It didn't take Brian Cosgriff long to realize he needed to be pacing the sidelines with his arms crossed.
After a two-year hiatus, the former Hopkins coach is back, guiding a previous rival, Minnetonka, in the Lake Conference. He was serving as an assistant coach for Class 2A defending state champion Providence Academy.
"It's good to be back," Cosgriff said. "I miss my kids at Hopkins, but this is a really good fit for me."
Cosgriff guided Hopkins to seven state championships during his 21-year tenure. He is No. 13 in state history in girls basketball victories with a career record of 569-67.
He inherits a program coming off a 20-win season that lost in the Class 4A, Section 2 semifinals a year ago. Skippers coach Leah Dasovich resigned in mid-February amid controversy.
"Very seldom do you walk into a program where everything is already in place," Cosgriff said. "I don't have to make a lot of changes. It's not like the cupboard was bare here."
Cosgriff has put together a formidable staff, headed by associate head coach and former Lakeville North mentor Andy Berkvam. He left the Panthers — where he won state championships in 2001, 2002 and 2010 — in 2013 to take over the Northfield boys program.
"When I first started coaching at Hopkins, his program at Lakeville was the best in the state," Cosgriff said. "I patterned our team after what he was doing. It's awesome having him as part of my staff."
Minnesota will play Hopkins twice during the regular season with the first game on Jan. 20. The Skippers open their season at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Madison Memorial in the Pat Paterson tournament at Hamline.
The Lake Conference is the premier league in the state, and this might be the strongest it has ever been. Four teams — Hopkins, St. Michael-Albertville, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka — hold down the top four spots in the Metro Top 10. A fifth, Wayzata, checks in at No. 7.
"I don't think the Lake has ever been stronger," Cosgriff said.
Wayzata won 18 games last season while the other four were 20-game winners. The five combined to go 112-28 a year ago, all but six of those setbacks coming from head-to-head meetings.
"The Lake is going to be nasty again this year," Cosgriff said. "I can see two or three teams from the conference making the state tournament."
Eden Prairie and Minnetonka are in Section 2, Hopkins and Wayzata in Section 6 and St. Michael-Albertville in Section 8.
Minnesota's three best outstate players — Crosby-Ironton freshman Tori Oehrlein, Mountain Iron-Buhl junior Jordan Zubich and Grand Rapids senior Taryn Hamling — can be seen in the metro area this season on the same day at the same location in three consecutive games. All will play in the Breakdown Tip Off Classic on Dec. 3 at the Lindbergh Center at Hopkins High School.
Oehrlein is the state's highest-ranked recruit in the Class of 2026. A 5-11 guard, she averaged 29.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game as an eighth-grader. She has scored more than 1,000 points in her career. Crosby-Ironton plays Albany at 1:45 p.m. Dec. 3.
Zubich is a 5-11 guard and Hamling a 5-9 guard. Zubich made 137 three-pointers, breaking the single-season state record, in 2021-22. Hamling, who averaged 21.6 points a game last season, has signed with North Dakota State. Mountain Iron-Buhl plays Hayfield at 3:15 p.m. Dec. 3, followed by Grand Rapids against St. Peter at 5 p.m.