NFHS Honors 4 of Michigan's Finest

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 14, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three longtime Michigan high school coaches and one of the state’s most highly-respected athletic directors were recognized Wednesday by the National Federation of State High School Associations Coaches Association.

Leland volleyball coach Laurie Glass, Trenton softball coach John Biedenbach and Traverse City Central boys track and field coach John Lober were named Coaches of the Year in their respective sports. Longtime Troy athletic director Jim Feldkamp – currently an instructor for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program – was honored as this year’s National Coach Contributor Award winner as an individual “who has gone above and beyond and who exemplifies the highest standards of sportsmanship, ethical conduct and moral character.”

Feldkamp served one year as a teacher and coach of three sports at Romeo in 1970-71 before moving on to New Baltimore Anchor Bay, where he taught, coached varsity boys basketball for 14 years, subvarsity basketball for five seasons and served as athletic director at the high school.

He moved on to West Bloomfield as director of health, physical education and athletics in 1985, then became citywide athletic director for the Troy School District from 1988-2004. Feldkamp consulted at Detroit University Prep from 2007-12, then served as district athletic director of L’Anse Creuse Public Schools during the 2012-13 school year.

Feldkamp received the MHSAA’s Charles E. Forsythe Award in 2005 for his outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community after retiring from the Troy district, where he was responsible for 178 teams, more than 4,800 athletes and 315 coaches. He also received the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award and has served as a CAP instructor for the last decade while co-authoring the program module Administrative Responsibilities of Coaching. He also previously was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and received a National Award of Merit from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

“Jim Feldkamp is an outstanding educator who understands and recognizes the qualities of leadership necessary in educational athletics while also appreciating the meaning and applications of the rules,” said MHSAA assistant director Kathy Vruggink Westdorp as part of the association’s nomination of Feldkamp for the award. “He has a great understanding of the coach’s role and has worked with thousands of coaches throughout Michigan in a continued effort to improve the sport experience of participating students.”

The following brief bios on Michigan coaching award winners include excerpts from coaching philosophies they were asked to submit after being identified as candidates:

Laurie Glass this fall led Leland to the Class D Volleyball Final and has taken her program to four MHSAA championships over three tenures stretching 20 seasons. Including four seasons at Traverse City Central, Glass has a 909-302-108 record dating to her first season at Leland in 1990-91. 

“Athletics is all about opportunity, both for the athlete and the coach. Opportunity to learn life lessons that will help them as the move on outside of the athletic arena. Opportunity for personal growth. Opportunity to be passionate about something that you are willing to work hard for. … Most importantly, the opportunity to develop young women into strong young women who believe in themselves and value what they have to offer.”

John Biedenbach took over the Trenton softball program in 1975. He has led teams to more than 940 wins and was inducted into the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997. He also coached basketball teams to 445 wins beginning in 1977. 

“Building that sense of being a ‘team’ is my most important job as a coach. The team leaves no one out in the cold; each member of the team plays as hard as they can for the sake of their teammates and for the sake of themselves. As coach, I lead by example, always stressing hard work and dedication, long hours practicing and the fundamentals of the game. If I have done my job, my players will start their adult lives stronger and better prepared for the challenges ahead.”

Lober has coached the Traverse City Central boys track and field team since 1977 and also the boys cross country team since 1989. His 1992 track team won the Class A championship, and he has coached 17 individual MHSAA Finals champions. He has built a record of 334-33-3 and was inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. 

“Athletics are an integral part of the educational setting that should provide experiences through a variety of sports for every student, regardless of ability. While being part of the team, these experiences should foster the qualities of hard work, dependability, fitness and dedication to the team’s goals. Student athletes should be challenged, motivated, counseled and led through activities that develop their mental, social, physical and psychological needs.”

Championship Experience from Coach's Point of View Unimaginable, Unforgettable

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 4, 2024

WYOMING – As the final buzzer sounded, it was all I could’ve imagined – and more.

West Michigan

In the weeks leading up to March 16 and the Division 4 championship game, I experienced every emotion possible as I envisioned what it would feel like to be an assistant coach on the bench at Michigan State’s Breslin Center as the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian boys basketball team achieved its ultimate goal.

In my first year as the junior varsity coach at Tri-unity, I had been on the varsity bench for a majority of the season, assisting legendary coach Mark Keeler and fellow assistants Brent Voorhees, Bob Przybysz and Mike Kaman.

I was there encouraging, motivating and supporting the varsity team. It was a role I embraced, and had become accustomed to over my almost 30 years coaching high school basketball.

I started coaching in 1995 as Jim Ringold gave me my first opportunity as the freshmen girls coach at Wyoming Kelloggsville High School. I would then coach Kelloggsville’s freshmen boys team for eight seasons, while also coaching the freshmen girls at Grandville High School. I would also coach the junior varsity teams at both schools.

I love coaching. I have a passion for it. I’ve always enjoyed getting the most out of my players while creating a bond between player and coach.

When girls basketball season moved from fall to winter joining the boys in 2007-08, I stayed at Grandville. I spent 21 seasons there before stepping down.

I still wanted to coach, and I heard that the Tri-unity junior varsity position was available. I had always respected and liked Keeler and was excited for the prospect of joining a perennial powerhouse.

I didn’t really know about Tri-unity growing up in the Wyoming Park school district. But as a young kid, I would rush home and eagerly await the afternoon delivery of the Grand Rapids Press. I would quickly find the sports page and read it from front to back, hoping one day to see my byline.

I began writing for the Press’ sports department in 1997. It was my dream job. And that’s also when I first started covering Tri-unity boys basketball.

I remember watching eventual NBA all-star Chris Kaman, along with Bryan Foltice and others play for this little Christian school and have unbridled success under Keeler.

MHSAA Tournament runs became the norm for the Defenders. They won their first Finals title in 1996, and they would claim four more over the next 26 years. They also had six runner-up finishes.

Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action.I was sitting on media row writing for in 2022 when Brady Titus led Tri-unity to its fifth state championship.

I never thought that two years later I would be on the coaching staff as the Defenders pursued another one. But there I was.

I knew this year’s team had the potential to be special.

Tri-unity had returned four of its five starters from a year ago, after suffering a heart-breaking two-point loss to Munising in the Division 4 Final.

Eight seniors were on the roster. The team had a mix of talented guard play, senior leadership, size and depth. We had shooters and we played great defense, a trademark of Keeler’s teams.

This was the year, and that heaped lofty expectations on Keeler and the team. It was basically “state championship or bust.” Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

Keeler wanted it badly, and I knew the players did as well. I think they felt the pressure at times of living up to the expectations that had been set.

We had several lopsided wins, but also had a few tough losses to Division 2 and Division 3 teams – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Wyoming Lee, Grandville Covenant Christian and Schoolcraft – all talented teams that I think made us better despite falling short.

As the postseason started, there was anxiety and excitement.

We were one of the favorites, but it wouldn’t be easy. We would have to earn each of the seven victories needed to win it all.

First came a District title, but then we had to play a quality Fowler team in its home gym in the Regional Semifinal. This was a game we knew would be a challenge – and it was.

We led by only one at halftime after a 7-0 run to end the second quarter. The score was tied 33-33 in the fourth quarter before senior Lincoln Eerdmans made a key 3-pointer to spark our victory.

As we went through the handshake line, several Fowler players said, “Good luck in the Finals.”

Our defense played extremely well in the Regional Final and state Quarterfinal to secure our team another trip to the Breslin.

St. Ignace was our opponent in the Semifinal, and we had to face a senior guard who could do it all – Jonny Ingalls. He lived up to the hype. He was good, and we didn’t have any answer for him in the first half. We trailed by one, only to fall behind by seven late in the third quarter.

Was this the end? Were we going to fall one game short of our goal?

Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. We were down by five points in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Keaton Blanker, and others, rose to the occasion. We rallied to win a tight one, and now we were one win away from a Division 4 title.

The night before the championship game, we stayed at a hotel in East Lansing as we had the first game of the day at 10 a.m. We had a team dinner, and the players seemed relaxed and eager to close out the season the way they had intended.

There was one thing that worried me. We were playing Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. A team we had played in the second game of the season and defeated by 30 points.

Would we be overconfident? I had no idea. They were a different team now, but so were we. Anything could happen.

Keeler gave a spirited and emotional pregame speech. In last year’s loss to Munising, he felt like the team played not to lose, and this season his big thing was “I want to win.” He said it to every starter that Saturday morning during the final moments in the locker room before tipoff, asking all five individually to say it back – which they did, the first one quietly but followed by teammates replying louder and louder as everyone got fired up and “I want to win” rang through the locker room. I think it inspired all of us.

After a competitive first quarter, we started to find our rhythm and expanded the lead. We were ahead by double-digits at the half, and a state title was within our grasp. Senior Wesley Kaman buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to give us a 20-point cushion. It was at that point I knew we were going to win.

All five starters reached double-figure scoring, led by Jordan VanKlompenberg with 19 points and Owen Rosendall with 14. That balance was intentional and a successful sign for our team all season.

The exhilaration of winning was intoxicating. I loved watching the boys celebrate something they had worked so hard to accomplish. I will never forget their faces. I looked to my right from my seat on the bench and watched them running onto the court, just wearing their joy. They were just elated.

I was so happy for Keeler, a devout Christian who is respected by so many people in high school basketball circles. I learned so much from him this season. The way he approaches each game, his competitiveness. He instills his strong faith in his players and understands that the game of basketball is a bridge to a higher purpose.

Keeler is the fourth-winningest coach in state boys basketball history with a record of 694-216, and will be the winningest active coach next winter as all-time leader Roy Johnston retired from Beaverton at the end of this season.

The tournament run was one of the best coaching experiences I have had, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a state championship season.

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) The Wyoming Tri-unity Christian bench, including the author (far right) and head coach Mark Keeler (middle), celebrate a 3-pointer late in the Defenders’ Division 4 championship win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action. (Below) Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)