Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Small School Pride

When Josh Baker took over as head coach of the Southfield Christian boys basketball team last week, he joined a surprisingly strong roster of sideline generals in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference, the league in the Oakland County prep hoop ranks with the smallest average school enrollment.
First off, Baker is an outstanding hire for the Eagles.  Snaring the up-and-coming coach who had been the top assistant at Class A powerhouse Romulus the past nine seasons is a monumental feather in the cap of Southfield Christian athletic director Tim Fracassi. Baker is a hot commodity and for a Class D school to land his services is a tribute to what a great AD Fracassi is.
Helping ease Baker into his new digs with the Eagles will be his top assistant, former Detroit Pistons' star, two-time world champion and 17-year NBA vet Lindsey Hunter, whose imprint on the program in only a year on the job has been significant. Hunter's and now Baker's presence on the bench gives Southfield Christian immediate credibility in the local high school hardwood scene. It also gives this specific writer extreme confidence that some pretty special things are on the horizon for the Eagles' cage crew.
Let's take a look at some of the other top-tier head coaches that call the MIAC home:
Dennis Hopkins (AH Oakland Christian boys) – Hopkins, a one-time assistant coach under Greg Kampe at Oakland University, has successfully rebuilt the Lancers' program after it fell on some hard times in the early-to-mid 2000s following a run of dominance in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 2007, he has guided Oakland Christian to four straight district titles and three consecutive MIAC crowns, as well as the school's first regional trophy in close to 20 years in 2008. His record in the last four years has been an impressive 82-15.
Ernie Righetti (Birmingham Roeper boys/girls) – The MIACs elder-statesman, Righetti has led both the Roughriders' girls and boys programs since 1983, racking up over 700 total wins, 20 conference titles and 13 district championships in his time on the job. He is the picture of consistency on the bench, "coaching-up" anyone in his vicinity, always getting the best out of his talent.
Mark Kraatz (AP Inter-City Baptist boys/girls) – Kraatz is not only a superior head coach, but arguably the conference's best player of all-time. As a prepster, Kraatz led Inter-City to the MIAC's only state championship in boys hoops in 1985 and appears prominently in several categories of the MHSAA record book. Returning to his alma mater as a coach in the early 1990s, he has established the Crusaders as one of the best small school programs in the Metro Detroit area. Recently, he took over the girls program at Inter-City, too.
Seena Allen (Southfield Christian girls) – In her first year at the helm of the Eagles girls program in 2011, Allen, the daughter of Cleveland State's men's head coach, Gary Waters and a one-time cage star herself at Eastern Michigan, led Southfield Christian to its first district title in almost 30 years and a place in the Class D Sweet 16 where they came close to pulling the upset over eventual repeat state champion, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes. Significantly helping her cause is the fact that just like with Baker, Lindsey Hunter is Allen's top assistant.
Wayne Gigante (GPW University Liggett girls) – Gigante took the Knights girls squad into the Class D state championship game this past March and with his top player, UofM-bound Madison Ristovski, returning in 2012, Liggett will be favorites to return to Breslin again in the winter.
Recently retired MIAC hoop dignitaries:
Ed Mehlberg (AH Oakland Christian boys/girls; retired) – Mehlberg led the Lancers' girls and boys programs for a combined 53 seasons spanning from the 1970s until 2010. His track record on the sidelines speaks for itself: 920 wins, a 75% winning percentage, 32 conference banners, 26 district championships, seven regional crowns and the 1992 Class D girls state title
Jim Barker (SH Parkway Christian boys; retired) – A 38-year coaching veteran, Barker is one of the winningist coaches in state history who left Parkway in 2009 and resurfaced as an assistant at West Bloomfield last season under Jeremy Denha, a former player of his at Utica Ford in the 1990s. Barker took Parkway to the Class D final four in 2008.


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