McCullen Reaches Milestone: 300 wins

March 7, 2012

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.

Click to see the MHSAA record book listing for girls basketball coaches, and e-mail updates to [email protected] 

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)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.