In their bloodBriggs takes reins from dad, helps make CGAA Classic, held at Woodbury and Park High Schools, the biggest ever.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
For the Briggs family, basketball is in their blood.
Bob Briggs began the Cottage Grove Athletic Association Classic Boys Basketball Tournament in 1975. This year, his son Tom Briggs — along with partner Jim Buss — are running the Classic for a seventh-straight year.
“I’ve never ridden a snowmobile or went skiing in my life, because winter has always been basketball season,” Tom Briggs said. “That’s been our life and that’s just what we do.”
The first CGAA Classics were comprised of eight teams in three grades — sixth, seventh and eighth — for a total of 24 teams.
“It was just when traveling teams had started up,” Bob Briggs said. “Traveling teams played most of their games in leagues and only had three or four tournaments they could play in back in those days, so I started one. It was a fundraiser and we made some money. That was important.”
The CGAA Classics were first played Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park.
“You had two gyms down there at Oltman,” Bob Briggs said. “You just had the one gym here at the high school and we didn’t get to use it much in those days. At that time, it was a pretty big tournament.”
Things have come a long way.
The 36th-annual CGAA Classic Boys Basketball Tournament is expected to be the biggest in history, said Tom Briggs, the tournament director.
The tournament, which will be held Feb. 12 and 13 at Park and Woodbury high schools, will include 124 total boys basketball teams in grades four through nine. South Washington County will have 37 youth teams competing in the tournament — the CGAA will have 10 teams playing, the Woodbury Athletic Association will have 12 teams playing and the East Ridge Athletic Association will have 15 teams in the tournament.
Tom Briggs said the biggest reason for the growth of tournaments like the Classic are the upgrades in facilities — like the field houses at Park and Woodbury high schools and the gym at East Ridge.
“You can only run it based on the gym space you have,” Tom Briggs said. “Now, with the new activity centers you can bring in many, many more teams.”
Tom Briggs and Buss, who are longtime CGAA boys and girls basketball coaches, also ran the tournament two years in the mid-1980s, and the boys and girls tournaments for most of the 1990s. Tom Briggs said it was then they decided to expand the tournament to include as many teams as possible.
“We had teams playing at every high school and middle school in the area,” he said. “From that point on we have just been aggressively trying to get as many teams as possible. In the mid 1990s we really had the premier girls basketball tournament around.”
According to Tom Briggs, all of a traveling team’s games are currently played in tournaments, not in leagues like it was in past decades.
“Back in the day when Jim and I started coaching together we played in a league called the Metro Classic League and as that progressed, teams started having more tournaments as fundraisers,” he said. “Communities began to figure out that it was less expensive to play in tournaments than in leagues and you could play more games for your money. That’s kind of how it all transpired.”
According to its website, the object of the CGAA is to implant firmly into the children of the community the spirit of competition and the ideals of good sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, courage and reverence so they may be finer, stronger and happier children and grow to be clean, proud, confident adults. The CGAA is a nonprofit volunteer organization. On a yearly basis, the adults of the program volunteer over 60,000 hours of their time to the children of the community.
Bob Briggs said he’s proud of what the tournament has become and that his son Tom has helped carry the torch.
“Tom started helping me coach when he was 18,” he said. “It makes me feel pretty good to see a lot of the kids I coached still here helping out in the community.”
For more information on the tournament, visit www.cottagegrovebasketball.com.