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Kuzewski resigns as Hillman girls hoops coach

News File Photo Hillman coach John Kuzewski talks with his team in a huddle during a 2017 game against Posen. After 12, seasons Kuzewski has resigned as Hillman’s coach.

When John Kuzewski took over as Hillman girls basketball coach in 2007, he did so wanting to build and sustain a successful program.

Kuzewski did just that, turning Hillman into one of Northeast Michigan’s most consistent programs.

After 12 seasons Kuzewski has resigned, citing a desire to spend more time with his young family.

“I’ve coached for 12 seasons and now I have two young children that has made the coaching commitment harder now,” Kuzewski said. “It’s time to step away.”

Kuzewski went 161-94 during his tenure, leading the Tigers to three district titles over his last five seasons. During the last five seasons, Hillman went 86-26 and won four North Star League division titles.

“Hillman is a special place with a lot of good athletes. There’s great people in this town and a lot of great coaches,” Kuzewski said. “My idea was to build a program and sustain it and I’m proud to coach as long as I did. I was able to coach so many great student athletes, a lot of whom I still have great relationships with today.”

In the 2014-15 season, Kuzewski led Hillman to a 19-5 record and its first district championship since 2002. Two seasons later, Hillman went 21-2, setting a new program record for wins.

That season also produced one of the toughest losses for the program in recent memory, a 51-45 defeat against Pickford in a regional semifinal.

Kuzewski’s final year with the Tigers may have been his finest coaching effort. On the heels of a 19-2 season in 2017-18, Hillman struggled out of the gate. The Tigers started last season 0-6 with a small roster, but had a remarkable turnaround in the second half of the season. They won six of their last 10 games and won three games over five days to in a district title.

They ultimately finished 12-12 and Kuzewski was named co-Coach of the Year on the All-Alpena News girls basketball team, an honor he also earned in 2017.

“I’ve had a lot of good teams come through and a lot of great players and sometimes we weren’t always able to accomplish the things we wanted to,” Kuzewski said after Hillman’s regional semifinal loss to St. Ignace. “This group came together at the right time, not only bought into the system, but put in the hard work that was necessary.”

Kuzewski said although some of Hillman’s playoff losses still stick with him, he’ll remember all of Hillman’s league and district championships, especially the ones Hillman clinched at home.

“You remember the league championships we won and the ones we were fortunate to clinch at home,” Kuzewski said. “We were fortunate to celebrate with fans, players and cut down the nets. It was special.”