‘Good to the game’: Basketball star Eric Muszynski honored to join Hall of Fame

Courtesy Photo Eric Muszynski holds up a trophy after a Hillman High School basketball game. Muszynski is one of four individuals who will be inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame this year at the annual banquet on Saturday.

ALPENA — From playing basketball at Alpena High School to coaching basketball at Hillman High School, Eric Muszynski has seen many successes in the sport over the years.

At Alpena High, Muszynski was a three-year starting point guard and captain of back-to-back district championship teams during his junior and senior years in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. He earned all-state honorable mention in those two seasons and had a decorated career that included all-region, all-conference, all-Alpena News honors, team MVP, and, as a senior, he earned all-region, all-conference, and all-Alpena News honors again and also received the team’s Coaches Award.

This year, Muszynski will receive a new accolade as he heads to the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame at the annual banquet on Saturday. The Alpena High Class of 1998 graduate is one of four to be inducted this year.

Muszynski said that he was nominated by his grandma, who always pushed him to succeed and helped him reach that next step.

“For her to nominate me, and to get in, it’s an honor,” he said. “Alpena has had so many great athletes. It’s like I have to pinch myself to realize I’ll be among those talented individuals.”

Muszynski was born and raised in Alpena, but, with his dad being in the military, he also called a few other places home, such as Mainz, Germany while he was in third to sixth grade.

“I started basketball pretty heavy around third grade in Mainz,” he said. “I was actually cut from the youth travel team ’cause I couldn’t use my left hand, yet. That was the competitive atmosphere I was in when I got cut from a team in third grade.”

But the competition only fueled Muszynski. He saw to playing other sports, too, adding football and baseball to his repertoire.

At a young age, while playing baseball, Muszynski helped his Little League team win the 1992 Little League State Championship in Alpena. Getting a taste of that success had him wanting to reach that feeling in basketball.

From intently watching basketball on TV to practicing for hours, by the time Muszynski started at Alpena High, he was ready to put in the work to help the team excel.

“My teammates and I wanted to lead Alpena basketball to new heights,” he said.

And they did just that, making it to the regional finals twice in his high school career.

Muszynski scored 704 points in his career and still ranks among the program’s top 20 in scoring, three-pointers in a season (44), and career three-pointers (81). He was a member of the Michigan Junior National Basketball Team in 1997 and qualified for the cross-country state finals his senior year.

After high school graduation, Muszynski went on to Alpena Community College to play basketball and receive his associate degree. Following ACC, he also played at Saginaw Valley State University, earning a Bachelor’s in the Art of Teaching, with an emphasis on physical education and health and a minor in history.

For the past 19 years, he has been teaching and coaching at Hillman High School, and, now, after almost seven years as that school’s athletic director, Muszynski has taken what he learned as a player on the court to be the best he can be as a coach.

“I had a great high school basketball coach,” he said. “I owe a lot to him, not only as a player but I learned a lot from him on how to treat kids, how to be a good coach to your kids, and make sure everyone feels involved in the program and wants to be a part of the program.”

Now with more than 300 wins at Hillman, he was named Associated Press Class D State Coach of the Year in 2016, Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Region Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2015 (nominated nine other times), and Alpena News Coach of the Year nine times. He’s coached two regular-season undefeated teams and has led his teams to 20-win seasons eight times. Additionally, his teams have won seven North Star League championships, eight district championships, and four regional championships.

“My 300th coaching victory this year was great, too,” he said. “It’s not only rewarding for me as a coach, but it also means that the team has been doing pretty well over the years. It was emotional, celebrating all the current and former players who helped me reach that achievement.

“Coaching is one of the most rewarding professions you can do — coaching and teaching,” he continued. “You have such an impact on kids … It’s been really wonderful for me these last 19 years to be working in athletics and teaching.”

After years of success and many accomplishments to prove it, Muszynski expressed his gratitude to those who supported him along the way as well as the honor he feels as he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“I just want to thank my family for all the support as both a player and a coach — my previous coaches have all been so impactful for me, too,” he said. “I want to thank all my players, too, former and present. Lastly, my wife has been through this journey with me, going back to high school days, and she has always taken a backseat to my basketball, as a player and coach, and I’m thankful for her allowing me to chase my dreams.

“Thanks to the voting committee for accepting me into the Hall of Fame,” Muszynski continued. “It was really cool to get that call. My sons were in the truck, and it was a cool moment for them to hear that. My two boys, Ty and Eli, it was nice to share that with them. And it felt good to call my grandma and let her know. She may have even been more excited than me.”

On Saturday, at the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame annual banquet, Muszynski will stand by his fellow 2023 inductees — Nathan Barden, Ashley Hunault Williams, and Tony Skiba — as they make it into the history books.

“Basketball has always been good to me,” Muszynski said. “I learned that at a young age: If you’re good to the game, the game will be good to you back.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today