Even before he knew it, Ryan Driscoll wanted to be a coach.
Growing up in a household with two longtime high school coaches in his mom, Debbie, who’s now led the Mahtomedi gymnastics program for over 40 years, and his father, Jim, who’s done the same with Mahtomedi’s cross country and track and field programs, coaching was ingrained in Driscoll.
Now, he’ll continue that family tradition after he was named the next boys basketball coach for Northfield High School.
“I’ve always been the leader or the captain-type person,” Driscoll said. “The guy that would go into a timeout and tell a coach, ‘Hey, I think we can get them with this or that.’ Always just thinking about the game that way and just being the leader. It’s always been a role I’ve been comfortable with and the life that I know.”
Driscoll was officially hired Tuesday after he and a few other candidates interviewed the week before for the open position, which was vacated when Andy Berkvam resigned in July after leading the program for six years.
Driscoll said he doesn’t plan to incorporate many earth-shattering changes to the high school team or program, instead opting for a few minute alterations while allowing what’s allowed the Raiders to reach three consecutive section finals to remain more or less intact.
For all six of Berkvam’s years in charge, and the last year of Andy Jaynes’ tenure, Driscoll has been an assistant coach with Northfield. For the last five of those seven years, Driscoll has been actively preparing to eventually move into a head coaching role by taking on greater administrative responsibility throughout the program.
“Five years ago I went to (Berkvam) and said it was a goal of mine to be a head coach,” Driscoll said. “I wanted to start learning and doing the things I don’t know about, like the administrative-type stuff. Not just the coaching, because that’s really the easy part. Each year my role has grown more, so I’ve been going to board meetings the last five years and really taken on the summer camp in a much bigger role the last few years and basically running all the youth camps.”
In the end, that proved to be one of the reasons Driscoll separated himself as a candidate in the eyes of Northfield Activities Director Joel Olson.
“He has taken on jobs within the program that are head coach responsibilities,” Olson said. “He has taken a larger role in summer camps and clinics and has become more involved in the youth association. He understands the importance of relationship building with kids and parents. He believes that basketball is an avenue to help grow young people as athletes and as people.”
That’s part of the reason Driscoll settled on coaching basketball. At Mahtomedi High School, where Driscoll graduated from in 2000 and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame, he lettered in football, basketball and track and field.
In football, he was named all-state his senior year at wide receiver. In basketball, he was a three-year starter at point guard, while in track and field he set a school record in the triple jump. He’s also spent time coaching baseball, football, track and cross country, in addition to basketball.
So, the reason Driscoll’s scope narrowed to basketball after Jaynes invited him on his staff was because of the aspects of the job not directly involved with the day-to-day coaching.
“It’s just worked,” Driscoll said. “The neat thing about basketball that I really enjoy is it’s more of the program-building that’s been a lot of fun. I don’t look at myself as the high school varsity coach, it’s all one from K-12. That’s really how I do it.”