MHSA(Q&)A: Menominee football coach Ken Hofer

June 28, 2012

By Brian Spencer
Second Half

Ken Hofer has been nothing short of legendary during more than three decades as Menominee’s head football coach -- a tenure that came to an end earlier this month when he announced his retirement.  

In 41 seasons -- including his first two, at Stephenson -- he won three MHSAA championships (1998, 2006, and 2007) and built a record of 342-136-3. He is one of nine coaches in MHSAA football history with at least 300 wins.

He guided more than a thousand athletes, and that influence extended to league rival Kingsford -- where his son Chris Hofer is the football coach. Ken also is known statewide as the guru of the single wing offense, a rarely-used but for the Maroons frequently unstoppable attack that does not utilize a traditional quarterback.

Hofer is a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and Upper Peninsula Sports Halls of Fame. He also served as the Menominee athletic director, principal, and assistant principal. He grew up in Stephenson, where he was an all-stater in football and track and field, and later competed in both sports at the University of Wisconsin. 

Did you always want to become a football coach?

I was predicted to be a coach somewhere in our (Stephenson) annual (yearbook). So I suppose I was always predetermined to coach. However, before coaching I was in the service as a Lieutenant and spent two years in Germany. After Germany, I spent another five years working for Wilson Sporting Goods before I finally came back in 1964 to coach football and teach social studies for Stephenson.

How did you decide it was time to hang up the whistle?

Well, I’m 77 years old, so age was definitely a determinant. The biggest factor was that as much as my mind said I could continue, my body said “slow down.” So I guess age and my inability to continually go full throttle and stay energetic helped me make my decision.

In your 45 seasons, what is the most helpful piece of advice you are going to take away?

The best advice I will take away is to treat young people the way I like to be treated. 

What do you plan to do with your free time, now that your schedule has opened up slightly?

I am going to try and catch up on stuff that should have been done a long time ago. I’m sure that my wife will give me plenty of stuff to do, too. I also want to try to travel more and visit my kids.  I now have a grandson who will be playing for Kingsford, so I will become a fan of my grandson’s at his Kingsford games. 

Now that your grandson and son both have affiliations with Kingsford, will you become a Kingsford man?

No (chuckling), I will cheer for my son and grandson, but I will forever be connected with Menominee and Stephenson. 

What was it like to be recognized by both the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and Upper Peninsula Sports Halls of Fame?

It was like a utopia for coaching. When your peers give that honor it is a pretty special time. As a coach you don’t strive for that kind of accolade; however, it is definitely a special honor to receive. 

What has been, in your opinion, your greatest achievement as Menominee’s head football coach?

My greatest achievement will always be working with younger people; I think that is the most important thing that most coaches would like to have, is the ability to stay young by working with these young men.  You don’t always have to win to have that experience. Winning on the field doesn’t always correlate winning in other aspects of your life. 

What advice can you give aspiring or current coaches who look to share similar successes as a head coach?

The biggest thing is to make sure that you treat the players like you like to be treated. Using that approach will get a great response.

Of your 300-plus career wins, is there any one that you find particularly special?

I always found that whenever I could beat Kingsford when my son was coaching (he said, followed by a bellowing laugh). My son Chris will like that one.

There are so many that I consider to be special. There were a ton of close games, too many to count. Two years ago, we had one of those close games where we played Morley-Stanwood, and won 41-40 in overtime (in a 2010 Regional Final). The young men played very hard. It was very special.

Do you think that your son will follow in your footsteps and coach for 45-plus seasons?

I think Chris has that type of coaching in his blood. He’s struggling physically with a knee injury; however he has a coaching mind that is as strong as ever.  I think he’ll coach until he won’t be able to. 

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)