Good coaches can be hard to find/Paul Peterson

How important is a good coach?

That’s a question that has been asked ever since the first sporting event was held – probably a couple thousand years ago.

Having observed countless local coaches in a number of sports, I can tell you that a good coach is worth his or her weight in gold.

But you can’t find the good coaches growing on trees. Just ask the Detroit Lions, who have gone through a mind-numbing list of inept skippers over the past few decades.

Coaching, at least at the grass roots level, begins at the junior high and high school level.

Former Lake Linden-Hubbell football mentor Ron Warner emphasized that the young kids coming up through the school system were familiar with his style of play.

Warner’s very capable assistant, Russ Laurin, made sure of that in his role as a JV and assistant grid coach.

Houghton High girls basketball coach Julie Filpus has also followed that philosophy in a highly successful run with the Gremlins.

Filpus (and former assistant Wayne Henry) have kept a close eye on the talent in the lower grades. By the time they reach the varsity level, they’re schooled in the HHS method of playing the game.

The same is true with Calumet High hockey coach Jim Crawford, who has won some 75 percent of his games and six state championships in the northend.

Like all successful coaches, Crawford has had capable assistants. Paul Lehto was there for several years and Glenn Patrick has been around the last several years until 2012.

Former Dollar Bay High boys basketball skipper Jim Bronczyk built a dynasty in the late 1970s and 1980s. Sure, he had some fine players, but he also had a capable assistant in Jack Powell.

Whenever the Bays won a championship, Bronczyk never failed to mention the work of Powell, who coached Dollar Bay JV teams until he took over the Houghton program.

Some good coaches never reach the success level of the above skippers, simply because they don’t have the talent.

Former Jeffers High boys basketball coach Mike Maki was a good example of that. While he compiled a just-over .500 record in nearly 30 years in Painesdale, his teams were seldom outcoached.

“Whenever you played Jeffers, you knew that he (Maki) was going to have them prepared,” Bronczyk noted. “You could never underestimate his teams.”

Of course, there have been more than a few coaches who had teams with a lot of talent – and underchieved.

Without getting into specifics, I can honestly say the main reason these coaches failed was because they didn’t have their teams prepared to play.