By any measure, Calvin Johnson is a profoundly successful man.
A doctor; a professor of anesthesiology at USC and UCLA; a missionary and a father; Johnson has achieved nearly everything a man can. And, yet, the Egelston Township native attributes his success to one man.
"So much depends on how you get started, if you want to be successful lifelong," said Johnson, over his cell phone while walking along a wind-swept Cape Cod beach. "I don't think I'd be where I am today without Coach."
"Coach" is Jack Schugars, the immensely successful high school football coach at Oakridge High School was to be inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night. He will join wrestling coach Don Mosley, and former Lumberjack hockey great Dave Michayluk in addition to student-athlete and Distinguished Service award winners.
While Schugars has amassed many victories over his 29-year career, his impact on the people he has coached has been just as powerful.
Johnson is a testament to that impact.
Johnson first met "Coach" when Schugars was coaching youth league baseball and football in 1969.
"I'm a black kid, 10 years old, who's just moved into the area," Johnson said.
The newly formed district's high school had opened the year before, one year after racial tensions in Detroit exploded into a five-day riot that left 43 dead and 2,000 buildings destroyed.
The almost all-white district was made up of mostly rural and blue-collar families.
"There couldn't have been more than maybe four or five black families in the area when I attended school there," Johnson said. "But, here's the funny thing, the type of racism I experienced wasn't from people who were invested in the community."
Then, as now, the high school and its sports teams provided the area with its sense of identity, Johnson said. "I was sheltered a little bit because I was playing sports."
But his coaches like Schugars kept him grounded.
"For sure, Calvin was one of the star athletes and that helped, but he was a fine individual and that was why he was accepted," Schugars said.
It also helped, according to Johnson, that teachers and coaches like Schugars and John Swinburne made it clear that character and hard work, not skin color, were all that mattered at school.
"He's one of the greatest kids I've ever coached," Schugars said. "I progressed with him."
And the adult that Johnson would become took shape.
"I wouldn't have developed the confidence or the belief system or the ability to look past the situation and judge people on an individual basis," Johnson said. "The thing was, even after football season, I'd always go hang out at his place. He encouraged me to go to med school."
After earning a basketball scholarship to attend Dartmouth, Johnson moved up in the ranks of his profession, eventually becoming a professor teaching resident physician's anesthesiology at USC, UCLA and the world-reknowned Cedars-Sinai Hospital.
Motivated from the start
Schugars was still an assistant football coach when he was named West Michigan Conference coach of the year during Johnson's senior season in 1977.
"There's the coach by appointment and then there's the coach by leadership. It's nothing against the head coach, but 'Coach' was who you really felt loyal to," Johnson said.
From the beginning, Schugars was the master motivator, Johnson said, remembering his junior season. "He had this big rock he carried around the whole season to show us we were stronger together. It was the first year the school won the conference championship. At the end of the year, he broke up that rock and gave each of us a certificate with a piece of the rock. I still have it to this day. I showed it to him when he was visiting last year and he couldn't believe I still had it."
Schugars has made a career out of getting the most out of his players, Johnson said. "He didn't always have the most talented teams, but he got the guys to work together. That's what carries his teams and made him consistently successful over the years."
In the 29 seasons since Shugars was named head coach in 1979, Oakridge has won 17 West Michigan Conference championships and three state titles.
A three-sport star at Oakridge, Johnson was a second-team all-stater in football and was named to the first team in basketball.
As a senior at Darmouth College, Johnson was captain of the basketball team, led the Ivy League in free throw percentage and was an Academic All-American.
Success beyond the athletic field
Sports are only a starting point, Schugars says. "The football stuff is going to pass away. The real success of coaching is to have these kids develop into really fine individuals."
It is what Johnson and others have done in life that Schugars is most proud. "I don't want kids thinking they can go only so far. They have to realize the doors are open if they apply themselves. I tell them, 'You don't have to stay here and do what mom and dad did.'"
It's a lesson Schugars learned from his parents. "Both my parents didn't graduate from high school. My dad owned the Old Dutch gas station on Eddy and Fleming for 30 years. He didn't want me spending my life washing windshields and checking the air. He told me to go to school and do want I wanted to do."
It's a message Johnson took to heart with spectacular results. "Coach was always telling me, 'You can do whatever you want.' It inspired me to try things I might not have."
He is not alone. "Look at the number of his players that go on to college and go on to have great families," Johnson said. "It's really remarkable. The kids who stick it out, you don't hear about them getting into trouble."
Schugars' fierce loyalty to his players, staff and community has been returned in the form of lifelong friendships.
"Even though I graduated back in 1977, we're still very close," Johnson said. "He still comes out to stay with me in L.A. My peers think it's pretty remarkable, but I think nothing of it. We'll go long stretches without talking or seeing each other, but we always pick up right where we left off."
From the start, there was something elemental about wrestling that Don Mosley couldn't resist.
"When you look at what it takes to be a wrestler -- you need a kid who likes the one-on-one competition, who likes to get himself in top shape and you need a lot of confidence. It's not for the weak-hearted," Mosley said.
Wrestling embodied the ideals of
toughness and self-reliance Mosley
learned from legendary Muskegon Heights
High football coach Okie Johnson.
But he didn't discover the sport that would become a major part of his professional life until he went to Central Michigan to play football in 1958.
His roommates were on the wrestling team and pestered Mosley until he attended a couple workouts. Once he did, he was hooked.
"I was certainly not good enough to be a professional athlete, but I looked at the opportunity of working with kids and building a successful team as a profession," Mosley said.
Mona Shores had just started what was only the second wrestling program in the area when Mosley joined the teaching staff in 1962.
During the next 39 years Mosley guided the Sailors' wrestling team to a 494-189-5 record.
Mosley will be inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday at the annual banquet at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.
Joining Mosley in the Hall's Class of 2009 are Oakridge High Football coach Jack Schugars, former Muskegon Lumberjack great Dave Michayluk, Service Award winner Earl O'Brien and Student-Athlete honorees Marie Roof and Jeff Petsch.
Mosley was as enthusiastic about the sport when he retired in 2001 as when he dragged a half dozen old gym mats together for his first practice in 1962.
"Wrestling is pretty demanding, but the rewards are tremendous. I got excited about getting the team ready for competition right to the end," Mosley said.
He was a demanding coach in a demanding sport. "If I could get kids to give all they had, that was the biggest reward. We had a lot of state qualifiers and state place-winners, but every wrestler on the team was just as valuable," Mosley said.
Mosley was more impressed by the kid who fought tooth and nail to avoid getting pinned, but still lost and cost the team three points, than he was by a more talented athlete who put in a half-hearted effort.
"If the kid doesn't get pinned and we give up three points instead of six, we can still win as a team," Mosley says. "Others may have more ability, be he's still the hero."
Mosley coached 30 individual state place-winners and state champion Ken Luipakka (167) in 1978.
Grandville always seemed to block Mona Shores' way to the state team title, but the Sailors did win the Class A regional title in 1982.
The Sailors gained state-wide recognition under Mosley. "That's what I was proudest of. That people knew who we were and that we could compete on any level," Mosley said.
Mosley was old school all the way. He was earning just $4,100 a year as a teacher in 1962, far too little to support a growing family.
From the beginning, he took summer jobs, which eventually transformed him into a small business owner. Mosley's Driving School has proven as successful as his sports teams.
The highlight of Mosley's 10-year career as Mona Shores football coach was the Sailors' 8-1 record in 1968.
One key to his success has been Mosley's willingness to get his hands dirty. Right up to the end of his coaching career he was ready to go to mats against his wrestlers.
"Wrestling gave me the opportunity to work one-on-one with a kid. I'd rather show them things myself than stand there and watch. Besides, it kept me in shape and kept those young guys in line," he said.
Funny thing though, says Mosley, is it seems, in their own minds, those pups got tougher as they got older.
"One guy told me they always let me throw them around because I'd get mad and make 'em runs laps if they beat me," Mosley says, laughing. "Funny, I don't remember it that way."
Former Muskegon Lumberjacks great Dave Michayluk is a very busy man when Stanley Cup time rolls around.
But the hard-nosed and elusive winger who scored 100 points or more in nine straight seasons of professional hockey, including seven in Muskegon, isn't anywhere near an ice rink come spring.
"I've been busy," the man nicknamed 'Boris' said earlier this week. "I've been seeding. We just got finished on Saturday."
After a solid week of dawn to dusk days, the 3,500-acre Michayluk family farm in Wakaw, Saskatchewan (pop. 884) is finally planted in wheat, barley, canola, peas and oats.
Now, there's just enough time for a quick visit for his induction into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame before he needs to start spraying for weeks next week.
Joining Michayluk in the Class of 2009 at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor are Mona Shores wrestling coach Don Mosley, Oakridge football coach Jack Schugars, Service Award winner Earl O'Brien and Student-Athlete honorees Marie Roof of Mona Shores and Montague's Jeff Petsch.
Michayluk moved his family out of Cleveland and back to the small town he grew up in shortly after his hockey career ended a dozen years ago.
He briefly toyed with the idea of coaching, but didn't like rootless life that is the lot of young coaches working their way up the ranks.
"I like being back home. I'm my own boss and I wanted my girls growing up somewhere I know is solid," Michayluk said.
For Michayluk, induction into the MASHF is a particular honor. "You know," he said, "It's special. Just because we loved the time in Muskegon -- the teams we had and the success we had and everybody treated you like family there."
The team, too, was like a family, Michayluk said. "In Muskegon everyone took care of everyone else. That's why we had a lot of success, because we cared about each other."
From the time Michayluk joined the team for the 1985-86 season until the franchise left for Cleveland in 1992, the Lumberjacks twice won the Turner Cup (1986 and 1989).
The second time Muskegon took the trophy, Michayluk was the league MVP, led the league in scoring with 122 points and was the playoff MVP. The season before he had his highest season total of 137 points.
Michayluk credits his teammates for his success.
"One person can never accomplish anything by themselves. I had success because our team was successful," he said.
"Dave was a good player and a great guy," said Tim Hrynewich, who was on the 1985-86 team with Michayluk.
"He had that knack of being in the right place at the right time. He wasn't huge, but he was strong on his skates. He was an honest player. He went out there an worked hard all the time."
Michayluk scored 100 points or more every season from 1984-85, when he was with Kalamazoo, until 1992-93 in Cleveland. He finished the 1993-94 season with 99 points.
The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, holds the professional record of 13 straight seasons with 100 or more points.
"Just working hard in the corners," Michayluk said. "I didn't score a ton of pretty goals, it was just a ton of hard work."
Michayluk was selected 65th overall in the 1981 NHL entry draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. His career began in the SJHL with the Prince Albert Raiders in 1979 and ended in 1997 in Cleveland.
Things were never as
good in Cleveland as they were in
Muskegon, Michayluk said.
"It was a lot different. You're moving to a big city. The team wasn't as close, the players weren't as close."
When his playing days ended, Michayluk headed home to put down his roots in the hilly, lake-dotted woodlands around Wakaw.
His wife Paulette, who grew up just down the road in Cudworth, and daughters Madison, 17, Kortney, 15, and Lauren, 12, are there still.
Michayluk hasn't lost touch with the game since moving back home.
"I coached my oldest daughter Madison's team. It went all right. I was probably too hard on her. She's the one that tells me that, but that's just me being a dad."
Tom Kendra | The Muskegon Chronicle
|Mona Shores Marie Roof got Division 1 offers in basketball and volleyball and chose to play volleyball at Notre Dame. (Ken Stevens | The Muskegon Chronicle)|
The Division I coaches and scouts all came to the regional basketball game this winter to watch Benton Harbor star Destiny Williams.
By the time the game was over, they were huddled near the Mona Shores locker room, asking about the tall, skinny girl who had outscored, outrebounded and outplayed the Tigers' Miss Basketball candidate.
That's when Shores coach Brad Kurth had to give them the bad news.
Marie Roof, the Sailors' 6-1 standout who could shoot and handle the ball like a guard, was already committed to play volleyball at Notre Dame.
"There are not many kids that are offered Division I scholarships in two different sports," said Kurth.
"Marie Roof is one of those special kids. She combines so many things - athletic ability, work ethic, competitiveness and she thinks the game at a level that coaches think."
Roof's two-sport stardom and her glistening 4.19 GPA made her the top choice as the area's Female Student-Athlete of the Year, an award presented jointly by The Muskegon Chronicle and the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.
Roof, along with the male award winner which will be announced in Sunday's Chronicle, will receive her award and a $500 scholarship at the Hall of Fame's annual induction banquet on June 6 at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.
"I owe a lot to my parents and all of the great coaches I've had," said Roof. "I'm really going to miss playing for Mona Shores."
In that regional basketball game against Benton Harbor, Roof hit a clutch jumper in the final minute to give the Sailors a one-point lead - a basket which she later discovered pushed her over the 1,000-point mark for her career.
Benton Harbor ended up hitting two free throws with 2.5 seconds left to win, 39-38, then went on to win the Class A state championship.
But Roof certainly made an impression.
A tough choice
While that performance gained her statewide recognition, Roof has been a known, and feared, volleyball and basketball player in the Muskegon area for four years.
She was so dominant in both sports that the hardest thing she had to do in high school - much more difficult and gut-wrenching than guarding a Miss Basketball candidate - was deciding whether to play basketball or volleyball in college.
Basketball was her first love.
Roof remembers going as a little girl and watching her dad, Jerry, play recreation games and shooting around on side baskets.
After her parents, Jerry and Chris, she lists Jennifer Bustard, her varsity basketball coach during her freshman and sophomore years and the current Mona Shores High School principal, as the biggest influence in her life.
"Mrs. Bustard brought me out of my shell," said Roof. "I was just the shyest little girl you could imagine, but she saw something in me."
Roof appeared on her way to a college basketball career when, suddenly during her sophomore year, volleyball came along and swept her off her feet.
Just like Bustard did in basketball, Shores volleyball coach Kyle Kurant moved Roof up to the varsity as a freshman who had just turned 14 years old.
"We both knew what we had right away," said Kurant.
Roof has the perfect name for volleyball - roof in volleyball lingo is when a blocker smothers a hitter's shot - and her combination of size and athletic ability quickly made her one of the state's best hitters.
Roof basically re-wrote the Sailors' volleyball record book, leaving with career records for attacks, attack percentage, kills, blocks and digs.
From her sophomore year on, Kurant was busy fielding phone calls and replying to messages from Division I coaches interested in his star hitter.
"I told them all the same thing: ‘If you like her on the court, she's 10 times better as a person,'" said Kurant.
Buoyed by an amazing club volleyball career under Coach David Rawles, Roof capped her career by being named a Miss Volleyball finalist, meaning she was one of the state's Top 10 senior volleyball players last fall.
Many schools have tall girls with athletic ability, but few, if any, combine the work ethic and absolute hatred of losing like Roof.
Kurant remembers seeing a different side of Roof at this year's city tournament, after Shores dropped a game in an early-round match against Muskegon.
Kurant said he was chuckling about something that happened after that game when Roof snapped:
"That's not funny!"
"She never barked at me like that before and it took me by surprise, but it shows how competitive she is," said Kurant.
Kurth and Kurant agree that her toughness is what enabled her to not only survive on the varsity as a 14-year-old, but thrive. Roof, 17, is young for her class and won't turn 18 until July.
And it's that same competitive drive which they say will allow her to be successful playing with and against some of the nation's top volleyball players at Notre Dame.
"I'm pretty competitive in everything I do. I really hate to lose," said Roof, who has one sibling, Tony, a football and basketball standout at Shores who now attends Grand Valley. "I try to let it go after the game is done, but while it's going on, I want to win.
"I've always been that way and, when I go down to Notre Dame, my goal is to make an impact."
Roof ran track as a freshman and qualified for the area All-Star Meet in the 300 hurdles, high jump and 1,600-meter relay.
Kurth and Kurant know how lucky they've been over the past four years to have Roof and Allison Wolffis - who could have been a finalist for the area award if schools were allowed to nominate more than one male or female - and hope that the leadership and commitment to excellence they showed will influence future Sailors.
"It's going to be different around here and it's going to be impossible to fill those shoes," said Kurth. "They epitomize what a student-athlete should be."
May 23, 2009
by Mike Mattson | The Muskegon Chronicle
Montague's Jeff Petsch received some worthwhile advice in ninth grade from his uncle Warren Hutchins.
"Bite off more than you can chew - and then chew it,'' Petsch said about his uncle's words. "It's something I've tried to live by in all my high school years. It's simple, but it has great meaning. To grow as a person, you have to see how much you can handle.''
For sure, Petsch put a lot on his plate at Montague High School.
He played offense and defense last fall on Montague's state championship football team.
He played point guard last winter on the Wildcats' Final Four basketball team.
Instead of taking the spring off, Petsch played on the boys golf team.
And he volunteered for various school activities, tutored elementary students and accepted many leadership positions.
Mention student-athlete and it fits Petsch to a tee.
For his accomplishments in sports, academics and extra curricular activities, Petsch was chosen the area's Male Student Athlete of the Year by The Chronicle and the Muskegon Area Sport Hall of Fame.
And what a year it's been for Petsch, who was a catalyst for Montague in the two main boys' sports that accomplished the most in school history.
"It's truly a year to remember,'' Petsch said. "I set goals for myself in high school. It was great to see them blossom into reality. It's been above my expectations and wildest dreams.''
In football, Petsch played defensive end and tight end. He recorded 76 tackles, five sacks, four tackles for lost yardage and blocked one punt for a score.
At 5-11 and 180 pounds, Petsch wasn't the biggest or strongest player on the field. But he may have been the smartest.
"He was always able to pull something out of the tool box,'' Montague football coach Pat Collins said. "He had a lot of tools. He's one of the best defensive ends we've had in a long time. He's so versatile and had great pass rush abilities. He did so many things to make plays for us.''
Petsch looked forward to the challenges in football against many bigger, stronger players.
"I would try to exploit whover I went against,'' Petsch said. "Intellectually, I did what I had to do each play to maximize my performance. Playing football and basketball takes a lot of knowledge and mental concentration.''
In basketball, Petsch did a lot of the little things. He dished off the assists to Montague's many scorers, while averaging about 6.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game. He also played in-your-face defense and proved to be the emotional leader on the court.
"The best way to describe Jeff is he gives you everything he has on the floor,'' Montague basketball coach Dave Osborne said. "He does all the little things you have to do to be successful.
"He was a huge part of our success. I've coached Jeffrey for six or seven years and watched him grow as a player and student. You couldn't ask for anybody better on your team as a leader.''
Petsch is the son of Rhonda and Phil Petsch, who both chiropractors. That's come in hand during Jeff's sports career at Montague.
"My parents help to keep my back and my hip in good condition,'' Petsch said. "They gave me treatments often to keep my body in condition so I could play to my best day in and day out.''
Petsch's resume is even more impressive outside of sports.
He served on the Michigan High School Athletic Association Youth Advisory Council and helped create a sportsmanship presentation that the MHSAA used around the state. He also was named the MHSAA Schlolar Athlete scholarship winner, a prestigious selection from a large pool of state-wide candidates.
Blood drives, beach cleanups, cooking and reading are other activities Petsch does in his free time.
Petsch plans to study business the University of Michigan. He will go to Ann Arbor with a 3.91 grade point average, earning all As except for one B in Algebra II.
Petsch has been good for Montague and Montague has been good for Petsch.
"We've had such great academic and athletic success at our school, I can't imagine what it would be like if I wasn't here,'' he said. "I've had the opportunity to get to know my teachers, my coaches, my administrators and develop relationships with them. ‘'
Petsch is the 14th recipient of the Male Student Athlete of the Year and the first from Montague. He's definitely inspired others at Montague to set the bar high in academics, sports and extracurricular activities.
"It's very gratifying to see all of my hard work culminate into something so great,'' Petsch said. "It's humbling because it makes you appreciate those who have helped you along the way - my parents, my coaches, my grandparents, my high school administration and my great friends and teammates who've given as much as I have.''
It is with the deepest of regrets I learned of the passing of my boyhood idol this past weekend. Bill "Dupe" Duplissis was a phenomenal three-sport star at North Muskegon from 1948 to 1951 where he was instrumental in leading the Norse to many West Michigan Conference titles.
Early team photos of North Muskegon basketball squads first found Duplissis as the team manager where he developed the shooting skills he would ultimately use to set North Muskegon scoring records. Duplissis was more than a record-setting basketball player, however. He capped his senior season by leading his teams to conference championships in three sports.
In the fall of 1951, Duplissis quarterbacked the Norsemen to the WMC championship in football. My father, Paul Moyes, was the coach of the football and baseball teams during the Duplissis era. Dad had to do a little cajoling with Dupe's parents to obtain his services for his senior year. Fearful that their youngest son might have a serious knee injury, similar to the setback Bill's older brother, Bob, met in 1946, Doctor and Libby Duplissis were hesitant to see their son play football. Thankfully for Norse followers, Bill became the quarterback, with explicit instructions from my father not to carry the ball.
The smooth-shooting Duplissis would use his patented one-hand set shot to win a share of the West Michigan Conference basketball championship. It was in baseball, however, where Duplissis truly excelled. Bill was a four-year starter as a power-hitting catcher.
It was in 1949 when the Norsemen began a streak where they would win five consecutive West Michigan Conference baseball titles. The 1950 and '51 seasons would prove to be the best years in North Muskegon baseball history. The Norsemen of the early 1950s did not have a schedule full of cupcakes to pads their stats. The Norse would go undefeated in those two years with Duplissis the big gun.
In 1951, the Norsemen's nonconference schedule included a couple of powerhouse nine's in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights. The Norsemen defeated the Heights for the first time in school history and their only loss was at the hands of Muskegon. Muskegon would cap its undefeated season by winning the state baseball championship in Battle Creek.
In the first game of a double header against Scottville, Duplissis lashed out five hits, including three doubles and a triple. In the nightcap, 'Dupe' traded in his catching equipment for a pitcher's glove and proceeded to spin a one-hit shutout.
As a catcher Duplissis had few peers in his era. I was fortunate to often serve as the batboy for the Norsemen at this time and I always was in awe of Bill's strong throwing arm.
Recently, I had a conversation with my boyhood idol and I asked him: "Did anybody ever steal a base on you?" With a sheepish grin Duplissis quickly replied, "Never."
Bill has been in poor health for the past few years. However, he has served faithfully on the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors. Those of you who have visited L.C. Walker Arena surely have admired the plaques and memorabilia honoring our inductees. Most of these displays can be attributed to the work of Bill Duplissis and his long time buddy, Marc Okkonen.
Last May, I saw 'Dupe' shortly before I was to give out the Moyes Award, named for my father and brother Tom, who played a much bigger role in North Muskegon sports history than I. Bill was in attendance in support of a grandson who was a graduating senior.
I was so proud to acknowledge his presence to the audience. I was quick to point out that we were honored to have in attendance, in my humble opinion, NM's all time best baseball player. You may remember that last spring the Norsemen baseball team was on a run that would propel them to the state semi-finals.
I can remember when uniforms were issued prior to the junior varsity basketball season back in 1956. I asked for the jersey that had number 24 on the front and back. It was a little too baggy at the time for a then slender, 5-foot player.
When the coach asked me why in the world would I want to wear this oversized jersey, my response was simple: "Because that was Dupey's number."
I'll miss ya Dupe, and thanks for the memories.
For 45 years, kids' smiles were Earl O'Brien's only reward for the endless hours he spent coaching, refereeing and organizing youth sports leagues.
For O'Brien, that was always more than enough.
"I didn't do the things I've done my whole life for an award," O'Brien said. "I did it for the kids."
Recently, however, O'Brien has received local and national recognition for his efforts.
The latest award given to the 71-year-old O'Brien is the Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame's Distinguished Service Award. It comes just three months after he received the President's Volunteer Service Award.
If smiles were O'Brien's reward, then it was the specter of disappointed kids which kept him motivated to provide as many opportunities as he could to provide youth sports.
To this day, he remains disappointed he did not have the same success in forming a youth basketball league in his hometown of Muskegon as he did in Grand Haven.
He still remembers the disappointed faces of the kids who showed up at Muskegon High in the mid-1990s with hopes of playing in a league he struggled for two years to get off the ground.
"We showed up at the gym and there were over a hundred kids there that wanted to get divvied up into teams," O'Brien remembered.
They never got the
chance. Only one volunteer coach showed up
at the gym, he said.
"I was extremely disappointed," he said.
It's a reminder that there would be no youth sports programs without willing volunteers like O'Brien.
It hurt especially because O'Brien, a 1955 graduate of Muskegon High, is a die-hard Big Red to this day.
"I haven't missed an awful lot of games in the past 50 years," he said.
He missed a few this fall, however, in order to watch his grandson, Michael O'Brien, play for Grand Haven's varsity football team. He was easy to spot in the sea of yellow-clad Buc fans. "I was wearing my Big Reds sweatshirt," he said, proudly.
O'Brien's ties to Muskegon are still strong -- his son Earl "Bill" O'Brien recently retired after serving on the Muskegon School Board for 11 years and his grandson Earl "Billy" O'Brien, a fifth-grade teacher at Oakview Elementary in Muskegon, was named Sam's Club's local teacher of the year for 2007.
Married at 17, O'Brien and his late wife Carol raised seven children. Looking back, his lifetime of volunteering seems inevitable.
"We were involved in school activities since we met. We had kids in grade school for 27 straight years," O'Brien said. "I think that must be some kind of record."
Since he first coached the Bluffton Elementary School softball team in 1964, O'Brien's successes have far outnumbered his disappointments.
From the start, he saw the profound effect team sports can have in shaping a child's habits and attitudes.
"What sports does for you, and this is a keynote in my heart, is in team sports you learn to accept and respect people for what they do, not what they look like," O'Brien said.
O'Brien believes playing sports as a kid can also lead to success in later life.
"Success breeds success," O'Brien said. "If you give kids a basic understanding of their role and let them succeed, they will continue to. I'm just an advocate of creating ways for kids to be successful."
A high school graduate with one year of classes at Muskegon Community College, O'Brien worked hard to achieve his own successes.
"I worked full-time from the time I was 13," he said.
After graduating from Muskegon, he worked at Universal Camshaft in Muskegon Heights, then Muskegon Camshaft in Muskegon. In 1968, he and his partners opened Camshaft Specialists in Grand Haven. He later moved on to become factory manager and human resources director at Engine Power Components in Grand Haven until he retired.
"I had a lot of wonderful opportunities. I always answered the door. Ambition made a big difference for me. Today, my children and grandchildren could never start a company without a college degree," O'Brien said.
In 1970, O'Brien took on his first big volunteer challenge when he established the Tri-Cities Family YMCA's Youth Basketball League. The league he served as volunteer coordinator for until 1993 now has more than 800 participants.
One of O'Brien proudest accomplishments is giving girls an opportunity to play in the YBL.
"When I started the YBL in Grand Haven, girls were not playing sports. I went to every PTA meeting I could find and begged mothers to just let girls join," he said. "We started with three or four girls the first year, then had eight or 10 the next and then 30 and now we have a whole league. That was, to me, a great feeling, to see girls get into sports."
The adjustable height backboard he designed was another pioneering innovation he introduced to the YBL and several local elementary schools.
A soccer and T-Ball coach and referee from 1970 until 1988, he remained a part-time soccer official until he turned 64.
In 2005, O'Brien organized a fishing tournament in Grand Haven to benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital. To date the tournament has raised $104,000.
Seeing the young cancer patients and their families enjoying a day fishing on Lake Michigan gives him immense satisfaction, O'Brien said.
"It's heart-warming and wonderful. It's tear-time when the sponsors see the kids out there," he said.
It might even be the good medicine for the kids, O'Brien said.
"The doctors at DeVos Children's Hospital told me that of all the treatments they do, nothing works better than improving the kids' mental attitude when we put them on board those boats," he said.
Organizing this year's tournament is going to be real challenge, O'Brien says, due to the current poor economy. Sponsors are proving hard to come by and O'Brien's own health is in question after "some heart problems" over the winter.
But there's nothing wrong with his spirit.
"Some days I get a little frustrated by being housebound, but by spring, I'll be raring to go," O'Brien said.
Basketball bragging rights are back in Muskegon Heights -- for the next 365 days.
The rest of the season will happen and both Heights and Muskegon will win many more games than they lose, but THE game was played at Reeths-Puffer in Saturday's finale of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic.
And a classic it was.
|Muskegon's Dominique Maybanks against Muskegon Heights' Ricarri Stimage at Reeths-Puffer Saturday. (Muskegon Chronicle/Cory Morse)|
Heights, after losing to Muskegon in last year's tournament, regained the upper hand in the area's best sports rivalry with a 64-56 victory over the Big Reds in front of an overflow crowd of 3,200 delirious fans.
"It feels like we just won the state championship," said Heights senior guard Sean Davis, who rose to the occasion and scored 15 points with seven rebounds. "We showed that we're the tougher team."
Heights held a commanding 45-32 lead entering the fourth quarter and, when Muskegon turned up the heat, the Tigers could have easily gone the way of Davison -- especially when Karey Webb hit a 3-pointer and then made a layup off a steal to cut the lead to 51-49 with 3:20 remaining.
That was when the Tiger guards rose up to the challenge, repeatedly breaking through the Muskegon pressure in the fourth quarter and either scoring or getting to the free-throw line.
Ricarri Stimage scored 19 points with six assists and four steals and Sidney Scott added 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Muskegon Heights vs. Muskegon rivalry has a unique flavor and personal component -- often pitting members of the same family against each other on the court and in the stands -- which is something you'll never find in the NBA, NFL or any of the so-called "big-time" sports.
Maybe that's what made the atmosphere so spectacular Saturday night, as Reeths-Puffer's beautiful fieldhouse slowly filled up to its limits. After all the seats were filled, fans stood (often several deep) around the running track at the top of the seating area.
By the time tip-off came around, the place was absolutely buzzing.
|Former Hall of Fame Scholar/ Athlete award winner Terrance Taylor of Muskegon and the University of Michigan joined the fun at this year's Holiday Classic (photo by Blaine Hotz)|
By the time the middle of the fourth quarter rolled around and Muskegon was making its run, it was so exciting and obvious why this game must be played on an annual basis.
"It was a great atmosphere and two great teams giving it everything that they had," said Heights coach Keith Guy. "When we play, we hate each other. But we respect each other. We proved ourselves. We're Muskegon Heights -- basketball is what we do."
Webb came up huge for Muskegon off the bench, scoring a game-high 21 points. Rashard Donley, a 6-6 senior, was the only other Big Red in double figures with 11 points and seven rebounds.
It must be noted that Heights and Muskegon have now played each other five straight years at Christmastime, with no serious incidents before, during or after any of those games -- effectively shutting up the skeptics who think that these two schools, these two communities, cannot play each other every year in a civil basketball game.
Those are the same naysayers who said Muskegon football players couldn't handle a sophisticated, veer-option offense.
Note: Three football state titles in the past five years.
No question, emotions run high because Heights vs. Muskegon is a game that really means something to the kids and the communities. You can bring in all the Rockfords or Whitney Youngs or Buena Vistas you want, but nothing will match the intensity of Heights vs. Muskegon.
This year, Heights has the bragging rights.
But every year this game is played, the area's basketball fans are the real winners.
Anderson tallies 24 as Puffer sends Packers packing
Saturday, December 27, 2008
by Mark Lewis
MUSKEGON — The host Reeths-Puffer Rocket boys basketball team responded well to a 62-38 loss to power Muskegon the previous night by defeating Fremont 63-35 Saturday, Dec. 27 to cap a 1-1 run at this year’s Muskegon Area Hall of Fame Classic basketball tournament at Reeths-Puffer High School.
With the win, the Rockets (2-2, 0-1) climbed back to .500 overall, while Fremont dropped to 3-2 overall.
Running out to an early 12-6 lead after the first quarter, the Rockets extend their advantage to 12 at the break, taking with them a 28-16 lead into the locker room. There was no slowdown for the Rockets in the second half. After Fremont was outscored by four in the third, Reeths-Puffer exploded for 24 fourth-quarter points to provide the final result and erase any chance of a Packer come back.
The Rockets were paced by junior forward Chris Anderson’s 23 points, while senior Jordan Darcy added 14 and junior guard Dontreal McKinley added 12 in the victory.
Fremont was led by Reed Luchies’ 12-point effort.
by Tom Kendra
Sidney Scott wants to get things back to the way he - and many others in Muskegon Heights - think it should be.
"Muskegon has the football and Heights has the basketball," said Scott, a senior for Heights. "They took the basketball from us last year and now we're going to get it back."
Scott scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds on Friday, leading Heights to an impressive 67-30 rout of previously unbeaten Fremont in the opening game of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic at Reeths-Puffer.
Muskegon beat Reeths-Puffer, 62-38, in Friday's second game, setting the stage for tonight's 7:30 p.m. showdown between the area's oldest, and most heated, rivals.
Heights and Muskegon did not play for 13 years after a series of incidents at games between the schools, but the Tigers won the first five games after the series resumed in 2002. Muskegon broke through with a 74-56 win last year.
"We have not forgotten," said Heights coach Keith Guy, stating the obvious while also emphasizing the importance his independent team puts on the cross-town matchup. "We're ready to play. This is our chance to show people that the Heights is still the Heights."
Remaining tickets for tonight's doubleheader will go on sale at 5 p.m. at the door at Puffer. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.
Heights, 2-2, was dominant against Fremont, as guards Sean Davis, Jamil Thornton, Scott and Ricarri Stimage keyed a second-quarter explosion that gave the Tigers a 33-12 halftime lead.
Thornton led all scorers with 13 points, Davis scored 10 and Stimage added 10 points and five steals.
Jullian Plummer, a 6-6 junior and one of three good-looking inside underclassmen for the Tigers, finished with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Fremont coach Peter Zerfas was not pleased with his team's intensity, settling for many outside shots (making just 25 percent), while Heights went aggressively to the basket.
"Every basket they had, except one, was in the paint," said Zerfas, whose team was outrebounded 46-23. "If we can't match their intensity, we don't have a chance. That was the story tonight."
Zerfas, whose team plays tourney host Reeths-Puffer in tonight's opener, is hoping his team will have a better effort tonight and when it hosts Heights on Jan. 6.
Alec Beattie led Fremont with seven points. Reed Luchies, who scored 40 points in an overtime win over Spring Lake last week, was held to six points on 3-for-16 shooting.
Two of the most recognizable coaches in Muskegon-area history headline the 2009 induction class into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.
One of them is still coaching.
Jack Schugars, who last month won his third state championship as coach of the Oakridge Eagles, headlines the three-member "Class of 2009," which will be inducted into the MASHF on June 6, 2009, at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.
"What a great time to welcome Jack Schugars into the hall," said Hall of Fame President Gene Young, referring to the recently-completed prep season, which saw a record four area schools win state football championships.
"Jack is not only a great role model to his players, but to the other area coaches as well. We really feel good about this class. It's three very popular guys."
Joining Schugars in the 2009 class is longtime Mona Shores wrestling coach Don Mosley and former Muskegon Lumberjack great Dave Michayluk.
Those three will be joined by a Distinguished Service Award winner to be announced in January and a male and female student-athlete award winner to be announced in May.
The hall started honoring the area's top high school student athletes in 1996 and further bridged the gap to the younger generation by starting the Hall of Fame Classic high school basketball tournament during Christmas break, back in 2003. This year's tournament -- featuring Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Reeths-Puffer and Fremont -- will be Dec. 26 and Dec. 27 at Reeths-Puffer High School.
The "Class of 2009" will join the current hall membership of 89 members, 10 teams, 17 Distinguished Service Award winners and 26 Student-Athlete recipients.
Young noted that the hall's 11-member board of directors considers hundreds of nominees before naming a select group to be honored.
The Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame's exhibits are on display inside the L.C. Walker Arena and information on the organization and all of the past inductees is available at www.mashf.com.
Here's a capsule look at the Class of 2009:
Rick Ley coached the Muskegon Lumberjacks for many of the seven years from 1985 to 1992 that Dave Michayluk ruled the L.C. Walker Arena.
Back in 1988, Ley had this to say about his star player:
"(Dave Michayluk) is a very hard worker and he comes to play every game. He's a complete player, the kind you build a franchise around."
And that's exactly what the Lumberjacks did.
"Boris" -- the nickname Michayluk was given early on because his last name resembled that of Boris Mikhailov, the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of Russian hockey -- scored at least 100 points in all seven of his professional seasons in Muskegon, which were highlighted by league championships in 1986 and 1989. He helped the team to league runner-up finishes in 1985, 1987, 1990 and 1992.
Michayluk was part of a Jacks dynamic trio which also included current MASHF member Jock Callander and Scott Gruhl. Michayluk has the most points in Muskegon Lumberjacks history (769), most points in a season (137) and career games played as a Lumberjack (564).
He capped his career in Muskegon in 1992 when he was called up to Pittsburgh for the Stanley Cup playoffs, during which he scored a goal and had an assist, helping the Penguins and star Mario Lemieux to the championship.
Michayluk, 46, played the final five years of his career with the Cleveland Lumberjacks. He still lives in the Cleveland area, but is remembered as one of the most popular players in Muskegon-area hockey history.
Mona Shores is now known for its outstanding hockey program, but back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Sailors were known for their wrestling program.
The only coach Shores ever had in the first 38 years of the school's existence was Don Mosley.
Mosley's record is one of incredible longevity and winning, ranking among the winningest wrestling coaches in national history with a 494-189-5 record -- an amazing 72 percent winning percentage.
Mosley's teams dominated the city wrestling meet for years, winning 20 city titles. A total of 86 of his grapplers qualifying for state and 28 of those finishing in the top four at the state finals. Seventeen of his wrestlers are members of the Shores Century Club with 100-or-more career wins.
Shores compiled a 99-22 record in the 1960s, 121-16-2 in the 1970s, 134-29 in the 1980s and 123-112-2 in the 1990s.
The Sailors have had more than 30 individual state place-winners and one state champion, Ken Luipakka (167) in 1978. Shores has never won a wrestling state title, with state powerhouse Grandville often the end of the road for some of Mosley's best teams. One of his most memorable years was 1982, when he coached both of his sons, Randy and Brent, and the Sailors won a Class A regional title.
But for Mosley, the most fun was always getting on the mat and working out with the kids -- something he did right until he retired in 2001.
"One time a newspaper reporter asked Jon Zerkle (a top heavyweight wrestler for Shores in the early 1980s) who was the toughest guy he ever had to wrestle," recalled Mosley upon his retirement in 2001. "And he said Coach Mosley. I thought that was pretty good."
Mosley, who is also well known for running Mosley's Driving School for the past 34 years, said part of his coaching style was molded from playing center and noseguard at Muskegon Heights High School for Okie Johnson. Mosley coached football at Shores for 10 years, including an 8-1 season as head coach in 1968, the best football season in school history.
Jack Schugars pretty much locked up a spot in the MASHF on a cold and rainy night in Hart back in 2004, when he led Oakridge over Hart for his 210th win -- breaking Muskegon Heights legend Okie Johnson's record for area coaching victories.
"I never dreamed about getting this many wins way back when I started," said Schugars after that memorable win, which came in an extremely rare year which the Eagles started 0-3. "But right now, I'm most excited for these kids. They could have quit and walked away the way this season started. But they stuck together and climbed out of the hole."
And ever since, Schugars has not quit winning.
Schugars appears to be getting better with age -- like a fine wine.
Schugars, who is now 247-71 in 29 years as the Eagles' head football coach, led Oakridge to its third state championship under his watch, to go along with two runner-up finishes.
Schugars' teams have won 17 titles in the outstanding West Michigan Conference, considered the top small-school football league in the state, including nine of the last 10 years.
A past president of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association, Schugars earned that organization's Jim Crowley Award in 2000 and was inducted into the MHSFCA Hall of Fame in 1993.
Schugars has served as a father figure to many Oakridge players. He deals with family problems and been a strong role model for the players.
What makes Schugars so successful is his family approach. He often discusses the "Oakridge football family'' and togetherness that has built a winning chemistry over the years.