2020 Bush Awards Honor Dedicated ADs

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 21, 2020

East Grand Rapids’ Tim Johnston, Maple City Glen Lake’s Mark Mattson, Vicksburg’s Michael Roy and Gaylord’s Christian Wilson all lead programs that frequently earn headlines for success in competition. 

But these four athletic directors also are known in their local and statewide sports communities for the positive experiences they help provide students, their own as well as those who take part in the same leagues or tournament events they frequently host.

To honor their often unsung work in creating these experiences for athletes, all four have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2020.

Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to prep athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to men and women who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 29th year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.

“Leaders among peers, ceaseless dedication, never saying ‘no’ when needed – these are how this year’s Bush Award honorees are described by their colleagues, and how we’ve come to know them as well,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “What they give willingly for school sports goes far beyond awards they’ve received, and at the same time often receives little attention. We’re delighted to recognize all of their continuing contributions.”

Johnston has begun his 39th year in education, with the last eight for East Grand Rapids Public Schools, where he has led one of the state’s most successful athletic programs – EGR, which offers 34 varsity sports, was named a Michigan Exemplary Athletic Program in 2018 by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA). Johnson was chosen as his region’s Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2017. He previously served as a teacher and coach at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, and then as an athletic director and principal at Hastings.

He has made significant contributions to Michigan’s largest high school league, having served as president, vice president, secretary and realignment chairperson for the Ottawa-Kent Conference, and hosted various MHSAA Tournament competitions for the District, Regional and Finals rounds. Johnston also has served on multiple MHSAA sport committees and its board of canvassers, and as part of the Scholar-Athlete Award selection committee. Additionally, he has served as an instructor for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program (CAP) and as a program presenter at conferences for both the MIAAA and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) – and served as Michigan’s delegate to the latter.

After graduating from Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Johnston earned an associate degree from Grand Rapids Junior College and a bachelor’s from Grand Valley State University, and then a master’s in education leadership from Michigan State University. He earned his certified athletic administrator (CAA) designation from the NIAAA.

“Tim has always been incredibly positive in advocating for kids,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “I’ve known Tim for years as a principal and as an athletic director, and there’s absolutely no one who better sees the big picture of how academics and athletics fit together.”

Mattson is into his 22nd year coaching, teaching or serving as an administrator in Michigan high schools, and in his second tenure as athletic director at Maple City Glen Lake. He previously served in the same role and others at Marquette High School for 11 years and then as athletic director at Traverse City Central before returning to Glen Lake as athletic director and assistant principal. He also coached and taught in Rhinelander, Wis., to begin his career, and served as an undergrad men’s basketball assistant coach at Northern Michigan University.

Mattson also is a frequent MHSAA Tournament host and participated on sport committees for skiing, football, basketball, cross country and track & field, and has served as an MIAAA regional representative and as secretary for the Big North Conference. He received MIAAA regional Athletic Director of the Year awards in both 2008 and 2018, and was selected as the Upper Peninsula Athletic Director of the Year in 2006.

A current member of the MHSAA Representative Council – representing Class C and D schools in the northern Lower Peninsula – Mattson is a graduate of L’Anse High School and earned his bachelor’s degree and then his master’s in educational administration both from NMU. While at NMU and into his tenure at Marquette, Mattson also was a registered MHSAA official in football and basketball for a decade and briefly for softball and volleyball.

“Mark, having served his career in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, always brings a unique perspective on how the largest schools survive in northern Michigan,” Uyl said. “Schools like Marquette and Traverse City Central face a unique challenge. He’s always been an advocate for schools with those unique circumstances – but also for all schools up north, and especially now as part of the Representative Council.”

Roy is a graduate of Paw Paw High School who returned to Michigan after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees – the latter in curriculum and instruction – at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he also was a member of the football team for two years. He is into his 22nd year as an athletic administrator, serving three years at Lawton before joining the Vicksburg administration at the start of the 2001-02 school year. He has hosted more than 100 MHSAA postseason events and numerous CAP sessions while also serving as a CAP instructor, and his Vicksburg program received the Exemplary Athletic Program award in 2020.

Roy served as president of the MIAAA during the 2019-20 school year and has made vast contributions as part of the athletic directors’ professional organization with more than 15 years as a regional representative and 10 times serving as the state’s NIAAA delegate at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) national conference. He has served more than a decade as a Leadership Training Institute instructor for the MIAAA and as part of the NIAAA national teaching faculty.

He has received three certifications from the NIAAA including the certified master athletic administrator designation in 2005. Roy was named his region’s Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2009 and state Athletic Director of the Year in 2012 – when he was also a finalist for national Athletic Director of the Year from the National High School Coaches Association.

“Mike has been incredibly giving with his time, especially with his leadership with the MIAAA,” Uyl said. “He has a can-do attitude, whether it be in hosting events or with other problem-solving he’s provided our entire MHSAA staff over many years.”

Wilson is into his 19th  year in education, serving as athletic director and assistant principal for Gaylord Community schools; he also briefly served as athletic director at Novi High School and as high school athletic director in Mount Gilead, Ohio, and taught in Auburndale, Wis.

Wilson also is a frequent host of MHSAA Tournament events – he hosted more than 10 during the 2019-20 school year alone – and also has served on various MHSAA committees. He has served as president of the Big North Conference and provided his expertise to the local Little League and youth football boards. He was named his region’s Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2016.

A graduate of Chassell High School, Wilson then earned his bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University and a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University. Prior to beginning his career in education, Wilson served as an assistant men’s basketball coach at both Michigan Technological University and Western Michigan. He played at Michigan Tech before finishing his career at NMU.

“Christian has been a successful administrator for many years because of his outstanding temperament and the way he connects with people,” Uyl said. “He’s someone who takes the work seriously, but never takes himself too seriously. He has served as a mentor to so many, and he’s very gifted at building relationships. At the end of the day, that’s what our business is about – those relationships.”

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year. 

Longtime Taylor AD, Game Official Ristovski Chose Athletics as Way to Give Back

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

February 20, 2024

There is a basketball court 5,000 miles from Sterling Heights with “MHL” painted on the center court.

Greater DetroitIt’s not the name of a local basketball league in the village where it is located – Siricino, Macedonia. Instead, it stands for Madison, Haleigh and Lola, the three daughters of longtime Michigan basketball coach, referee and athletic director Loren Ristovski.

“My dad loved going back (to Macedonia),” said Madison Ristovski. “He’s probably gone every summer since about 2017. His whole family still lives there. He loved going and visiting and seeing everyone.

“It was always a goal of his to give back to where he came from. He and Mom donated to the village to build a soccer field and basketball court with lights and everything. It was a pretty big deal. It’s something he wanted to do for them back home. We were very proud he did that.”

Loren Ristovski, athletic director for Taylor schools, died earlier this month while on leave to have surgery on his foot. It was a shock to his family, friends, and the Taylor community.

“It was a heavy blow,” said Matt Joseph, girls basketball coach at Utica Ford and a longtime friend of the Ristovski family. “It was like getting kicked in the gut. Basketball was his passion. Next to his family, basketball was definitely No. 1. He loved the game and all the intricacies of it. He loved seeing kids excel.”

Loren Ristovski heads an all-family officiating crew with Lola and his brother Dean Ristovski.Ristovski emigrated from Macedonia to Michigan when he was 9. He went to high school at Hamtramck St. Florian, where he excelled at basketball. He went to Wayne State University to get a degree in criminal justice and had plans to become a lawyer.

Before he could take the Law School Admission Test, however, basketball came calling.

“He started coaching at Henry Ford High School and Fuhrmann Middle School,” Madison said. “Once he realized how much he enjoyed coaching, he decided to go into education. He stayed the entire time. He never went to law school.”

Loren Ristovski became the head coach at Harper Woods but gave that up when his daughters were ready to start playing in high school.

“He gave up coaching varsity at Harper Woods so he could be at every one of my games,” Madison said.

He also coached them as youngsters, often teaming with Joseph to coach an AAU team.

“I met him when Madison was 5,” Joseph said. “He and I decided to put our daughters in the same parks and recreation team, and next thing you know we were coaching AAU.”

With Ristovski’s tutoring, Madison, Haleigh, and Lola all excelled at the game, each playing Division I college basketball after standout careers at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. In 2012, Liggett reached the Class C Final with all three starting. They combined for 55 of Liggett’s 57 points in the championship game, with Madison scoring 42 after earlier that week receiving the Miss Basketball Award.

Lola and Haleigh played at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Madison played at the University of Michigan. Today, Haleigh lives on the west side of the state and plays recreational basketball. Lola is a referee in the Catholic High School League as well as for the Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and also works area Division III college games.

Madison is a teacher and the varsity girls basketball coach at Sterling Heights Stevenson.

“He taught us the game when we were very, very young,” Madison said. “We grew up in the gym with him and watched him coach his team. He coached me my whole life. He was very instrumental – he taught us all those things you need to become an athlete, and more importantly the things you need to do to succeed in life.”

Her dad is the reason she became a coach.

The daughters’ initials “MHL” glow on the court the family funded in Macedonia.“Watching my dad coach and seeing the impact he had on his high school athletes and even the kids in our church community – it inspired me to want to coach as well and give back like he did,” she said. “I watched him with my teammates and the impact he had on them. I thought it would be so cool if I could do the same for others.”

Loren Ristovski left a legacy at Taylor, too. School officials recounted several stories of how he balanced athletic budgets with the needs of student-athletes. He would lead fundraising efforts, created the Bitty Ball program for youth basketball players and cheerleaders and helped students become certified officials – and then would hire them to officiate games.

“He didn’t say no,” said Taylor boys basketball coach Chris Simons. “We made it work. We didn’t go out and ask people for a bunch of money. We would just do it. We all pulled together and made it work. Loren did everything he could to make things as pretty and presentable as he could with the budget we had.”

Ristovski also put on summer camps at both Taylor and at the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse in Sterling Heights, where he lived. He commuted about an hour to Taylor every day.

“He loved Taylor,” Madison said. “He loved who he worked with and the students. He included us, too. My mom would run the ticket table or do the scoreboard clock. I don’t know how many times I sold tickets for volleyball tournaments with him. He loved his people and loved having us there with him.”

Loren Ristovski, who played professional basketball in Europe during the late 1980s, ran well over 20 marathons in his life, including the Boston Marathon. He was a registered MHSAA official for 16 years, and in the weeks before his passing he refereed a varsity game in Rochester with his daughter, Lola.

“He looked at basketball, I think, differently than other people do,” Madison said. “He saw it as a way to have relationships with other people, to help people achieve their goals and to find meaningful relationships with others. It was more than just a game to him.”

Doug DonnellyDoug 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.

PHOTOS (Top) Loren Ristovski, far left, and wife Svetlana support their lineup of Division I basketball-playing daughters – from left: Madison, Haleigh and Lola. (Middle) Loren Ristovski heads an all-family officiating crew with Lola and his brother Dean Ristovski. (Below) The daughters’ initials “MHL” glow on the court the family funded in Macedonia. (Photos courtesy of Madison Ristovski.)