Next Win Will be 500th for Ida's Leonard

November 30, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

IDA – There are ups and downs in everyone’s coaching career. Unless you are Tim Leonard.

Leonard starts his 28th season as head coach of the Ida High School girls basketball team Tuesday. With a win at home against Monroe Jefferson, Leonard would join the exclusive 500-win club.

The Bluestreaks varsity won at least 12 games every one of his first 27 seasons at Ida. His record is a shiny 499-112.

“That’s a credit to our kids and coaching staff,” said Leonard. “Through all of the years, all of our kids have worked hard for everything. They’ve come to practice every day, and they have played hard.”

Leonard is a retired Michigan State Police detective who started coaching at Ida, his alma mater, in 1986 when he was hired as the boys freshman basketball coach. He took over the Ida junior varsity boys the following season and coached them for 15. 

In the meantime, he coached Ida’s 8th-grade girls team in 1989 and 1990 and got the Ida girls varsity job in 1991. Ida went 22-2 that season, winning a Class C District crown and the Lenawee County Athletic Association championship.

It was a sign of things to come for Leonard and Ida.

In the years since, his accomplishments have been remarkable:

  • 16 LCAA titles
  • 10 District championships
  • 2 Associated Press Coach of the Year awards

Leonard said basketball was a sport he always had loved. He’s grateful he was able to coach while working for the state police.

“I think a lot of people get into law enforcement for some of the same reasons they get into coaching or educating kids,” Leonard said. “It’s because of a desire to work with young people, to guide them, to help them along the way.”

As a detective, Leonard would often deal with cases in which children were not always in the most positive light. Coaching, he says, helped counter that.

“Coaching definitely allowed that balance for me,” he said. “In law enforcement, you are often dealing with the negative side. Coaching allows you to work with kids that are doing positive things.”

Ida has done a lot of positive things over Leonard’s tenure. He’s become the winningest girls basketball coach in Monroe County history. His 1999 Bluestreaks hold the school record for wins with 23. The 2016-17 team was his latest to win 20 games when it went 20-3. That was the 11th time in his career that Ida won at least 20 games.

“I’m pretty proud of the fact that in our down years, we still were able to win 12 or 14 games,” he said. “The girls just always seem to buy into what we are teaching them.”

Leonard hasn’t been afraid to change with the times. In his early coaching days, his teams were known for a fast, get-up-and-down-the-floor pace with full-court, man-to-man defense. As different athletes cycled through the Ida program, Leonard was able to adapt to fit the strengths of his roster.

“To be successful, one of the things you have to be willing to do is change,” he said. “You have to figure out what suits the kids the best. We’ve been pretty flexible throughout the years.”

In the last few years, Ida’s transitioned from the full-court press to a 2-2-1 zone press. It’s been a subtle change, but the success has continued. Ida is the reigning LCAA champion and has won three consecutive District crowns. Ida will play in Division 2 this season.

This winter, Ida returns just one starter in Taylor Wegener, but has experienced players coming back along with athletic newcomers. Opponents aren’t expecting anything easy when they take on Ida.

“This year is going to be interesting,” Leonard said. “We are still learning, still adjusting. We’re still getting our legs under us. It might take a little while, but I think it will come together.”

After Leonard retired from the state police, he became Ida’s athletic director, a position he still holds. He’s also turned basketball into family – his daughter Anne, who was a 1,000-point scorer at Ida, and son Chris are assistant coaches.

While the victories have piled up, Leonard said it’s never been about that.

“It’s certainly not about the wins and losses,” he said. “It’s definitely to make a difference in young people’s lives, to mentor and help the kids mature. That’s what it has always been about.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTO: Ida girls basketball coach Tim Leonard instructs one of his players. (Photo by Tom Hawley.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)