Revealed were white tank tops.

On the front: “939 WINS.”

On the back: “CONGRATS COACH.”

Gene Klinge became the winningest girls’ basketball coach in state history after Waukon defeated MFL MarMac, 48-38, last night as part of Rivalry Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center.

Wauikon Coach Gene Klinge and Mary Halvorson share a moment after the Indians' 48-38 win over MFL MarMac on Saturday. It was Klinge's 939th win.

Wauikon Coach Gene Klinge and Mary Halvorson share a moment after the Indians' 48-38 win over MFL MarMac on Saturday. It was Klinge's 939th win.

“It’s a real thrill for me. Yeah, I’m very excited about it,” Klinge said.

A Monona native, Klinge owns a 939-218 mark in 48 years — 41 at West Central (817-186), the last seven at Waukon (122-32), where he won a state title in 2004.

He passed the late Bob Mullen, who posted a 938-420 mark in a career that spanned 54 years and six schools.

“The man whose record I broke, he was a true gentleman,” Klinge said. “He taught me a lot about being a gracious winner and a gracious loser.”

Klinge graduated from MFL in 1955. His first victory (56-45, on Nov. 16, 1962) came against his alma mater. So did his record-breaker.

“It’s awesome. It’s an enjoyment to play for him,” said Mary Halvorson, who led all scorers with 16 points as Waukon improved to 8-1. “He has coached longer than my Dad has been alive.

“I respect him so much. He deserves this.”

No. 939 isn’t the end of the journey.

“He loves the game so much,” said Logan Hjerleid. “He’ll be doing it until it’s over.”

Klinge said, “I enjoy what I’m doing. I think I still have something to contribute.”

MFL MarMac (6-2) was much more than just window dressing for the occasion. This cast of Bulldogs had never lost to their Waukon counterparts, from seventh grade on up.

For a while, it looked like more of the same Waukon didn’t score until 3:20 had passed, and didn’t convert from the field until Hjerleid hit a baseline jumper with 5:35 elapsed.

Through the early drought, Klinge seethed.

“Swing the ball,” he hollered. “Attack the defense!”

The Indians trailed, 11-6, after one quarter, then asserted themselves late in the half.

Halvorson’s basket gave Waukon its first lead, 15-14, with 2:43 left in the half. The Indians were up, 21-18, at intermission.

Finally, a 10-0 run midway through the third quarter opened the margin to 33-20.

The margin stayed between 8-12 points most of the rest of the way.

Carissa Berger scored on a layup at the buzzer to wrap it up; moments later, the Indians were in their undershirts.

The idea was the brainstorm of Chelsey Dreckman, and was completed during lunch hour at school one day shortly before the holiday break.

“It’s a little out of character for our girls,” Klinge said. “They’re not a show-boaty bunch.”

Pat Klinge said her husband “has been pretty quiet about (the record). The kids read the papers and listen to the news. I’m sure it’s been a distraction.

“Honestly, I think he’s glad it’s over with.”

Waukon players wore white undershirts under their jerseys commemorating Gene Klinge's record-breaking 939th career victory. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

Waukon players wore white undershirts under their jerseys commemorating Gene Klinge's record-breaking 939th career victory. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

13 Responses to At 939, Klinge is king

  1. Gene, you were gentleman when we graduated in the MFL Class of 1955 and it appears that you have continued to improve! Congratulations on your 939th win! God Bless!

  2. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Great job Coach. We’re proud of you!

  3. Nobody deserves it more than Coach Klinge. AMAZING & WONDERFUL man.

  4. Congratulations Gene. Your Dad an Mother would be so proud. This is also a tribute to them in what they taught you about hard work. Shirley B.Drake

  5. Congratulations Gene!!!!!!! We have been counting the games and telling people —— We know that coach! WAY TO GO!!!!!!
    Dan and Olganida

  6. Congratulations! What an achievement! I’m delighted for you, and for Pat who has been your supporter at countless games.
    Annelle

  7. Great job coach! Glad you finally did it.
    -See you in practice Tuesday!

  8. I officiate HS basketball and have officiated one of Waukons games as this record neared. Gene was very humble about it and very gracious. I congratulate him on this achievement.

  9. Congratulations Gene, what an accomplishment and it all started way back in the “50′s” with our mentor Coach George Pederson. I’m proud to tell everybody we grew up together, graduated, and you are my second cousin!

  10. Congratulations Coach Klinge,
    You have touched many lives with your coaching and you will always be one of my favorites! (But… I enjoyed you most when you were a RED-socked Blue Devil back in the 80′s. Wishing you and your family the best~WOW, what an accomplishment!

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