Franti was an oldtime coach
It was with more than a little regret that I read about the recent retirement of long-time Ontonagon High School basketball coach Dick Franti.
In a business where you see coaches come and go with the regularity of a north wind off Lake Superior, Franti was unique.
Sure, he was around for a long time. He’s been coaching basketball since the late 1970s, and was elected into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.
But he was also a person who coached boys and girls hoops. He scored 232 wins on the boys side, while collecting 514 victories in girls basketball.
But to talk to him, you would have thought he was not at all responsible for that great success.
“All the credit goes to the kids, they’re the ones out on the floor,” he told me the first time I asked about the result of a game.
I thought he was just being politically correct at the time. But his answer was unswervingly the same season after season as he always gave credit to his players.
I’ve seen and talked to more coaches than I care to remember over the last 47 years. If I had a quarter for each of them, I would be probably sitting on a beach off the Gulf Coast right now.
A good majority of those coaches were people with good intentions. But a few were on the job just to collect a pay check or for the publicity, but I won’t get into that.
The thing that struck me the most about Dick Franti was how well he prepared his teams. And if they didn’t, he didn’t hesitate to remind them.
If there was summer team camp somewhere in the U.P., you could bet Ontonagon was represented.
That’s why the Gladiators were physically and mentally ready for a season.
Most average teams don’t have a clue how to attack an opponent. They may know that one opposing player can shoot the three-pointer, or that another was strictly a weak side rebounder.
But Ontonagon teams had a plan. And it usually revolved around a very effective pressing defense that threw most teams off guard.
Maybe it’s the water in Ontonagon County. Just about every coach I’ve known in that county has the same coaching technique as Franti.
The late Ernie Toivonen of Mass-Greenland and Roland Antila of White Pine were two.
And Dave Tucker of Ontonagon and Tom Caudill of Ewen-Trout Creek were also clever tacticians of the game.
On the girls side, Nancy Osier of Ewen-TC used the same philosophy in her approach while winning more games than any other girls skipper in U.P. history.
I count myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with all of them ….