Norris Award to Honor Educator, Mentor

April 18, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Many of Jill Baker-Cooley’s favorite memories of officiating are funny ones, and she laughed last week recalling her first basketball game at the college level.

Fatigue was setting in quickly as she ran up and down the court during a Division III matchup at Calvin College. Teams played 20-minute halves, and she remembered wondering if halftime was coming up soon. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I thought I was going to die,” she said – and then she realized only four minutes had come off the clock and she had a long way to go.

She chuckled as well in recollecting another memory, but because it was drenched in irony. As an official starting out, she was encouraged to join an area officials association. She showed up for her first meeting at a local gym – and when she sat down in the bleachers, all of the men around her got up and sat in the stands on the other side.

But that would serve only as motivation, not discouragement, for this year’s Vern L. Norris Award winner.

“When I see how different it is now … back then it was just a fight,” said Baker-Cooley, now living in Big Rapids. “Not only trying to officiate, but you had to prove (yourself) every single time you stepped out there. It was a tough go for a while.

“I think at the time, you don’t realize it. But I’m not a quitter. And if I do quit or retire, it’s going to be on my terms.”

And she’s not done yet. Baker-Cooley is in her 39th year as an MHSAA-registered official, this school year for volleyball, cross country and track & field. She has worked MHSAA Finals in all three sports and 20 championship events total, in addition to officiating college volleyball and track as well and basketball at both levels during the first many years of her career.

The Norris Award is presented annually to a veteran official who has been active in a local officials association, has mentored other officials, and has been involved in officials’ education. It is named for Vern L. Norris, who served as executive director of the MHSAA from 1978-86 and was well-respected by officials on the state and national levels. Baker-Cooley will be honored at the Officials’ Awards & Alumni Banquet on May 5 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. Norris initiated the annual officials celebration in 1980, and this will be the first since his death Feb. 12.

Baker-Cooley’s first MHSAA Final was her only one in cross country, at the end of the 1994 season. She has officiated five Finals for volleyball, most recently the Class C championship match in 2012, and 14 in track & field and as recently as 2015.

“Jill Baker-Cooley has been a strong, pioneering official, and is well-respected not only for her work during competition but for her many contributions to building up the officiating avocation in our state,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “She’s personable and approachable, a valued teacher and mentor. We are delighted to honor Jill Baker-Cooley with the Norris Award.”

Baker-Cooley most recently has been affiliated with the West Michigan Volleyball Officials Association, Mid-Michigan Officials Association, Northern Sports Officials Association and Mecosta-Isabella-Clare Officials Association.

As noted above, the Norris Award salutes those who have contributed to mentoring and training officials, and education remains a cornerstone of Baker-Cooley’s work. She served more than 30 years as a school counselor, in admissions at Michigan Technological University and Montcalm Community College, as a grant recipient and academic counselor at Ferris State University and then working with high school students at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center.

That love of educating has been part of her officiating career as well, as she’s served as a volleyball trainer for three officials associations, presented at MHSAA “Train the Trainers” conferences four times and co-founded with 2006 Norris winner Jeanne Skinner the Ferris State Volleyball Officials Camp for those who work high school matches. She’s also served as president of the Association of Track Officials of Michigan (ATOM) and been involved with USA Track & Field, the Professional Volleyball Officials Association and the Michigan Board of Volleyball Officials.

“Jill Baker-Cooley is an educator in her primary vocation. Over many years, she has been able to translate her vocational skills exceedingly well and often into the realm of high school officiating,” wrote 2005 Norris winner Bruce M. Moss in recommending Baker-Cooley for this year’s award. “She has been a strong and continuous presence in her local officials association. Her efforts have lifted the expertise of innumerable officials across this state in all of the sports she touches, and she has been a true champion for women in sports officiating.”

Baker-Cooley is a 1974 graduate of Cadillac High School, where she raced on the ski team at a time when many schools were adding girls sports or expanding those offerings. She went on to earn bachelor and master’s degrees from Central Michigan University, then received further certification in administration and training from Western Michigan University.

While at CMU, Baker-Cooley took a basketball officiating class taught by Marcy Weston, a nationally recognized advocate for women’s athletics over more than four decades as a teacher, coach, official and athletic director. Baker-Cooley was hooked.

Longtime official Lew Clingman – who will receive his 50-year award at next month’s Officials’ Banquet – also served as an early mentor as Baker-Cooley navigated an officiating world where she said she was one of fewer than 10 women working basketball in Michigan when she first registered for 1976-77. Others, including Traverse City’s Barb Beckett (2000 Norris honoree), Skinner and Kentwood’s Betty Near also provided assistance and inspiration.

Baker-Cooley has received ATOM’s Judy Hagman Award recognizing women in track & field and/or cross country officiating. She received multiple honors for her work in education, including the 2014 Governor’s Economic Summit “Creative” Award for her efforts encouraging women to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

She retired from counseling at the start of 2016 and stopped officiating basketball a decade ago after knee injuries slowed her. But in addition to her MHSAA Finals, Baker-Cooley has officiated college league playoffs in volleyball and returned to Calvin a few seasons after that first basketball game as a table official for an NCAA Tournament contest in that sport.

Baker-Cooley also has participated in equestrian since childhood and continues to show horses with affiliation with the American Quarter Horse Association and American Paint Horse Association.

Previous recipients of the Norris Award

1992 – Ted Wilson, East Detroit
1993 – Fred Briggs, Burton
1994 – Joe Brodie, Flat Rock
1995 – Jim Massar, Flint
1996 – Jim Lamoreaux, St. Ignace
1997 – Ken Myllyla, Escanaba
1998 – Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo
1999 – Richard Kalahar, Jackson
2000 – Barb Beckett, Traverse City; Karl Newingham, Bay City
2001 – Herb Lipschultz, Kalamazoo
2002 – Robert Scholie, Hancock
2003 – Ron Nagy, Hazel Park
2004 – Carl Van Heck, Grand Rapids
2005 – Bruce Moss, Alma
2006 – Jeanne Skinner, Grand Rapids
2007 – Terry Wakeley, Grayling
2008 – Will Lynch, Honor
2009 – James Danhoff, Richland
2010 – John Juday, Sr., Petoskey
2011 – Robert Williams, Redford
2012 – Lyle Berry, Rockford
2013 – Tom Minter, Okemos
2014 – Hugh R. Jewell, West Bloomfield
2015 – Sam Davis, Lansing
2016 – Linda Hoover, Marshall
2017 – Michael Gentry, Shelby Township

High school game officials with 20, 30, 40, 45 and 50 years of service also will be honored at the Officials’ Awards & Alumni Banquet on May 5.

Fifteen officials with 50 or more years of service will be honored, along with 42 officials with 45 years. A 40-year award will be presented to 65 officials. In addition, 107 officials with 30 years and 182 officials with 20 years of experience will be honored. With the induction of this year’s group of 411, the honor roll of officials who have aided young student-athletes grows to 11,006 since the inception of the banquet in 1980.

Tickets for the banquet are available to the public and priced at $20. They will not be sold at the door. Tickets can be ordered by calling the MHSAA office at (517) 332-5046 or by sending the order form. Deadline to order is April 27.

20, 30, 40, 45 & 50-YEAR OFFICIALS

The officials on this list will receive their 20, 30, 40, 45 or 50-year service awards at the 39th annual Officials’ Awards & Alumni Banquet on May 5 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing.


Ada - Douglas R. Gaddy
Adrian - Lisa K. Rickaby
Allegan - Shane A. Wesseldyk
Alma - David H. Justin
Atlantic Mine - Bucky S. Beach
Auburn - Alan M. Berner

Bath - James M. Cramer
Bay City - Craig S. Bauer
Bay City - Dale L. Clyde
Bay City - Tommie R. Gonzales
Bay City - Richard L. Haga
Bay City - Thomas M. Jablonski
Beaverton - James L. Latocki
Berkley - Charles Dzwigalski
Bloomfield Hills - Matthew T. McDermott
Brighton - Stephen V. Pontoni
Brownstown - Anthony Terry
Brownstown Township - Earl C. Duby Jr.
Burton - Andrew J. Gehrig
Burton - Kevin R. Hall
Burton - Keith Y. Richardson
Byron Center - Peggy A. Bruin

Cadillac - Robert J. Nelson
Cadillac - Michael L. Stump
Calumet - Joel L. Keranen
Camden - Jeff A. Clark
Canton - Jay S. Obsniuk
Canton - Keith R. Jungquist
Chelsea - Jesse J. Berkebile
Clinton Township - Devlin D. Bell
Clinton Township - Steven N. Price
Clyde Township - Kathie D. Toth
Coleman - Richard L. Bradford
Commerce Township - Rob Witherspoon
Conklin - Michael R. Dunnuck

Davisburg - Christopher J. King Jr.
Davison - Matthew M. Newcomb
Dearborn - William S. Deckert
Detroit - DaCory S. Cooper
Detroit - Timothy J. Ebendick
Detroit - Lamard H. Howell
Detroit - Rickie M. Miller
Detroit - Duane J. Threatt
DeWitt - Martin E. Kolka
DeWitt - Robert Schafer
Dexter - Robert J. Wilker
Dorr - Shawn E. Wyatt
Dowagiac - Bryan C. Henry
Dowagiac - Martin G. Smallbone

Elsie - Sonya K. Latz
Essexville - Bruce K. Moore

Farwell - Bryan M. Wieferich
Fenton - Michael R. Clapp
Fenton - Mike J. Harding
Flint - David Leyton
Flint - Rico L. Phillips
Flint - William E. Sargent
Flint - Harold V. Steinman
Flushing - Eric E. Smith

Galesburg - Patrick R. Griffin
Gaylord - Alan H. Pettis
Gaylord - Gordon H. Richardson
Goodrich - Robert D. Sanborn Jr.
Gowen - John J. Derylo Jr.
Grand Blanc - Randall D. Lewis
Grand Ledge - Dan L. Fuller
Grand Rapids - Christian S. Bileth
Grand Rapids - Paul A. Holwerda
Grand Rapids - Jack L. Wolf
Grandville - Mark P. Howells
Greenville - Linda J. Ruwersma
Grosse Pointe Woods - Bob Blair

Highland Park - Anthony C. Ball
Hillsdale - Jacquelyn K. Snook
Holland - Larry VanWieren
Holt - Jeff P. Therrian
Houghton - Amy M. Evans
Hudson - Robert S. Shewman
Hudsonville - Edward A. Steenbergen

Ironwood - Sam W. Fontecchio

Jackson - Andrew L. Rieman
Jackson - John M. Wilkins
Jenison - Tate A. Jesky
Jenison - Leonid F. Petrenko
Jerome - Ryan K. McClain

Kalamazoo - Michael A. Nowak
Kalamazoo - Nicholas R. Schirripa
Kalamazoo - Delphis Stokes Sr.
Kentwood - Poj Chanopas
Kentwood - William E. Mumper
Kentwood - Daniel R. Stevens
Kincheloe - Jeffrey A. Clark
Kingsford - David A. Paoli

Lansing - Susan K. Cheadle-Holt
Lansing - Fredrick E. Galloway
Lansing - Lonnie Marshall Jr.
Lawrence - Matthew R. Whitman
Livonia - Michael R. Fenbert
Livonia - Anthony K. Hall
Livonia - Mark J. Michels
Lowell - Keith A. Millhisler

Manistee - Robert W. Hallead
Manistique - Everett M. Wood III
Marinette - David L. Klegin
Marinette - Tom P. Mailand
Marquette - Steven D. Holman
Marquette - Curtiss J. Umstead
Marquette - Bret M. Zorza
Mason - Graig A. Hayes
Mason - Angela L. Madden
Maumee - Chris E. Steiner
Mayville - David C. Patterson
Melvindale - Patrick S. Frederick
Midland - Dennis M. Sentz
Midland - Joseph L. Squires
Midland - Patrick D. Wilkins
Midland - Andrew P. Wolf
Mt. Pleasant - David G. Grinzinger
Muskegon - Ken E. Overla

Negaunee - Bryon K. Nelson
Newport - Shaun Demers
Niles - Timothy J. Gean

Oak Park - Wheeler A. Winslow (Tee)
Onsted - Elizabeth A. Chase
Ortonville - Robert A. Eisiminger Jr.
Otsego - Richard L. Sincler
Owosso - Jon C. Carroll
Owosso - Kyle W. Nesbit

Paw Paw - James H. Alden
Peck - Jeffrey A. Kosal
Petoskey - William R. Brown
Pinckney - William T. Shaw
Pontiac - Peter T. Long
Port Huron - Philip J. Jensen
Portage - Michael A. Baker

Rochester Hills - Angelo P. Matera
Rockford - Anthony R. Kuhtz
Rockford - Sandy J. Peterson
Rockford - Danny R. Sapp
Rosebush - Jeffrey E. Hohlbein
Rudyard - James A. Myers

Saginaw - James R. Clark
Saginaw - Steven E. Swanton
Sanford - John P. VanHolstyn
Sault Ste. Marie - Brad M. Bosbous
Sault Ste. Marie - Theo J. Hendriks
Schoolcraft - Paul L. Schonveld
Shelby Township - Christopher H. Craft
South Lyon - Kenneth M. Landis
Southfield - Timothy J. Adams
Southfield - John H. Barnhill III
Southgate - Gregory S. St. John
Spring Arbor - Michael D. Raffin
Spring Lake - Rollie C. Madison II
St. Ignace - Mark Elmblad
St. Johns - Frederick G. Gibbs
St. Louis - Richard W. Crowley
Sterling Heights - Daniel M. Kellogg
Sterling Heights - Raymond E. Lemanski
Sterling Heights - James M. Whitbread
Swartz Creek - Ronald H. Huffman

Three Rivers - David T. McGee
Traverse City - Thomas A. Cosgrove
Traverse City - Benjamin R. Post
Trenton - Frank R. Garcia
Trenton - Gary A. Gilliand
Troy - Shane F. Bies
Tustin - Ron l. Thompson

Union Lake – D. John Andrews

Wakefield - Loraine S. Mussatti
Walker - Erin L. Windemuller
Walled Lake - Larry E. Wilinski
Warren - Dennis W. Donald
Warren - Richard D. Massad
Warren - Gary L. Wagenschutz
West Bloomfield Township - Charles O. Redden
West Branch - John C. Dowd
West Branch - Jeffrey M. Wade
Whitmore Lake - Brian Bower
Whitmore Lake - Jeremy R. Valentine
Whittemore - Brian K. Ragels
Woodhaven - John G. Presnell
Wyoming - Travis M. Plain


Adrian - Carl J. Harsh
Allen Park - Timothy Turgyan
Ann Arbor - Curtis T. Howard
Ann Arbor - Godwin C. Okonkwo 

Bath - Russell A. Hewitt
Battle Creek - Russell D. Bortell
Battle Creek - Michael L. Brown
Bay City - Robert .J Kohn
Belmont - Douglas J. Peterman
Berrien Springs - Dale R. Yoder
Beulah - Robert B. Bennett
Boyne City - Jim A. Kozlowski
Byron Center - Donald E. Walker 

Cadillac - Douglas J. Sprik
Caledonia - David A. Poplawski
Caro - DJ J. Svacha
Channing - Michael R. Roell
Charlevoix - Thomas W. Dycio 

Davison - Roger L. Westenfeld
Dearborn Heights - Andrew T. Sitarski
Deckerville - Douglas B. Kirkpatrick
Detroit - Nikito K. Merchant
Detroit - Walter R. Strong Sr.
Dexter - Mark R. Stroia 

Fairgrove - Sky L. Carolan
Flint - Roger R. Brownell
Flint - Stephen P. Tesler
Flushing - Alvin D. Calloway
Flushing - Betty M. Cowden 

Gaylord - Charles J. Lovelace
Gladstone - Kendall L. Apelgren
Gladstone - Gregory T. Rubick
Gladstone - Todd A. Salo
Goshen - Larry Nantkes
Grand Rapids - Scott E. Allen
Grand Rapids - Joel L. Potter
Grand Rapids - Daniel Powell
Grand Rapids - Kevin J. Raymond
Grand Rapids - Jeffrey A. Trimpe
Grayling - Richard Robbins 

Hartford - George D. Friday
Hillsdale - Brian M. Eves
Howell - James D. Garofalo
Hudsonville - William P. VanderVelde 

Iron Mountain - Robert J. Boyle 

Jackson - Kenneth D. King
Jackson - Mick D. Linderman
Jackson - Mary Anne Papiersky
Jenison - Joe T. Piccione 

Kalamazoo - John A. Du Bois
Kalamazoo - Jerry A. Mastenbrook 

Lansing - Mark A. Bates
Ludington - Dale D. Horowski
Ludington - Mike Winczewski 

Manistee - Randy M. Ronning
Midland - James L. Martin
Milford - Douglas A. Flees
Millington - Jeffrey Yorke
Monroe - Jon P. La Beau
Mt. Morris - John C. Montney
Muskegon - Dennis R. Jones
Muskegon - William F. Sorensen
Muskegon - William J. Young 

New Baltimore - Daniel P. DiCristofaro
Northville - Leonard J. Piner
Northville - Lee A. Scafidi
Norton Shores - Scott R. Wieman 

Okemos - Keith W. Byrd
Osseo - Bruce W. Keeling 

Parchment - Kirk J. Strehlow
Paw Paw - Terry R. Fosdick
Perry - Joel R. Crane
Plymouth - David J. Workman
Portage - Randall S. Schau
Portland - Frederick L. Kramer 

Rockford - Douglas J. McIntyre
Roseville - Robert W. Meyer
Rudyard - David Bourgeault
Rudyard - Gary W. Davis 

Saginaw - Dale W. Brown
Saginaw - Patrick W. Hart
Saginaw - Brad Rhora
Sault Ste Marie - Bryan D. Marger
Southgate - Reginald E. Smith
St. Johns - Fred E. Wright
St. Joseph - Gregg A. Buschlen
Stevensville - Denny L. Dock

Taylor - Mickey G. Turcheck
Toledo - Mark T. DeNucci Sr.
Twin Lake - Joseph J. Gabriel 

Ubly – H. Jerry Osentoski 

Warren - Malcolm D. Pennington III
Warren - Jackson D. White Jr.
Washington - Thomas J. Polite
West Bloomfield - Daniel Camarena
Westland - Gary S. Gaspas
Westland - William J. Strang
White Cloud - James J. Smith Jr.
White Lake - Bruno H. Molin
Whitehall - Charles Hiltz
Wixom - Charles A. Phillipson
Wyandotte - Jay F. Steffensky
Wyoming - Steven A. Bilski
Wyoming - Theodore R. Simons
Wyoming - Paul E. Titchenell 

Ypsilanti - Jerry L Massey


Alpena - Scott A. MacKenzie
Ann Arbor - Erich S. Schifter 

Battle Creek - Daniel V. Eversole
Berkley - Charles A. Tyrrell
Boyne City - Peter C. Moss
Bronson - Randy H. Houtz
Brown City - Curt D. Lowe
Bruce Crossing - Robert J. Franti
Buchanan - Dale E. Matteson
Buchanan - Larry A. Monsma
Burton - Thomas E. Rau Sr. 

Cheboygan - Peter A. Stempky
Conklin - Gary J. Meerman 

East Lansing - Bruce W. Heeder 

Flint - Joseph H. Johnson Sr.
Flushing - David P. Cowden
Fowler - Dean L. Schrauben
Frankenmuth - David C. Auernhamer
Frankfort - Peter T. Olson 

Grand Rapids - William D. Dripchak Jr.
Grand Rapids - Delbert M. Fend
Grand Rapids - Todd M. VandenAkker
Grosse Pointe Park - Joseph M. Macksoud

Holland - Craig K. Kuipers
Holt - Michael A. Clark
Houghton - Roy A. Britz 

Iron Mountain - Robert C. Barkle
Ironwood - Dennis L. Routheaux 

Jackson - Steven C. Town
Jenison - James Kerbel 

Lake Isabella - James L. Novar
Lambertville - Jon D. Jones
Lansing - Archie C. Mills
Linden - John Cross
Ludington - Richard Catt 

Madison Heights - Joseph E. Marcinkowski
Manistee - Rod K. Worch
Midland - David C. Millhisler
Midland - Bob W. Ribble
Muskegon Heights - Johnny R. Robinson 

Negaunee - Megs S. Collins
Novi - James S. Kowalczyk 

Okemos - Heidi J. Doherty
Oxford - Donald J. Maskill Jr.

Petoskey - Paul A. VanWagoner
Plymouth - Charles M. Hempel
Port Hope - Gene Schuett
Port Huron - Donald A. Button Sr.
Portage - Richard M. Bird
Portage - Robert J. Burch
Posen - Donna M. Couture
Prescott - Charles J. Wren 

Rapid River - Dale M. Jamison
Richland - Mike A. Foster
Richland - Michael W. Stripp
Roseville - Robert W. Iwasko Sr. 

Shelby Township - Michael R. Gentry
South Lyon - Dan Riggs
Sterling Heights - Jack Abbate Jr. 

Taylor - Clayton S. Conner
Toivola - Joe A. Romano
Toledo - Tom Ladd
Trenton - Richard B. Weiss 

Warren - Vern C. Rottmann
White Lake - Bob W. Lorenz 


Adrian - Gary E. Laskowsky
Ann Arbor - Michael H. Parsons 

Bay City - Paul A. Anderson
Bronson - Keith R. Dykman 

Canton - David H. Mattingly
Caseville - Daniel Korbutt
Comstock Park - Stanley J. Hill

DeWitt - Raymond L. Barnes
Dowagiac - Randy J. Melvin 

East Jordan - H. Michael Burr
East Lansing - John H. Southwick
Escanaba - Daniel T. Flynn 

Fenton - Hewitt R. Judson
Fruitport - David W. Fisher 

Grand Blanc - William R. Chilcutt
Grand Rapids - James L. Groendyke
Grandville - William R. Garrett 

Kalamazoo - Charles Hartman
Kalamazoo - David L. Turley 

Lansing - Jerry Sutter
Leesburg - John F. Long
Livonia - Steven A. Boyak
Livonia - John D. Dunn
Ludington - Roger D. Chappel 

Marlette - Jerry L. Sauder
Marquette - Gene E. Aho
Monroe - Gary E. Nowitzke 

North Muskegon - Donald E. Bourdon
Norway - Raymond P. Bray 

Ontonagon - John E. Gravier 

Port Huron - James E. Allen Jr.
Posen - Charles S. Wozniak 

Rodney - Jeffrey C. Greene
Rogers City - Michael J. Grulke 

Saginaw - Richard L. Havercroft
South Haven - Robert W. Linderman
South Lyon - Richard M. Gibson
Stevensville - Bruce P. Arter 

Traverse City - Tom C. Post
Trenton - Frank Jaskula 

West Bloomfield - Anthony Magni
Whitehall - Chuck Hulce 


Bad Axe - Lee W. Kahler

Dearborn - Eugene L. Smith

Flint - Joseph D. Ragnone

Grand Blanc - Thomas W. Evans

Grand Rapids - Lewis B. Clingman

Grandville - Steve D. Start

Grayling - Clayton F. Brown

Hopkins - Mark F. Austin

Iron Mountain - Richard P. Olds

Lake Orion - G. Timothy Curtis

Muskegon - Michael R. Henry

New Boston - Richard F. Nicholson

Paw Paw - Robert C. Adams

Roseville - James D. Hillock

Wyandotte - Stephen J. Semetko

PHOTO: MHSAA official Jill Baker-Cooley monitors the action during the 2012 Class C championship match at Kellogg Arena.

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

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

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.)