By John Raffel
A coaching legend in Michigan announced earlier this month that he was resigning after 35 years.
The summer time is a busy period for high school ice hockey teams that usually rely heavily on camps to determine the makeup of their team when the season starts in November. But East Kentwood coach Ron Baum decided it was time now to get out of coaching and to let his assistant, Todd Bell, take the job of leading Grand Rapids' most prestigous prep hockey program.
Baum leaves with a 35-year record of 623 wins, 219 losses and 30 ties. His teams haven't had a losing record since the 1979-80 campaign. Baum's Falcons won the Class A state championship in 1990 and were state runners-up in 1996, 1999 and 2005.
East Kentwood also made 14 appearances to the Final Four. The Falcons had 20 or more wins in a season 20 times. They had won two district titles under the old playoff format and 25 championships under the current regional setup.
The Falcons also won 21 league titles. For the past 27 years in the regionals, Baum's teams had an astounding 74-2 record. His state championship team was 23-2-2. Baum's last Falcon team had a 25-4 record and advanced to the regional quarterfinalists.
"Even though we didn't make it to the final game or win it all, it was still one of our best years," he said. "There was only one ice arena in the whole metro area that was built shortly after I came," Baum said, referring to Jolly Roger Ice Center.
"You didn't know at that time if high school hockey in west Michigan would take off or not. We just took it a year at a time."
Eventually, hockey caught on and more ice rinks went up in the area including one on East Kentwood's own campus. The major highlight for Baum came with the 1990 state championship. Bell said he's ready to meet the challenge of replacing a high school coaching legend.
"He's provided me with an excellent experience and opportunity," Bell said. "I'm excited about it and can't wait to get going on it. I don't see it as filling his shoes but continuing what he started."
Baum said he was happy to be given a chance to start a high school hockey program in west Michigan.
"I came out of the Dearborn area and played in the association there," Baum said. "In Grand Rapids, Jolly Rogers was built two years after I came. I told my wife when I took the coaching job here I didn't want to be anywhere where there wasn't an ice arena. Our plans were just to be here for a couple of years."
Flip-Flop Official, Tennis to Remain a Spring Sport
Whether girls tennis players like it or not, they'll be playing in the spring, not the fall from now on in the state of Michigan.
The same U.S. Federal Court judge who ordered the Michigan High School Athletic Association to change certain sports seasons to avoid discrimination, ruled last week against a group of girls tennis players that were lobbying to keep their season running during the spring.
Richard A. Enslen of Kalamazoo had ruled that the MHSAA had six girls sports in non-traditional seasons and needed to change them. As a result, the MHSAA changed girls golf to the fall, girls basketball in the winter and girls tennis to the spring, starting with the 2007-08 seasons.
As a result, girls volleyball switched to the winter, boys tennis to the fall and boys golf to the spring. But girls tennis teams petitioned the court to stop the change to the spring season.
Soccer teams in the Upper Peninsula also asked the court unsuccessfully to not to have their seasons changed. Boys soccer was moved from the fall to the spring and girls soccer from spring to fall. Girls tennis players said they prefer playing in the fall in Michigan when the weather in August, September and October tended to be better than in March, April and May.
The Upper Peninsula soccer teams said their seasons were now the opposite of soccer teams in the Lower Peninsula. Because of traveling distances, the MHSAA has two state championships in some of its sports such as soccer (one for both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas).
Enslen said his decision would stand. Boys tennis players in the Lower Peninsula have had mixed emotions about the seasons change.
"I'd rather play tennis in the spring than in the fall," freshman Seth Barker of Greenville said. "Now I can't play football in the fall, but I'll still play tennis."
For Greenville junior tennis player, David Hayes, a fall tennis season presents a different dilemma for him.
"It helps to play in the summer," Haynes said. "It's good to get some practice in. But this fall, I was going to play soccer. Now that tennis is in the fall, I can't do it."
For the first time since the sport started in Michigan in the early 1970s, girls basketball will be shifted to the winter from the fall.
That has meant a mental adjustment of sorts for girls basketball teams preparing this summer for their next season.
Mike Smith, girls basketball coach at Carson City-Crystal, northwest of Lansing, noted that his team would practice hard in past years during the summer to get ready for a mid-August starting date for practice and a fall season. Instead, some of his girls will either run cross country, play volleyball or not be in a sport during the fall.
This year, practices start in early November.
"What I'm going to do in August is start a strong running and weight-lifting program," Smith said. "During the offseason, I can work with three players at a time in the gym. We'll also keep having open gyms."
As a varsity girls hoops coach, Smith sees one major advantage of having his sport switched to the winter season. The court decision, which ruled that high school volleyball had to switch to winter and high school girls basketball had to switch to the fall, did not apply to middle school sports.
"Our girls basketball teams in the middle school will play in the fall and I'll coach the seventh-grade team," Smith said. "That gives me a chance to work with the younger players."
But playing a strong summer program, "is helpful, and I can stay in shape, " said CC-Crystal senior Melissa Gesselman. "You're working with the new players for next year and you're getting to know them."
It's a busy summer for volleyball coaches like Mikayla Linebaugh of Belding, located in the Grand Rapids area.
Linebaugh took a powerhouse team to the regional finals during the winter season earlier this year. But now, it's a fall season in Michigan and Linebaugh can see the excitement in her players' eyes. They won a 17-team west Michigan tournament in mid-July at Ferris State University in Big Rapids.
"This summer, I see more excitement among the girls. They're very anxious to get started. In past years, after the summer program, they had to put volleyball out of their minds and get ready for a fall basketball season. But now, they have to go right into volleyball," Linebaugh said. "Junior high volleyball will still be in the winter and I'll have a chance to coach at that level."