Bill McCullen truly earned his 300th coaching victory — the program’s first-ever tournament win as a Class A school — in the first round of MHSAA District action by defeating No. 4-ranked St. Johns on Feb. 27.
After the Redwings hit two free throws, McCullen called a timeout with 9.9 seconds left, down one, and the length of the floor to go. He drew up a play that was introduced to his team only the day before — senior Kalya Hanses to inbound the ball to senior Erica Goodenough, who was to get the ball to sophomore Lexi Banaszak at the division line. Banaszak was instructed to get the ball to left-handed freshmen Claudia Reid on the left wing, giving her a 2-on-1 break with junior Kaylee Schmit.
McCullen finished drawing up the play in the team huddle by saying, “We are going to score, and this place is going to go crazy!”
The play worked as it was drawn up. Reid received the ball and saw an opening to the basket, hitting the layup with 3.3 seconds left. McCullen was exactly right; the score went in, DeWitt won 36-35, and the home crowd did go crazy.
McCullen just completed his 16th season coaching the Panthers, 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.
The 300-win milestone is an achievement in itself — but more amazing with a closer look.
Under McCullen’s leadership, the program has posted a 150-20 league record (.882 winning percentage) while winning 13 league championships (including seven straight through this season), seven District championships, three Regional championships, and three MHSAA Semifinals appearances.
In a sport with a 20-game regular season, he has averaged 18.75 wins per (to just 4.25 losses). McCullen reached his 100th win in just five seasons, averaging an incredible 20 wins over that span. DeWitt has posted six 20-win seasons in the program’s history; McCullen is responsible for five of them.
In the history of MHSAA girls basketball, McCullen is the 44th coach to reach the 300-win plateau and only the sixth from the Lansing area. His win total and .815 winning percentage places him eighth and second, respectively, among active coaches.
Expectations are just as high in the classroom. McCullen’s squads have averaged a team grade-point average of 3.59 (with a 3.84 team GPA this season), earning top honors in Class B twice during the 2000 and 2010-2011 seasons. Nine players have earned academic all-state honors.
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, building an uncanny rapport with what he calls “my girls.”
McCullen would likely recognize his wife (Denise) and two sons (Carter and Jerod) for their support and countless sacrifices, and he would also quickly shift credit for his success to the many assistant coaches throughout his tenure. His mentor, Jim Lutzke (who coached at DeWitt for six seasons before succumbing to cancer in 1999), had a lasting and profound impact on McCullen; Luztke undoubtedly would be proud.
McCullen, by the numbers
(League record in parentheses)
1996: 14-7 (7-5)
1997: 22-3 (10-2)
1998: 17-4 (11-1)
1999: 25-1 (12-0)
2000: 22-5 (11-1)
2001: 20-3 (10-0)
2002: 19-5 (10-0)
2003: 17-7 (7-3)
2004: 13-8 (7-3)
2005: 18-3 (9-1)
2006: 19-3 (10-0)
2007-08: 16-5 (8-2)
2008-09: 25-2 (10-0)
2009-10: 17-4 (9-1)
2010-11: 19-3 (10-0)
2011-12: 17-5 (9-1)
Totals 300-68 (150-20)
The St. Ignace girls basketball teams is off to a 2-0 start – and great starts and finishes certainly have been the norm over the last 25 seasons under the leadership of head coach Dorene Ingalls and her assistant, and husband, Doug.
Tuesday’s season-opening win over Brimley made Dorene Ingalls 500-94 beginning her 25th season guiding the program – now 501-94 after Thursday’s 63-27 victory over Boyne City. She entered this season 16th on the state list for most girls basketball coaching victories, and seventh among active coaches.
For all 501 wins, Doug Ingalls has been by her side as an assistant within the program – while also serving as boys varsity basketball coach from 1992-2008, 2011-16 and again currently in the fifth season of his latest tenure. His Saints also have opened 2-0, and he has a 355-175 record leading the boys program.
The Ingalls have led the girls program to five MHSAA Finals championships, most recently in Class D in 2015, and four runner-up finishes, most recently in Division 4 in 2019.
Dorene Ingalls received the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Award in 2021.
PHOTOS (Top) Doug and Dorene Ingalls, far left and right, respectively, take a photo with 2003 Miss Basketball Krista Clement. (Middle) Dorene and Doug Ingalls. (Photos by David Latva.)