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Longtime Irish basketball coach steps down

Steve Bender, the head basketball coach at Rosemount High School since 1986, has resigned. News of the resignation came Tuesday.

"I've gotten some great e-mails and phone calls from some former players in the last couple of days," Bender said on Wednesday. "Those are the memories I'll have.

"I'm concentrating on the positives. I'll be spending a lot more free time with my wonderful, and beautiful, wife Heather. I'll be able to go to any game I want. I've been doing this a long time.

"Next year, I know we have a two-week-long vacation at Christmas. We're talking about going somewhere warm. As long as I can remember, I've been in a gym at Christmas."

Bender played high school basketball at Richfield High School. After playing collegiately and serving as a collegiate assistant in Oregon, he returned to Richfield to be an assistant coach for one season. He coached two seasons with the Lakeville sophomore team, then spent three years as their head coach before coming to Rosemount in 1986.

In Bender's first season at Rosemount, his team went to the state tournament. Five more times in his career, he led the Irish to the section finals.

"I'd like to thank my assistant coaches," he said. "We've had some great asssistants. Some of them have gone on to be very successful."

Bender said current RHS girls basketball coach Chris Harder is one of those assistants. Others include Paul Gates, who now coaches the Eastview girls varsity team; and Greg Miller, who coaches at Robbinsdale Armstrong.

Rich Glas and Stu Starner are each mentors, Bender said.

He's also a friend of Flip Saunders, who now coaches the NBA's Detroit Pistons.

Bender and Saunders would often hold summer mini camps, and Saunders offered Bender an assistant coaching position when Saunders landed a job with the CBA's LaCrosse Catbirds.

More than anything, Bender said, he'll treasure the relationships he's built with his former players. This weekend, he's going to the wedding of one of his former players. He said he hopes to stay in touch with those players, and he said he plans to continue conducting his popular summertime basketball camps.