DeMott's Long-Revered Legacy Grows to Include All-Time Wins Record

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 11, 2023

This past Friday night felt like a home game for Al DeMott.

Bay & ThumbFamily, friends and former players were packed into the stands to watch him set the MHSAA record for career wins by a girls basketball coach. 

There was a postgame celebration on the court, and a congratulatory message displayed on the video board.

Of course, DeMott and the Wolves hadn’t just won a game in their home gym – they had done it at Unionville-Sebewaing. 

But anywhere in the Thumb can feel like home.

“USA, they really did a lot,” DeMott said. “They put a thing up on the board, their coach came out after the game and said all kinds of nice things. USA was a very generous host. They went above and beyond.

“That’s the way it is in Thumb basketball; we all look after each other and support each other. In all sports, really. When one team goes on a run, the whole Thumb gets on the bandwagon.”

Sandusky’s win was the 798th of DeMott’s career, putting him ahead of retired Detroit Country Day coach Frank Orlando on the all-time list. 

It’s a record more than 40 years in the making, as DeMott took over the program in 1979. In that time, Sandusky has won 23 league titles, 27 District titles, seven Regional titles and earned an MHSAA Finals runner-up finish (1999). The program hasn’t had a losing season since 1982.

“I’ve been doing it a long time,” DeMott said. “Our program has had a lot of success. We’ve had a pretty good run going for a lot of years. The numbers don’t really mean that much to me. It’s nice for our program that it’s been successful as it has. That it’s been steady for a long time. There are a lot of good people that have done a good job.”

DeMott’s career record stands at 799-206, as the Wolves won another game Tuesday night to push their season record to 9-2.

Before he’s done, the record will no doubt be well above 800. How far above depends on how long DeMott sticks around. Right now, there’s no immediate plan to stop.

The USA scoreboard celebrated DeMott’s accomplishment. “Every year, when you get done with the year and your season ends, you’re tired,” DeMott said. “But I’m still having a lot of fun doing it. Another thing, God’s blessed me with good health. I’ve been fortunate to keep going strong with this. I’ve been working on trying to get someone to take it over – I’ve got a granddaughter in eighth grade, and I would like to sit and watch her.”

One thing that keeps DeMott going is the support he gets from those around him in the program. 

He’s had the opportunity to coach with his three daughters, Desiree, Allison and Marissa, who also played for him. His longtime assistant coach and childhood friend, Ray Lee, has been on the staff since 1982. DeMott said that during his time at Sandusky, he’s had only six or seven JV coaches.

“I have such a good support system,” DeMott said. “I have loyal assistant coaches.”

The community, both in Sandusky and throughout the Thumb, also has shown DeMott tremendous support, even as he was struggling to get the program off the ground in the early years.

“With the start I had here, if somebody got off to the start I did, they’d be gone, probably,” DeMott said. “It’s been phenomenal. I can’t believe all the texts and emails and calls I’ve got. People have gone above and beyond. There’s been a lot of support. We’ve always got really good support.”

And, of course, nothing can beat the support that DeMott gets at home, as his wife Tammy has been there since the beginning.

“My wife has been a saint,” DeMott said. “When I first started doing this coaching, she was a little iffy about it. When I first started, I was working at the bank and I only had two weeks vacation. We used to use one of the weeks of vacation to go to team camp. She stays up and does stats with me. She’s my biggest supporter I’ve ever had.”

All that support has allowed DeMott to build a consistent winner at a public school with an enrollment just over 300 students. 

He started a youth program fairly early in his time at Sandusky, and it’s still going strong. He said there were 40 third and fourth graders in the gym this past Saturday starting their latest season.

As kids grow up in the program, they dream of one day playing for the varsity team and DeMott.

Players line up to congratulate DeMott on his milestone win.“This achievement couldn’t have been accomplished by a more humble and deserving person,” said Haley Nelson, a 2018 Sandusky grad who played for DeMott before playing at Saginaw Valley State. “In Sandusky, playing under Coach DeMott is something you look forward to as soon as you start playing basketball in elementary school. He’s built a standard as to what Sandusky girls basketball is, and it made you want to work hard to live up to it. The program he’s built is a testament to his hard work and dedication year-round. I think it would be tough to find another high school coach as committed to their program as Al is. He sees each of his players as people far beyond what they can contribute on the court, and for that reason, the impact he has on his players extends far beyond basketball.”

Nelson is one of many Sandusky players who have gone onto play at the next level. Many have stayed connected to the sport through coaching, as well. But in general, DeMott touts the academic success of his program, and the pride he has in the citizens his former players have grown to be.

“A lot of our former players, they’ve all done a lot of really good things,” DeMott said. “I couldn’t be prouder. There were quite a few there (at USA). It meant a lot to see them.”

One former player-turned-coach is Wayne State women’s basketball coach Carrie Lohr, who has set records of her own. She’s in her 12th season at Wayne State, and has won nearly 200 games. She became the program’s all-time winningest coach in 2019.

She counts DeMott as one of her biggest influences.

"Al is truly one of the best coaches in the state of Michigan," Lohr said. "I believe he could coach any team or sport to its highest potential. Al has an unwavering dedication and passion for the game of basketball and teaching young people. He is selfless, positive, consistent, knowledgeable and truly cares about the players he leads.

“Playing for Coach Al DeMott is still some of my best basketball memories ever. He has truly made a positive impact on my life as he has done for so many who have worn the Sandusky jersey. I wouldn't be where I am today without his mentorship. I am forever grateful to him and his support of me long after I left the court."

With the record behind him, DeMott now hopes the focus can return to this year’s team, which is 9-2 with its losses coming by a combined five points. 

It’s clear he’s excited about this group, as the energy in his voice ratcheted up when asked about his players.

“I’ve got an awesome group to coach,” DeMott said. “They’re really good, smart, hard workers. They want to be successful, and they really like to play together. They love playing together. They’re a special group.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Sandusky girls basketball coach Al DeMott stands alongside his current team after they helped him break the MHSAA record for girls basketball victories Friday at Unionville-Sebewaing. (Middle) The USA scoreboard celebrated DeMott’s accomplishment. (Below) Players line up to congratulate DeMott on his milestone win. (Photos courtesy of Sandusky High School.)

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.