Even good coaches must rebuild

The late Ed Helakoski is still regarded as one of the very best basketball coaches the Upper Peninsula has ever produced.

But I can recall a comment the former Chassell High School legend once made after being asked by a reporter what his secret was to winning (three state titles and a 65-game win streak).

“I’ve been lucky to have had good players,” Helakoski said. “Without the horses, you won’t win the race.”

That is still the case.

Take Julie Filpus at Houghton High. One of the most successful coaches in Michigan girls basketball history with a 84 percent win-loss ratio, Filpus is currently going through her first losing season in two decades.

But Filpus is not wringing her hands after a 1-5 start. Instead, she sees it as a chance to mold her mostly inexperienced group of players.

“We’re approaching it from a different viewpoint,” she said recently. “Before, we’ve had players who were pretty much ready to go when they reached the varsity level. With this group, we’re viewing it as an opportunity to teach the fundamentals and work from there.”

Back in the mid-1980, the late Jim Bronczyk had a similar situation with the Dollar Bay boys team.

After years of winning (one of the top percentages in the state) the Bays ran into a rebuilding season in the mid-1980s. DBHS went something like 4-16 that season.

Dollar Bay was back to winning not long afterward.

The same is true in other sports. Calumet’s Jim Crawford — one of the top hockey skippers in the state — also had an off-year a few years ago and posted an under .500 record with a young team.

Crawford, who won six state championships at Calumet, was back the next season with a winner.

That is the thing with really good coaches …. they always come back strong.

Take Helakoski for example. After moving to White Pine in 1960, he posted an 0-18 record in his first season of coaching the Warriors.

Within two years, “Easy Ed” coached his team to the Class D regionals.

As I said, the best coaches always bounce back …..


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