Gladstone’s Dollhopf retires

GLADSTONE – It’s often debated whether or not players make the coach, or the coach makes the players. There’s solid arguments for both, but what can often be agreed upon is that great coaches get the most out of the talent provided.

Karl Dollhopf did just that during a remarkably consistent 23 year prep career as a varsity coach, most recently with the Gladstone Braves girls program where he spent the previous eight seasons. Dollhopf announced his retirement from coaching at the varsity level last April. His replacement, Eric Lundin was named Monday.

“I wanted to leave when I felt good about everything, and I feel good about Eric taking over,” said Dollhopf, Tuesday. “He has some talent in place, some talent coming up in the junior high program.

“I had a gut feeling that it was the right time, and I feel fortunate that I had someone like Eric, that I felt comfortable with. He’ll do a great job.”

Over Dollhopf’s career, he has coached the girls and boys varsity programs at Escanaba and at Gladstone, and is very likely the only coach in the history of both programs to have done that. He has also won a district title with each program.

Dollhopf’s career record girls and boys is 279-224. He is one of only two coaches in Upper Peninsula history to be named All-U.P. Coach of the Year as a girls coach (Gladstone, 2012) and as a boys coach (Escanaba, 1995). The other is Paul Polfus.

But Dollhopf reached the height of his coaching success with the Gladstone girls varsity program, winning the first two regional titles in program history in 2011 and 2012.

“In 2012, we lost our first game at Negaunee, and then rattled off 24 straight wins, and ended up in the state quarterfinal, like the year before,” said Dollhopf. “Having that type of string, it was just the girls going out and playing. WHat was really special about the whole deal, was the different relationships you build. Kids move on, go to college, get jobs, it’s kind of neat.”

Through coaching, Dollhopf has made many friends and colleagues. It’s those relationships, he said he’ll miss most of all.

“It’s amazing when you coach, the different relationships you build.

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There’s great coaches in the Great Northern Conference I enjoyed working with and coaching against. The officials too. I’ve seen most of them over the last 30 years, and that got to be fun after a while. I’ll miss that more than anything,” Dollhopf said.

As a coach on both sides of the Delta County rivalry, boys and girls, Dollhopf has had a unique perspective.

“To be a part of that was awesome,” Dollhopf said. “That matchup is fun, there’s no other way to put it. That’s what high school is all about.”

Dollhopf’s head coaching career began with the Escanaba boys in 1989.

“One of my first year’s coaching at Esky was 1990, and John Barnes was a senior there. John is now the head coach at Youngstown State. We stay in contact, and that’s nice,” said Dollhopf. “It was a special year. Nick Bink was part of it, so was Brian Robinette, who is now a teacher. I had Scott Hanson at Esky, and he was a JV coach with me for a long time. Those relationships were pretty special.

“It’s amazing when you go back and forth between boys and girls. I was close with a lot of coaches, like Pete Periclosi from Menominee. If I’m not in coaching, that doesn’t happen.”

Dollhopf was known during the last eight years with the Braves, to extract the most out of his players. He didn’t always have the most talented team, but he had hard working teams that played fundamental basketball.

“I think they tapped out on their potential, and what they had to give, which is one thing I took a lot of pride in,” said Dollhopf. “They were kids who worked hard and played blue collar basketball. Even if they shot poorly some nights, they were always going to get the loose balls and play defense. The girls were very cooperative and bought in, and their families bought in.

“If you set the bar high enough, they’ll go get it. There were times we just got beat because the team we played was more talented, but there were games that maybe we shouldn’t have won, because of the hustle and hard work that they gave.”

Dollhopf’s retirement comes at a time he feels is ideal.

“There’s going to be change, and change is good,” he said. “As much as I’ve enjoyed coaching and everything about it, I feel it’s run its course. I’ve gone as far as I could go, and now it’s someone else’s turn to take over.”

As for the future, Dollhopf suggested he may continue to coach the junior high program. He said he doesn’t plan to take another varsity job, but wouldn’t close the door completely.

“I’m not going to say never, but in all honesty, I ahve no plans to coach,” he said. “My reason for resigning was not to take another job, it was just to move on.

“I’m very appreciative and grateful of the opportunities I’ve had at Escanaba and Gladstone.”