To them, he’s a “legendary” coach, a man who helped teach the meaning of humility and camaraderie, or someone who simply gave them a chance when no one else would.
To all of them, however, he’s coach Hank Biesiot.
“They just don’t make ‘em like him anymore,” said Randy Gordon, a longtime head football coach for Dickinson Trinity and a member of the first Dickinson State team Biesiot coached in 1976.
Several former DSU football players said Thursday that they were sad to hear Biesiot had announced his resignation after 38 years as the Blue Hawks’ head coach and reflected on what they learned under his tutelage, as well as the hundreds of multi-sport coaches he helped groom.
Media estimates have the number of players Biesiot coached for at least one season during his career at about 2,000 with hundreds of college and high school coaches coming out of his program.
“It might sound silly, but it might just be like a good farmer raising a son that becomes a good farmer,” said Travis Olson, Richardton-Taylor’s head football coach who played for the Blue Hawks from 1984-87. “That’s the way I felt. To me, when I came in there, I knew nothing about pride. … I watched the way the coaches there loved the game, they taught the best thing about football to me, and the best thing about football to me is the love of the game.”
John Tuchscherer, Dickinson High’s head coach, played on Biesiot’s final three conference championship teams in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Fresh off his first year as the Midgets’ head coach, Tuchscherer said he is hoping to model the way he treats and coaches his teams after how Biesiot treated the Blue Hawks.
“You see the way he does things and you see the way he handles himself,” Tuchscherer said. “You want to model yourself after that. His consistency, how humble he is, winning all those games. It’s never been about him. It’s been about the guys he’s worked with and the teams he’s coached. That’s why I think there’s so many successful coaches that have played under him or coached under him. They take the things that they learned from him. He’s a role model for everyone he’s coached that are now coaching.”
But it isn’t just coaches who share a bond with Biesiot.
Over four decades, Biesiot has served as a uniter among generations of football players as some fathers who played for him early in his coaching career eventually found themselves watching their sons play for the Blue Hawks.
DSU junior defensive lineman Sam Herauf’s father, Paul Herauf, was an all-conference guard who played under Biesiot from 1979 to 1981.
“You kind of get the true perspective of when he was a younger coach and how he did things,” Paul Herauf said. “It really hasn’t changed much. He’s still the same down-to-earth guy.”
Sam Herauf said he heard Biesiot talk about many of the same things his dad told him the coach would say — even the jokes.
Sam Herauf said it hasn’t set in that he won’t be playing for Biesiot as a senior, though he is part to be a part of history.
“You can say you’re a part of DSU history,” he said. “You’re on the last team coach B ever coached.”
Duane Monlux, a former NAIA all-American who played under Biesiot from 1993 to 1997 and coached alongside him from 2001 to 2010, said he is proud that DSU’s stadium is now named in Biesiot’s honor.
The Badlands Activities Center was renamed the Henry Biesiot Activities Center in October 2012 following DSU’s homecoming game against Montana Tech.
“We always have that legacy of his,” Monlux said. “For the people that know him and played for him and coached with him and know him in the community, it’s much more than a name on a building. He’s touched so many lives in a positive way. He has a positive manner in the way he treats people. He’s a kind man who lives by humility and a guy who can be very boastful of what he’s accomplished. You never hear a word about that coming out of his mouth. Integrity is what comes to my mind about the type of person he is.”
Eric Boettcher, who was a NAIA all-region receiver for the Blue Hawks in the early 90s and played on the 1991 team that reached the NAIA playoff semifinals, said he thinks DSU’s struggles in Biesiot’s final three seasons will be forgotten as history remembers how the coach built one of the most consistently successful program in college football, compiling 258 career victories with few issues on and off the field.
“When people look back, what they’re going to remember the most was how he did it the right way,” Boettcher said. “There was never any controversy in the program, there was never any kids getting in trouble or major issues. It was done the right way. That’s something you just don’t see nowadays. To do it for that long with that consistency is amazing.”