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 [email protected] 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.)

Clarkston's Loyer Leaves All-Time Legacy with 25 Record Book Listings

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 22, 2023

Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.

Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).

Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.

See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.

Boys Basketball

Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.

Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.

Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.

Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.

Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.

Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.

Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.

Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.

Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).

Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.

Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.

Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.

Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.

Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.

Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.

New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.

Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.

Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.

Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.

Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.

PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.