Being selected to become the men’s basketball coach at Hope College is “a blessing and a dream” for Greg Mitchell.
But it was a tough decision to leave Laingsburg after coaching the Wolfpack boys basketball team for 25 years.
“What’s been probably the most emotional part of it is forgoing a chance to coach my son in high school,” Mitchell said of 15-year-old Bryson, a freshman who was called up to the varsity team in March and hit the game- winning 3-pointer in a 45-42 district semifinal win over Carson City-Crystal. “I was blessed to have been able to coach him for a short time.”
The 48-year-old Mitchell led Laingsburg to a Class C state runner-up finish in 2012-13 as well as three regional, six district and six CMAC titles while compiling a 362-201 career record.
“It’s challenging to part ways with every player I’ve coached and my current team,” he said. “It was an emotional decision, because of the ties and relationships.
“I’m also parting ways with coaching colleages that I consider close friends.”
Mitchell, an Okemos graduate who taught there for three years and at Laingsburg High School for 22 years, specifically cited his former coach and mentor Stan Stolz, former Okemos coach Dan Stolz, Pewamo-Westphalia coach Luke Pohl and Fulton coach Todd Walden.
“I can’t think of a better place to live and coach than here in mid-Michigan,” he said. “I am grateful and blessed, and that’s prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead.”
That challenge is continuing a winning tradition at NCAA Division III Hope in Holland, where Mitchell graduated from in 1989 and helped the Flying Dutchmen capture two Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Associatiuon (MIAA) titles under Coach Glenn VanWieren.
“There’s no place like it, and anybody who played there or coached there knows what I mean,” he said. “Coach VanWieren is incredible. The chance to share that stage is pretty humbling.”
Mitchell replaces Matt Neil, who parted ways with Hope in May after compiling a record of 88-26 in the four years since VanWieren retired following more than 30 years as men’s coach.
“To be part of the legacy that is Hope basketball is something I won’t take lightly,” Mitchell said in a Hope College news release. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity.”
At least for one year, because it is his 17-year-old daughter Jalynn’s senior year, his wife Dina (a 1988 Hope graduate) and his family will continue to live in Laingsburg.
“Dina is going to stay teaching at Holt for this year, and we’ll see how it goes from there,” Mitchell said. “It’s a unique schedule for now.”
Mitchell still holds the Flying Dutchmen record for career 3-point shooting at 46.4 percent (116-of-250). He averaged a career-high 10.3 points per game his senior season.
“He’s a man of integrity, a great family man and an amazing coach,” Hope co-athletic director Tim Schoonveld said in the news release. “I think people are going to be really excited to have him around. He’s been associated with the Hope family throughout the years.
“He’s highly respected in the state of Michigan by basketball coaches. I would say he’s even more respected by the Hope basketball community. We feel blessed to have Greg and Dina and their family join the Hope community.”
Mitchell was named a coach of the year seven times: twice in Class C by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (2013 and 1997), once in Class C by the Associated Press Sports Editors of Michigan (2012), once in Class C by the Detroit News (2013) and three times by the Lansing State Journal (2013, 2012 and 1997).
“I appreciate (Laingsburg) taking a chance on a kid coming out of Hope,” Mitchell said. “I received nothing but amazing support over the years. I had the privilege of coaching some outstanding young men who I’ll miss dearly but certainly never forget. They gave me a chance to build a program, and I thought we built a great one. Much of that credit goes to the players I had.”
Mitchell, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Hope and a master’s degree in athletic administration from Michigan State, indicated his 19-year-old daughter Quincie will attend Hope. His oldest daughter, Aleah, graduated from Laingsburg in 2011.
– Hope College sports information contributed to this story