Detroit 'Longtime' Boys Coaches Down to Few
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
December 14, 2016
Gary Fralick considers himself one of the fortunate ones.
Fralick, 66, is in his 32nd season as a head boys basketball coach. He retired from his teaching position in 2013. He started coaching at Redford Thurston in 1979, went to Royal Oak Kimball in 1984 and is in 23rd season as the head coach at Troy.
Fralick might be lucky, but he is unquestionably rare. Fralick is believed to be one of three coaches in the Macomb/Oakland/Wayne area who has coached for more than 30 seasons.
There’s Dan Fife at Clarkston and Kevin Voss of Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, both of whom in their 35th seasons, all at the same school.
Another, Greg Esler at Warren DeLaSalle, is in his 30th season. He was the head coach at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore for seven seasons before going to DeLaSalle in 1994.
“We’re part of a dying breed,” Voss said.
It certainly appears so. Coaching longevity has taken on a different meaning recently. Twenty seems like a lot in these times, and in reality it is a long time. Twenty years or so ago, 20 years was normal. There’s a new normal, and 20 or 25 years isn’t it.
Many factors have contributed to this change. A person’s personal and family life often don’t coincide with the demands of coaching basketball. The responsibilities that come with coaching have increased. Some coaches say that to be an effective coach, it can be a 10- or 11-month job.
Two factors are at the forefront, and they are both financial. Coaches used to be educators as well as coaches. Yes, coaching can be viewed as teaching on the court, but at one time teaching in a classroom and coaching used to go hand in hand.
Then there’s the subsidy coaches receive. It varies from school district to school district. Some make $4,000 a season, others can make $7,000. And it also costs money to run a program; unless the coach receives financial help from a booster club or parents, the money he or she receives begins to dwindle.
But the most important factor is time.
“A tremendous amount of time is devoted to watching DVD or tapes,” Fralick said. “I know I’m dating myself with saying that. The point is, you’re watching a lot. There’s more scouting. And you don’t get paid much. Why don’t they stay as long as they used to? They get burned out. They want to spend more time with their families.
“You don’t see as many of the young coaches stay. Coaches don’t have the ambition to coach a long time. It’s not a profitable job. I don’t know what other coaches make. We used to compare what we made. Not anymore.
“Thirty years or more? I don’t see it happening. There’s the dual job thing. Things have changed. To me, it’s been a great job.”
To compensate for being away from home, Fralick brought his family with him. Sort of. He coached his son Gary, Jr., and Tim. Gary, a 1996 Troy graduate, played for his father his junior and senior seasons and Tim, a 1999 graduate, played four seasons on varsity. Fralick said he was even more fortunate to coach both on the same team (during the 1995-96 season).
Then there’s his wife, Sharon, who remains the scorekeeper.
“I’ve always had a passion for coaching and teaching,” Fralick said. “I love the game of basketball. I love the kids. There’s never a dull moment. It’s been a great ride.”
Vito Jordan has been around basketball all of his life. His father, Venias Jordan, was the boys head varsity coach at Detroit Mackenzie and Detroit Mumford before stepping down as a head coach only to return to the bench assisting his son the last six seasons.
Vito Jordan, 31, became a head coach at Detroit Osborn when he was 24. He started his coaching career the year before as an assistant to Henry Washington at Macomb College. Jordan went to Detroit Community after one season at Osborn and guided Community to its only MHSAA Finals appearance (Class B, 2013). He’s now in his fourth season as the head coach at Detroit Renaissance.
“I followed my father all of my life,” Jordan said. “I knew what I wanted to do when I was in college (Alma College). This is what I want to do the rest of my life.”
It’s different in Detroit. Schools close. Job titles change. Jordan, for instance, teaches at the Academy of Warren, a middle school in Detroit. It’s a charter school, not within the Detroit Public School system, therefore he receives his pay from two separate school systems (Renaissance is in the DPS).
There is a distinction. In some school systems coaches will receive a percentage – let’s say for argument sake, 10 percent – of their teaching salary to coach. Let’s say a person makes $60,000 a year to teach. He or she would then receive $6,000 to coach. If you coach two sports, that’s $12,000.
Jordan is not privy to such a contract. Each job is separate. Jordan loves to coach, and he understands he must be a teacher to earn a decent living, and he’s content to continue on the path he is following. But he also knows that to make a good salary just coaching one must move on to the collegiate level like others have done.
“When there were coaches like my dad, Perry Watson (Detroit Southwestern), Johnny Goston (Detroit Pershing) and others, they all worked in the (Detroit Public) school system. Everyone was teaching. That was your career. None of them had aspirations of being a college coach. Not even Watson. Now everyone isn’t in the teaching profession. Maybe they do have a degree and maybe they don’t. The point is, most aren’t teachers. I can count on one hand those (in Detroit) who have their teaching certificate and coach.”
Jordan noted such successful PSL coaches like Derrick McDowell, Steve Hall and Robert Murphy who left high school to pursue a coaching career in college. Murphy guided Detroit Crockett to the Class B title in 2001 and is now the head coach at Eastern Michigan. McDowell has had two stints as a collegiate assistant coach, most recently at EMU. He’s since returned to coach at Detroit Western. Hall coached Detroit Rogers to three consecutive Class D titles (2003-05) before going to Duquesne University and Youngstown State as an assistant coach. Hall returned to Detroit last season and is in his second season as head coach at Detroit Cass Tech.
Jordan said they left high school to challenge themselves professionally, among other considerations. Voss said there are variables that influence how long a person lasts, in one school district or in coaching in general, that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
“Athletics have become pervasive in high school,” he said. “The whole booster situation you find in college is here. You can be winning but not winning enough. It’s a trickle down affect.
“Coaches complain about parents. Parents complain about playing time. High school sports is not as pure as it once was. Winning is way more important now. Now a coach comes in with a three-year window. You can have one or two down years, and the third you’d better win.
“Then there’s the pressure on your family. I’ve been lucky. My wife and I have had the players over for team dinners. We create a family atmosphere. It’s a change of society. I don’t envy the young coaches coming in.”
Community involvement has always been a priority for Voss. To keep a hand on the pulse, Voss heads the elementary basketball program within the Chippewa Valley school district. Games are held on Saturdays, and approximately 750 students take part.
“You have to have the right fit,” he said. “I’m in the right spot. You coach for different reasons when you get older. I’m enjoying the game. There’s a different level of satisfaction.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Troy boys basketball coach Gary Fralick, left, is in his 32nd season coaching. (Middle) Detroit Renaissance boys coach Vito Jordan is following in the coaching footsteps of his father, Venias. (Below) Chippewa Valley boys coach Kevin Voss, left, is in his 35th season at his school. (Top and below photos courtesy of C&G Newspapers; middle photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League.)
Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 21, 2023
It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.
Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.
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Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.
After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.
Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion
Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy
These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.
Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia
East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.
Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma
The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).
Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.
The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University
These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.
Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan
These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.
Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott
A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.
Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln
The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.
St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord
St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.
Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central
Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee
The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.
Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield
Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.
Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.
Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake
This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.
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PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)