Stan Van Gundy had a rooting interest in Saturday’s Class A boys basketball final in East Lansing.
Clarkston beat top-ranked Grand Rapids Christian, 75-69, at Michigan State’s Breslin Center to claim the program’s first state title.
Van Gundy’s daughter, Kelly, is a senior at Clarkston.
“I watched my first high school game in a long time,” Van Gundy said following Pistons’ practice Sunday in Auburn Hills. “They played great. John Loyer’s son (Foster) can really play. They got a good team. Wow, I thought Clarkston really executed. That was fun.”
Dan Fife, Clarkston’s coach for 35 years, finally realized his state-title dream. He sits fourth in MHSAA boys basketball career wins at 677.
“I’m happy for him. Really happy for him,” said Van Gundy, who watched on TV. “He was clearly emotional after the game. It was great to see because … he finally got it. That was a good moment on a day where I needed some inspiration.
“It was really, really fun to watch, and those kids did a great job. Plus, with the other team, too. Grand Rapids Christian, they did a really good job. They played hard to the end. It’s really good to watch; well played high school game.”
Along with Fife getting his long-awaited state title, the final also featured two of the state’s top players: Loyer and Christian senior forward Xavier Tillman. Loyer, a junior, is committed to MSU and Tillman, this year’s Mr. Basketball runner-up, is signed with the Spartans.
Loyer finished with 29 points, five rebounds and three assists. Tillman had 25 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
“They were trapping him on every pick-and-roll, blitzing him,” Van Gundy said of Loyer. “He was making great plays. The other team was pretty good, too.”
Fife’s accomplishment was heartwarming.
“Obviously, when you win as many games as he has, you’ve had a fabulous career,” Van Gundy said. “They bring back most of those kids. You think they’d be pretty good again, although they’re always pretty good.”
Per NBA rules, Van Gundy could not attend the Class A final. The NBA prohibits coaches from going to high school games to be “less of a distraction,” Van Gundy explained.
Kelly was at Clarkston’s semifinal win over West Bloomfield on Friday, her father said.