Coach Leads with Same Drive, New Perspective

February 20, 2019

By Steve Vedder
Special for Second Half

Colleen Nagel can only shake her head when one of her former Grand Rapids Catholic Central basketball players offers an observation after dropping by a Cougars practice.

Now in her 30th year of coaching, and first season of her second stint at Catholic Central, the former Colleen Lamoreaux-Tate admits to the subtle changes that three decades on the bench have brought.

Those changes don't include the lessening of competitive fires which still burn bright or the importance of the relationships with the players or teaching of the game.

But make no mistake, there are differences – changes that have only come through self-reflection. Known as one of the most fiery coaches in Grand Rapids, Nagel still has high expectations for her teams. But time, a shuffling of personal priorities and the wisdom of age has changed Nagel, who surpassed the career 360-win total last week.

"I'll have some of my former players stop by, and they say I'm nicer," Nagel laughs. "You get older and slow down, and it's a different kind of time now. I've always said if you can't evolve with time, you need to get out."

A case in point came a couple weeks ago when the Cougars, on the verge of taking charge of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue championship race, suffered a crushing one-point loss to Coopersville after inexplicably falling behind by 23 points at the half. The team also dropped a one-point decision to West Catholic after hammering the Falcons by 30 in the teams' first meeting.

Nagel said her reaction to those losses differs from how she would have handled them during her first seven-year coaching stint at Catholic Central. During that tenure, the Cougars went 167-19, including notching arguably the greatest win in Grand Rapids girls basketball history when the Cougars stunned then 10-time (now 13-time) MHSAA Finals champion Detroit Country Day 51-43 in the 2010 Class B championship game.

Instead of driving her teams even harder after such losses, Nagel said she has the wisdom to use them as a teaching tool.

It's all about age and reflection, she said. The combination of a second marriage, a new job outside basketball, the responsibility and joy of coaching her daughter, the experience of three years coaching at Ferris State University and the recognition that teenage athletes and their parents have changed over the years have caused Nagel to take a hard second look at how she coaches.

Nagel said her conclusions may have left her a better coach, but definitely a person who finds herself examining the big picture over her own immediate surroundings.

Which isn't to say the drive to win has passed her by. What she will say is that 30 years after her first bench position as West Catholic's freshmen coach in 1989, the game remains as fun as ever.

"Kids change, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all," she said. "I probably don't yell in practice and in the games like I used to. But I've always said you have to evaluate yourself, and I'm absolutely still having fun."

While winning still ranks near the top of her priorities, Nagel said what drives her now – both on the court and off – is the quest for balance. While still possessing a love of coaching, Nagel said family and professional happiness off the court is what she seeks. As for winning, that candle still burns – but it's no longer consuming.

"I will never think winning isn't important. I'll always think my team needs to be in it until the end," she said. "But you can be consumed with things when you should be trying to find a balance in your life. (College) was 24/7 for me, and because of that I began to reflect and I realized life should be a balance. My priority should be my family."

That's probably the No. 1 lesson that came out of coaching three years at Ferris State after leaving Catholic Central in 2012.

"You're always thinking the grass might be greener," Nagel said of making that move.

What she found was the grass wasn't greener. Nagel said the endless fundraising, the long recruiting trail and the year-round duties of a college coach wound up being more than she wanted.

Nagel was content to be out of the game while watching her daughter, Katie, play on the Catholic Central varsity as a freshman a year ago. But when then-coach Trevor Hinshaw decided to devote more time to his family and athletic director duties after going 120-28 in the six seasons after replacing Nagel, she saw an opportunity to return to a familiar post.

She had turned down the job once when she didn't want people thinking Katie had made varsity as a freshman because her mother was the coach. But Nagel couldn't pass on the opportunity when Hinshaw asked again.

"She's such a great competitor, coach and teacher," Hinshaw said of Nagel, who as a member of the search committee recommended Hinshaw for the job after leaving for Ferris State. "The relationship she builds with players is one of the keys why her teams excel on the court. It's the combination of a lot of things which make her a good coach."

Because she recognizes the growth in herself over the last few years, Nagel said she enjoys coaching as much as ever, particularly in the MHSAA Tournament. In addition to the win over Country Day in 2010, Catholic Central had a pair of Class B runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2012. Her 2002 East Grand Rapids team also finished second.

This season’s team is 11-5 overall and tied for first in the O-K Blue, with a chance at another postseason run when Districts begin in two weeks.

"It's the backbone of everything I coach for," she said of the postseason. "I want my teams to be as ready for the tournament like I always did.

"But you can drive yourself crazy in saying, 'This is what we should be doing. How can I create what we need to do?'  You evolve with time. I'm not saying I still won't yell at referees or whomever. But like a parent, you should become smarter.

"You need to see that times change. There's still a right way to play – you hustle, have a good attitude and if you knock someone down you pick them up. But you evolve."

PHOTOS: (Top) Colleen Nagel returned to coaching Grand Rapids Catholic Central this season, including her sophomore daughter Katie Tate. (Middle) Nagel guides her team during the 2012 Class B Final. (Top photo courtesy of the Nagel family.)

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 1, 2023

Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.

The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.

The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.

Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.

Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.

Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:

Girls Basketball

Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).

Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.

Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.

Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.

Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.

Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.

Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.

Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.

Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.

Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.

Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).

Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.

Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.

Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.

PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.