McCourt’s influence extends into coaching ranks

For more than 30 years, Frank McCourt has been an important presence for Alpena Community College basketball.

McCourt, who will coach his final game tonight, has spent years serving as equal parts coach, mentor, friend and father figure for many players, but he will leave behind a sizable coaching tree in retirement.

From ACC women’s basketball coach Bobby Allen to Hillman boys basketball coach Eric Muszynski to former Tri-State University women’s basketball coach Cindy DeRocher, McCourt’s legacy at ACC includes many former players who him as an influence in their coaching careers.

“I grew up around ACC and he was my role model for going into coaching,” Steve McCourt, Alpena High’s girls basketball coach and Frank McCourt’s son, said.

Allen originally came to play at ACC for McCourt’s predecessor Jim Barbera. When McCourt took over in 1989, Allen found out quickly that things were going to be different.

“He said, ‘This is going to be the same, isn’t it?’ I said ‘No,'” McCourt said. “I not only mentor (players) through basketball I mentor them through life.”

McCourt expected his players to go to class and work hard on the court, not unlike a legendary Indiana coach, but players were willing to do what it took to be successful.

“He was the Bobby Knight of junior college basketball,” Allen told The News last month.” He was tough, but fair. He was a coach that demanded respect, not that he doesn’t deserve it now.”

For all of the demands, players found McCourt cared about them and his dedication and passion to mentoring players is what inspired many of them to become coaches.

“I could’ve gone back to Flint, but Coach stuck with me and offered me a job,” Allen said. “He gave me a two-year deal, but it was always a two-year deal with five years left.”

Mike Kollien, ACC’s Director of Admissions, played for McCourt in 1989-91 and later coached ACC’s women’s basketball team for several years. He, like Allen, got to see many sides of McCourt as both a player and fellow coach.

“It’s complete full cycle. I came in here as a player, coached with him (since) I was on the women’s side. We’ve got lots of memories, lots of road trips, all good times.

DeRocher played on McCourt first two ACC teams from 1980-82 when he coached the women’s basketball program and credits McCourt for guiding her into coaching. She coached one year with McCourt before moving on to Lake Superior State and later Tri-State University where she became a Hall of Fame coach over 12 seasons.

“He really encouraged me and helped me,” DeRocher said.

Muszynski has turned Hillman into a Northeast Michigan powerhouse and said he tries to connect with his players the same way McCourt did when he played at ACC. Several of Muszynski’s players have gone on to play under McCourt.

“He has such a heart for his players and that’s something I try to pass on to my players,” Muszynski said. “I’ve had some guys play for him as well and that goes back to that caring.”

“I’m surprised he’s hanging it up. That just shows you his dedication to basketball and a big part of Frank is his dedication to his players. I think that’s what’s kept him going so long.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.