Bill McCullen is in the midst of his 27th season coaching at DeWitt, taking the helm of a girls basketball program in 1996 that had struggled with a 28-37 record (14-22 in league play) over its three previous seasons.
Reaching 500 wins is an incredible achievement, as only 14 other girls basketball coaches have done so in the state of Michigan. He led the Panthers to that 500th win Thursday against East Lansing, and after the 61-40 victory he sits sixth among active coaches on the MHSAA girls basketball coaching wins list.
The Panthers currently sit 17-2. McCullen has posted a 242-38 league record (.864 winning percentage) with 19 league championships as DeWitt eyes a rematch with Capital Area Activities Conference Blue leader Holt coming up Tuesday. The Panthers also have won nine District and five Regional championships and reached the MHSAA Semifinals four times and finished Class A runner-up in 2014-15.
Before COVID-19, he had averaged 19 wins per season (to just 3.96 losses) in a sport that had a 20-game regular season before this winter. McCullen reached his 100th win in just five seasons, averaging an incredible 20 wins over that early span. DeWitt has posted 10 20-win seasons in the program’s history; McCullen is responsible for nine of them.
The expectations of McCullen’s student-athletes are just as high in the classroom. During his first 26 seasons, the Panthers have averaged a team GPA of 3.52, earning the state’s top honor three times. McCullen has seen 28 of his student-athletes earn academic all-state recognition.
McCullen has dedicated 30 years as an educator, teaching social studies classes at DeWitt High School for the last 29. Above all the wins, McCullen is an exemplary role model for coaches, players, and parents. His behavior on the sidelines and how he talks to officials and players exemplifies what is expected of coaches.
He has taken teaching and coaching beyond the classroom and hardwood and has created a “basketball family” within his program. McCullen is quick to give credit to his assistant coaches (Sam Dalman, Annie Jenkins, and Marcy Uyl) and longtime friend Scott Palmer, who served as his varsity assistant for two years and JV head coach for another 24. The support of his wife (Denise) and two grown sons (Carter and Jerod) are paramount to McCullen’s success and passion for teaching and coaching.
Perhaps his greatest influence was Jim Lutzke. Then DeWitt’s director of human resources and athletic director, Lutzke hired McCullen in 1994 as a teacher and to coach tennis. Lutzke mentored McCullen for five years before succumbing to cancer in 1999. That relationship has had a profound and lasting impact on McCullen as a husband, father, teacher, and coach.
PHOTO DeWitt girls basketball coach Bill McCullen talks things over with Gabbie Brya during a game. (Photo by TCP Photography.)
The MHSAA and Holly school communities are grieving this week after the sudden loss of Tony Coggins, a shining light in his educational community and an enthusiastic supporter of school sports as a public address announcer for several of our largest championship events.
But while that cheerful tone has been quieted, it surely will not be forgotten by the many fortunate to enjoy an event in the presence of that voice and the joyfulness he brought into every arena, press box and classroom.
Coggins, 51, died Saturday. He is survived by his wife Kristy and children Emma and Bradlee, among several family and friends from his local and greater sports communities.
His career as a PA announcer began during his freshman year of high school in 1985, when his father Dale Coggins – Flushing’s athletic director at the time – couldn’t find anyone else to announce middle school football games. That was 39 years ago, and this fall Tony Coggins was in his 24th announcing at Holly, where he taught and served as an administrator in addition to his role as “Voice of the Holly Bronchos” for football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, competitive cheer and swimming & diving over the years.
Coggins has been a mainstay among MHSAA Finals PA announcers over the last decade in football, basketball, softball and most recently volleyball. He lent his voice to college sports at University of Michigan as well. “Tony was a huge part of our Finals events. It’s hard to imagine it being the same without him,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said.
As part of the run-up to the MHSAA public address announcers clinic in 2018, Coggins said this about what drew him to the microphone:
“I have zero athletic ability whatsoever, which is interesting because my father was an all-state running back. But I enjoy being involved, and I've always been the one for history and statistics and knowing what's going on,” Coggins said. “This is a way for me to be involved. It's a way for me to use a talent I've been given; public speaking has always come pretty naturally for me.
“So I worked at my craft to get better. I got better from watching the people around me, from studying the people I like, and the people – if I saw someone I didn’t care for – I'd make a note and say to myself, ‘Don't do that.’ I take feedback from people very personally, and I mean that in a good way. If somebody takes the time to come up and say, ‘You did this well; I think you should change this,’ that means they care about the program also. We all have the same goal in mind, and that's to make the experience good for the high school student and the parents, the fans, that come there.”
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at St. John Vianney, 2415 Bagley Street in Flint. There will be visitation from 2-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at the Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 West Hill Road, and at the church from 10 a.m. Saturday until the time of the Mass.
The Holly volleyball team played for something bigger tonight
Beloved PA announcer Anthony Coggins died on Friday night from a heart attack
— Brandon Green🍀 (@BGreenReports) October 24, 2023