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Longtime MTU men’s basketball coach Luke retires

Michigan Tech men’s basketball head coach Kevin Luke, standing, looks on during a Dec. 5, 2019 game against Saginaw Valley State in Houghton, Mich. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — After more than three decades as a coach with the men’s Michigan Tech basketball program, Kevin Luke announced his retirement on Thursday.

Luke was the head coach of the men’s program since 1994. He began as an assistant in 1987.

“Since I joined this program on a short notice, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s been 34 years that I’ve been here,” Luke said. “It’s hard for me to put into words how rewarding, satisfying and an honor it’s been to coach the athletes that I’ve worked with as well as the assistant coaches that have been here and just the friendships I’ve obtained over these past 34 years.”

MTU is expected to announce Luke’s successor Friday morning. Check The Daily Mining Gazette website for updates.

His accolades and achievements are many. Among them are three GLIAC North Division regular-season titles in 2011-12, 2012-13 and this past season of 2021. As well, the Huskies have won three GLIAC Tournament titles 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2019-2020 and have made 10 NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. In January of 2017, Luke notched his 400th career win.

After guiding the Huskies to a 29-3 record and a No. 1 national ranking to end the 2002-03 season, Luke was awarded Basketball Times Coach of the Year. During that year, the Huskies set school records for wins at 29. As well, they had their highest winning percentage (.906) and won a record-setting 15 games at home that year. They also became the first GLIAC team to host an NCAA (tournament) regional.

During his tenure, Luke has been named the GLIAC Coach of the Year five times (1994-95, 1997-98, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2019-20). He leaves Tech with a 471-302 record. His winning percentage of .609 is the best in school history.

Luke started his time at Michigan Tech as a member of the basketball team in 1977. In his three-year career as a student-athlete, he scored 513 points and 262 rebounds, helping the Huskies win the 1980 Northern Intercollegiate Conference Championship.

In 1987, he was selected as the top-assistant head coach as well as chief recruiter for the men’s program. Seven years later, the Westwood High School graduate took over as the 11th head coach of the Huskies.

Luke said he has been overwhelmed during the week by the number of people, past and present, who have reached out to congratulate him on his career. Michigan Tech athletic director Suzanne Sanregret was among them.

“It is very difficult for me to sum up what Coach Luke has meant to the men’s basketball program, athletic department and university in a few sentences,” Sanregret said in a university release. “Kevin has elevated our men’s basketball program to one of the best in the country and has always done it with integrity and professionalism. He has treated his student-athletes like family and has wanted the best for them in the classroom and on the court. He has worked tirelessly to prepare them for life after Tech. Not only has Kevin been an outstanding coach to student-athletes he has mentored countless other graduate assistants, assistant coaches, and head coaches in all of our sports.”

However, Luke admitted that he could not have achieved so much success on the court without dedicated help.

“You have to have great assistants, and you have to have players who are willing to buy into the program and sacrifice (themselves),” he said. “Success is not just measured by wins and losses. I feel comfortable in following the wisdom of my dad who said, ‘If you are going to take a job and do a job, take the job and do it better.’ I am hoping that this job has been made a little bit better because of my presence.”

Luke added that he has had plenty of proud moments as a coach over the past three decades that go beyond the court or the scoreboard.

“I’ve seen multiply kids get (good) jobs,” he said. “I’ve seen multiple kids in practice have a break-through moment. I’ve been lucky in terms of wins and losses due to the fact that we’ve had tremendous players, and I can’t emphasis that enough. I am proud of them because not only were the good basketball players, but they were excellent students and have developed into great people. And I hope that this is what our program tries to stand for.”

Luke leaves the basketball court on a high note. In 2019-20 the Huskies won the GLIAC and were en-route to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional tournament when their season ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 shutdown. This team included senior Kyle Monroe who became Tech’s all-time scoring leader (2,542 points) and was named, among other things, as the GLIAC’s Player of the Year.

This season the Huskies made it to the GLIAC finals and lost 85-77 to Ashland. However, they earned another trip to the post-season tournament where they lost to Truman State 65-62 in the Midwest Regional Championship game.

“The COVID-19 shutdown was tough last year, he said. “I will always go back and think about what could have been with that team because we were playing very well. I think our players handled it very well as their post-season run was taken away from them.”

“But to bounce back and have the type of season we had this year was a proud moment. We were again faced with COVID and not sure when we were going to start or when we were going to play and what the schedule was going to look like. It is amazing how resilient this last (year’s) group was. They took every challenge we gave them and every rule and protocol and didn’t complain and came out and had a great year.”

Luke explained that he would miss the on-the-court activities as he heads into retirement.

He said, “I still have the knowledge and the fire to coach. I don’t know if I have it for the 14-hour bus rides and to deal more with COVID. I will miss the players, coaches and meetings and the challenges of every day coaching.”

He added that he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and family including his 87-year-old father.

He said with a smile, “I want to take time and enjoy a cup of coffee with him.”

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