MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead head men’s basketball coach Chad Walthall announced his retirement Thursday, March 24, after 12 seasons leading the program.
“It’s been going on in my mind for a while,” said Walthall, who is 53 years old. “You just get to a point where it’s time to do something else in life. I’ve been doing it for 30 years and it’s just time to do something different.”
Walthall averaged 21 wins per season during his time with the Dragons, leading MSUM to six NCAA Division II tournament appearances. The Dragons advanced to the Elite Eight in 2015, which marked the first time the program made it that far in the national tournament since its transition to Division II in 1995.
“I think we did a lot of firsts in our 12 years here,” Walthall said.
The Dragons won their first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament with a win against Minnesota Duluth in the championship game in early March. MSUM lost in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament to defending national champion Northwest Missouri State, ending the season with a 19-12 record.
“He has transformed our men’s basketball program,” said interim MSUM athletic director Chad Markuson. “We are year-to-year one of the best teams in the conference and in the nation.”
The Dragons played in five NSIC tournament title games under Walthall in 2012, 2105, 2016, 2021 and 2022.
“The (NSIC) tournament championship was kind of icing on the cake,” Walthall said.
Markuson said Dragons assistant coach Tim Bergstraser will serve as the acting head coach and a national search for Walthall’s successor will start as early as next week. The 31-year-old Bergstraser said he’s interested in being the program’s next head coach.
“Without hesitation I would love the job,” said Bergstraser, who’s been on Watlhall’s staff the past six seasons. “I’m very eager to be a head coach.”
Walthall gave Bergstraser his endorsement.
“The program is built for sustained success now,” Walthall said. “My hope is that Tim will be able to take over the program, but I don’t make those decisions, but I certainly feel he’s ready and I know the players love him.”
Walthall said his retirement is something that has been brewing the past couple seasons with the time and energy needed to run a successful program, specifically pointing out the grind of recruiting.
“I think to do this job, you have to be all in all the time and if you can’t be all in all the time, then you shouldn’t be doing it,” Walthall said. “The last few years have been very exhausting and I think it’s just the stress level. You do it for 30 years and I think it’s a young man’s game. I’m still young enough to try something else in life.”
Walthall said he plans to remain in the Fargo-Moorhead area and pursue other career opportunities.
“I have no intentions to ever coach again,” Walthall said. “I have no plans to coach. I left it all out there. I left it all on the table for MSUM.”
Walthall has multiple former assistants who have gone on to become head coaches in the NSIC, including Justin Wieck at Minnesota Duluth and Dan Weisse at Minnesota-Crookston. Walthall recalled a conversation he had with Wieck in December.
“I told Justin, ‘I’m losing my desire to do it anymore,'” Walthall said. “Burnout, it just doesn’t happen. It happens over time. I’m probably more relieved than anything at this point. … Thirty years is a long time to do something.”
Walthall informed his team Thursday that he was retiring. His relationships with players and staff is what he’s going to miss the most.
“There’s just a lot of things I’m proud of, but it’s taken an extraordinary amount of hard work and terrific assistants and a lot of hours on the road and recruiting,” Walthall said.
“He does truly have a lot of pride for this program and he’s proud of what he’s done,” Bergstraser added. “He’s helped a lot of (assistant coaches) out. He lets us do our thing, he obviously coaches, but he lets us coach like we’re head coaches.”