C.C. Watson

C.C. WatsonImage courtesy of Ishpeming Public Schools.Great coaches make an impact not only on the players they lead, but also on their communities. Such was the case with Ishpeming coaching legend Clermont C. Watson. For 37 years he was at helm of the Ishpem­ing basketball team, in addition to serving as the school’s football coach for 23 years. He is remem­bered not only for his disciplined approach to coaching, but also for being a gentleman who stressed defense and the fundamentals of the game. In addi­tion to his coaching career, Watson taught physical education and mathematics at the high school.

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John Bennin

John BenninImages courtesy of John BenninJust as Web Morrison was winding down his career as the head track coach at Pickford, the girls’ track program was just gaining steam. Initially Morrison coached the girls’ team after the passing of Title IX, but soon handed the reins to Sharon Beacom, who led the school to their first U.P. Class D title in 1976.

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Ken Hofer

Ken Hofer

Provided by Dennis Grall of Escanaba

Ken Hofer, a native of Stephenson, directed the Menominee Maroons to three state high school football championships and ended his coaching career fifth on the state's all-time win list with a 313-141-2 record. A1 Fracassa is No. 1 with 404 victories at Royal Oak Shrine and Birmingham Brother Rice.

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Mickey Johnson

Mickey Johnson with his 1975 U.P. Class A-B Championship Team.

Images courtesy of Marquette Area Public Schools.

In the annals of U.P. sports, there may he no more leg­endary a figure than that of Marquette's Mickey Johnson. Johnson began his coaching career at Mar­quette Senior High School in 1940 and would coach there for the next 50 years. His record at Marquette was remarkable, leading the boys' tennis program to 34 U.P. titles, including eleven in a row through the years of 1970 to 1981. This accomplishment was rec­ognized by Sports Illustrated, which featured him in their "Faces in the Crowd" column. In the early 1970s, he began Marquette's girls' tennis program and led his squads to six U.E titles and a record of 132 wins and 26 losses. Johnson won his last title in 1989 at the age of 85. In addition, he directed Marquette's youth recreational program from 1951 to 1982. Before he retired, he had already been installed in the Northern Michigan University Hall of Fame, U.P. Sports Hall of Fame, the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame and the Michigan High School Tennis Coaching Association Hall of Fame.

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Nancy Osier

Nancy OsierNancy Osier with her 1985 Class D State Runners-Up team.
Image courtesy of Nancy Osier.
Though girls' basketball only began in earnest for Ewen-Trout Creek in the early 1970s, the team has matched the accomplishments of the men's pro­gram from day one. A big part of that success was due to the efforts of the Upper Peninsula's winningest female coach, Nancy Osier. Over a 35 sea­sons, Osier led her teams to an unprecedented record of 582 wins -185 losses. When she retired after the 2007-2008 season, her Panther teams had won eight Great Western Conference titles, 15 dis­trict titles, five regional titles, one State Semifinal­ist (1987) and one State Runner-UP (1985).

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Paul Polfus

Paul PolfusThe girls' basketball coach with the second-most number of wins in U.P. history, Paul Polfus is second to no one when it comes to winning championships. Over the past 27 years, he has built an impressive record that includes dozens of con­ference, district, regional and state titles, both in girls' and boys' basketball. Since 1975, Polfus has been a teacher at Carney-Nadeau schools and took over as the head varsity girls' basketball coach in 1978. He would lead that program for 27 seasons, compiling a record of 501 victories and 123 losses. During that time, his girls' Wolves teams have won 18 Skyline Conference titles, 14 district titles and three Class D State Championships, including two in a row in 1989 and 1990 (the team's last was in 2001). During this incredible state title run, the Wolves won a state record 78 straight games and won an amazing 123 straight regular-season games.

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Phyllis Laurila

Phyllis LaurilaPhyllis Laurila and her 1982 U.P Class C - D Championship boys’ tennis team.It has been said that if there was a "mother" of tennis in northern Michigan, it would be Phyllis Laurila. She coached Iron Mountain High School tennis from 1980 until 2000. In this time, she led many players to regional and U.P championships. She led boys' teams to win 17 Mid-Peninsula Conference Cham­pionships and 14 U.P. State Championships. She led girls’ teams to win 10 Mid-Peninsula Conference Championships and 6 U.P State Championships. Her overall record consisted of 564 wins and only 38 losses in the 20 years that she coached.

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Ron Warner

Ron WarnerSecond only to Crystal Falls - Forest Park in state final appearances, the Lake Linden - Hubbell Lakes have had a long standing tradition of excellence. This is in no small part to the efforts of Coach Ron Warner, who for 28 years led the program. During that time he took a struggling program and made it into a model for teams everywhere. For his efforts, he was selected as Michigan's Class D Coach of the Year on five separate occasions.

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Tom Caudill

Tom CaudillImage courtesy of Escanaba Daily News.Over a span of 31 years, Coach Tom Caudill of the Ewen-Trout Creek Panthers amassed an impressive record-breaking career, securing the dominance of the team in U.P. basketball history.  When he retired in 2008, Caudill had compiled a record of 558 victories and 149 losses, becoming the winningest coach in U.P. history. During that time, his Panthers won 20 Porcupine Mountain Conference titles, seven Great Western Conference titles, 13 district crowns, three regional championships and a Class D state runner-up trophy in 1982. He was named the U.P. Coach of the Year for Class D three times. In addition to coaching basketball, Caudill was the Panthers track coach for many years, winning 11 conference titles, five regional crowns and three U.P. Class D runner-up titles.

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