Longtime Assistant Set to Lead Dakota

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

August 17, 2016

MACOMB TOWNSHIP – Greg Baur was content to continue coaching in the background, much like a supporting actor in a movie.

Baur, 46, had been an assistant football coach for 26 years at four different schools, most recently at Macomb Dakota. For 21 seasons he was a defensive coordinator, including the last 12 for the Cougars.

And he was good at it. In 2001, under then-head coach Mike Carr, Bauer was instrumental in guiding Clinton Township Chippewa Valley to its only MHSAA title, in Division 2. Chippewa Valley held Jenison to 139 yards in its 26-13 victory in the Final. In 2006 and 2007, Baur was with head coach Mike Giannone when Dakota won its two MHSAA Division 1 titles. That gives him the distinction of being the only Macomb County coach to play a big part in three MHSAA championships.

Last January, Giannone left Dakota to take the head coaching position at Warren DeLaSalle. The move took Baur by surprise – but it also started the wheels turning in his head.

Just once had Baur sought to be a head coach. When Carr left Chippewa Valley after the 2004 season, Baur applied to take over. When he didn’t get the job, Giannone quickly hired him at Dakota.

With Giannone gone, Baur made another bid at a head coaching gig. This time, he got it.

“I don’t remember the date,” Baur said. “I just remember it was a snow day. They called me and told me I had it. The first thing I did was make sure the staff would stay, and they did. Next I met with the players, and the kids were really excited about it.”

At most programs, going from a coordinator position to take over as head coach is akin to jumping into a pool after sitting an hour with just your feet in. Baur said it isn’t like that for him.

Sure there’s more paper work, and yes, the fundraising becomes more of his responsibility. But as far as the workload, it’s not as daunting for Baur as it might be for others. Baur has always been a workaholic.

“I’ve always worked extra hard,” he said. “I told my wife, this will amp things up. It’s 24/7. The good thing is the kids have grown up a bit. And it’s not work for me. It’s fun. I’m really excited to get things going. When you wait 25 years you look at what you can tweak here and there. Offensively, I’ll tweak it a little. Defense is the same. I’m still running it. I can’t see myself not coaching (the defense).”

In a sense, Baur has already experienced success. He convinced Carr to come out of retirement and serve as his offensive coordinator.

It’s come full circle.

There are a number of reasons why Baur hadn’t looked elsewhere for a head coaching job. He and his wife, Renee, live in the area, and their three children attend schools in the Chippewa Valley school district, of which Dakota is a part. Their eldest child, Jason, played football at Dakota and graduated this spring. He’s now attending Wayne State University and helping out with Dakota’s freshmen team.

Professionally, there isn’t a program in Macomb County that can match Dakota. It is the only school in the county with more than one MHSAA title, and the Cougars are consistently one of the state’s top teams. They’ve made the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons, and just once since 2003 have they failed to win a playoff game. Last season Dakota lost to Detroit Cass Tech, 16-10, in a Regional Final.

Given that, there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with being the head coach of such a program. It’s similar to the pressure that’s on coaches like Ralph Munger at Rockford and Kurt Richardson at Clarkston. Those in the community not only expect them to win every year, but expect their teams to be a factor in the playoffs every year. A first-round loss is not only disappointing – it can also raise a few eyebrows.

Baur’s attitude? Bring it on.

“To me, it’s not pressure,” he said. “I love to compete. If all goes well, great. If not, then we move on. I might not be the smartest coach around, but no one is going to outwork me.”

During this time of year, time is scarce. Double sessions start at 9 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. There’s time for dinner, then its film sessions followed by an hour or two of quality time with his children.

“That hasn’t changed,” he said. “That was always the schedule. But now there’s paperwork, putting out fires.

“I love this. There isn’t a part of the job I don’t like. There’s no complaining. You get an opportunity, you make the best of it. I know there’ll be tougher times.

“Being a head coach, it never really crossed my mind. (Giannone) is relatively young. I thought he’d retire (as a head coach) here. It wasn’t something I was campaigning for.”

Baur owes much of his success and where he’s at to those who mentored him. A graduate of Sterling Heights Stevenson, he played and coached under one of Macomb County’s legendary coaches, Rick Bye. After four years, Baur went to Romeo and coached under Greg Ganfield. Ganfield was gave Baur his first shot as a coordinator. Four years later, Baur went to Chippewa Valley.

Carr showed Baur how to run a program, not just coach. He lectured him on how to deal with parents and their concerns. A bit overwhelming then, Baur has gained the experience where such responsibilities are more easily managed.

“(Giannone) wasn’t that much different,” Baur said. “Heck, he coached under Carr, too. But (Giannone) took the program to another level.”

As good as Dakota has been recently, expectations are even higher this season. The senior and junior classes did not lose a game on the freshman or junior varsity levels. Many outside the program, including Utica Eisenhower coach Chris Smith, have said this senior class at Dakota is one of the best they’ve seen.

Baur said one of his biggest tasks is to make sure this group doesn’t become complacent.

“I’m a players’ coach,” he said. “When it got real hot recently, I dialed back. They don’t even call me Coach. It’s like, hey Baur.”

Baur is just like one of the guys – except this time he’s playing the leading role.

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 tmarkowski@statechampsnetwork.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTO: Greg Baur (right), the new head coach at Macomb Dakota, directs one of his players. (Photo by Tom Markowski.)

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.

“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”

Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.

“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.

Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.

As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.

He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.

“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.

John GuilleanGuillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.

“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.

Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.

At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.

“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”

Great anticipation

Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.

In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.

Derek GriblerGribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.

“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”

Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.

“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”

In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.

“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.

“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”

Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.

“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”

Big shoes to fill

As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.

Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.

Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.

Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.

“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.

As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”

His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.

He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.

“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”

Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.

“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.

“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)