Thank You and Good Luck to Former
Vice President for Development, Dave Thorson!
On April 10, Dave Thorson, Vice President for Development and boys’ basketball coach at DeLaSalle, resigned from his positions at the school. Dave is returning to college coaching after a 23-year career at DeLaSalle in teaching, administration, and coaching. He has accepted a position as assistant men’s basketball coach at Drake University, working with a longtime friend in coaching circles, the newly-hired head coach of the Bulldogs.
We will miss him, but we are thrilled for Dave and his family that he has this opportunity to get back into college coaching. Even as we encourage all of our students at DeLaSalle to pursue their dreams — and to do it the right way – we also convey that message to our staff, alumni, families, and friends.
Dave begins his work at Drake right away, so we were pleased to host a farewell reception at the school on Wednesday afternoon. Many colleagues — from inside and outside the building — were able to convey their best wishes to Dave as he begins his new pursuits.
Dave is best known publicly as a coach (and quite often completely mis-characterized by people who do not know him), but that dramatically sells short his primary work and impact at DeLaSalle. He began his career at the school in 1994 as a Social Studies teacher and coach, hired by then-president, the late Brother Michael Collins and then-principal, Barry Lieske. In fact, because both Dave and Barry are alumni of Hamline University, it was a third party with a Hamline connection who initiated the process by calling Barry and referring an outstanding candidate for DeLaSalle. From that call, a consequential career at DeLaSalle was set in motion.
Dave became Director of Student Activities in 1997, and he did excellent work in that role, among other things building out full girls’ soccer and competitive cheer programs and expanding the number of annual theatre productions during his tenure. Then, in 2004, he became Vice President for Development at DeLaSalle, a position he held to his final day at De.
In his development role, Dave has been a member of the President’s Cabinet, senior-level administrators at the school who advise the president on strategic planning initiatives. He has been connected with three sub-committees of the Board of Trustees – Development, Finance and Investment. As Major Gifts officer, he has worked with two presidents, first Brother Michael Collins and then Barry Lieske, to build relationships with alumni, parents, friends, and foundations who support DeLaSalle in their philanthropy. So much good has happened as a result of Dave’s work, providing the financial support for all families in a steadily growing enrollment. Dave has contributed significantly to ensuring DeLaSalle’s future. His primary work, however, didn’t get covered in the sports pages.
As Barry Lieske wrote in his letter to staff and trustees on Tuesday morning, “For all the gifts that Dave Thorson has cultivated for DeLaSalle students, we know that the biggest gift of his tenure has been Dave himself … As a teacher, administrator and coach, Dave absolutely embraced and then advanced DeLaSalle’s mission – to serve students from all socio-economic backgrounds who seek a high-quality Catholic, Lasallian, education. Dave’s never stopped teaching the mission, no matter his job title and no matter the moment. “
And then there’s basketball. We’ve been fortunate at DeLaSalle, going back to the 1930s, to the eras of coaches George Roberts, Johnny Kundla, and Dick Reinhart, to have one of the most storied high school basketball legacies in Minnesota (14 total state Catholic, independent or MSHSL state titles prior to 1994). There’s no doubt, however, that Dave Thorson achieved unparalleled success as the Islanders coach. Over 23 seasons, Dave has won nine state titles (a state record among boys’ or girls’ coaches), while earning 15 appearances in the state tournament and compiling a career record of 527-136. Currently, DeLaSalle is on a streak of six straight Class AAA championships (2012-17), another Minnesota high school record for most consecutive state titles. The Islanders also earned championships under Dave in 1998, 1999, and 2006.
Far, far more importantly, his players have become outstanding young men, earned college degrees, and achieved success as adults on and off the court. Dave Thorson is unsurpassed as one of the best coaches in the entire country, at any level.
In every conversation, presentation or interview, Dave has always been quick to say that the success of DeLaSalle had everything to do with its students, mission, legacy, and tradition. In that vein, DeLaSalle does look ahead to the future with confidence. Dave would be the first to point out that the same mission that fueled his passion has likewise motivated thousands of people at DeLaSalle since 1900 – Christian Brothers and modern-day Lasallians, students, parents, alumni, and friends of the school. As Dave himself always told his Development team or his basketball team, “Everyone is important here. Everyone has a role to play.”
The school will make measured decisions to replace Dave in the Development office and as basketball coach, and will seek the best possible candidates for each job. Just as in 1994 when we sought to hire a new teacher and coach, our number one priority will be to find the best person(s) to continue our tradition of excellence, while helping all students become better people.
Because of people like Dave Thorson – and so many others – our mission remains relevant with each new generation. We are 117 years into our work, and we have been significantly blessed to have shared the past 23 with Dave Thorson. We extend our gratitude to a forever-Islander. Best of luck to you, Dave, as you bring your considerable gifts to your new position! #IslanderPride #GrindersWin