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Spartans' Kontny puts players first

Colleagues and players say the Spartan girls basketball coach, who recently surpassed 300 career wins, focuses on building relationships with student-athletes.

Superior head basketball coach Dave Kontny is presented an autographed ball from Activities Director Ella Olson
Superior head basketball coach Dave Kontny is presented an autographed ball from Activities Director Ella Olson before the Spartans’ game with Duluth East Monday evening, Jan. 31, 2022, in Superior. Kontny won his 300th game on Saturday during the Spartans’ victory over Eau Claire North.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — When the Spartans beat Eau Claire North on Jan. 29,  Superior girls basketball coach Dave Kontny reached a goal that many coaches aspire to achieve: his 300th win.

Kontny, throughout his 25-year coaching career, has inspired other coaches and athletes through hard work and dedication to the sport of basketball. Just this year, Kontny’s team has had some great games, placing the Spartans as a No. 3 seed heading into the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association's Division 1 playoffs. Kontny declined the Telegram's request for an interview for this story, saying he preferred to keep the focus on his players.

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Superior head coach Dave Kontny, left, talks to Kloe Zentowski (13) and Eva Peterson (23) during a timeout in the first half of the Spartans' victory over South Shore at SHS Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

“Kontny is a very passionate coach who doesn’t settle for anything less than great. He always pushes us to our best potential and is someone very reliable and easy to come to if needed,” said Emma Raye, a junior for the Spartans. “(He) has helped me grow as a player by always pushing me to my best potential. He helps me break down the game to be successful and notice the different flaws in other teams’ games. He is also upfront with me if I need to fix things and will let me know, only making the team and me better.” 

Though Kontny’s players know him best as a coach, his abilities and influence radiate outward to fans, friends, and even coworkers as he continues to push the Spartan girls to be their best as people and athletes. 

“Dave is a coach that puts his players first and makes decisions based on the good of the team,” said Ella Olson, Superior's activities director. “What I pressure all of our coaches to be is relationship builders first, and make those relationships with the kids, and I’ve noticed that in Dave. He has put a large part of his life into basketball, and when you look at it, he’s done it to give back. When you’re coaching high school athletics, you’re not doing it for the money or the glory. You’re just doing it because you love a sport. More than the wins themselves, the time, the dedication, and just the love for the sport is probably the biggest milestone.” 

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Ray Kosey, former Spartan activities director, said he will always remember talking with Kontny about coaching.

“We always had that ability to have those very personal conversations," Kosey said. "I valued those conversations with Dave because he just had so much passion, and we had the ability to just talk through things, and I really respected that.”

But it's not all business all the time with Kontny.

The Spartans went on a 19-0 run after halftime, but couldn’t hang on for the win.

Raye recalled one memorable moment and her coach's reaction to it.

“Something that I will always remember about Coach Kontny is when some teammates and I had pranked him by putting hot dogs all over his yard as the first day of practice jokes. We ended up laughing about it weeks after," she said.

One of the things Olson said she appreciates about Kontny is how he treats the people around him.

“One of the things that I’ll never forget personally about (Dave) is that he’s treated me like an equal," she said. "Obviously, he’s been doing this longer than I have, but he knows that we have a common interest, and a passion, and a love for the game of basketball. He has come to me and said in situations, ‘Is this what you would’ve done?’ or ‘What should I have done in this situation?’ and for somebody like him, who has (more than 300) wins now, coming to somebody who’s coached basketball for a handful of years but not nearly been around the game as long ... that respect in treating me like an equal is something that I’ll never forget.” 

Kontny and the Spartans (18-4) will be back in action Friday, Feb. 25, to host a playoff game against D.C. Everest (9-15) at 7 p.m.

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