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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Longtime Shrine hoops coach steps down

“Regrets? I've had a few,
But then again, too few to mention.”
ROYAL OAK - Mike Massucci tips his hat to Frank Sinatra.
Not to blatantly plagiarize Ol’ Blue Eyes, but Sinatra’s sentiments are exactly the way Massucci feels, too.
Massucci has decided to step down after 16 years as the boys’ varsity basketball coach at Royal Oak Shrine High School.
“It was time. I always said I wanted to be the hardest-working, most excited, most passionate coach in the gym,” said Massucci.
“But after the season, when it got down to scheduling and planning the summer league and all the logistics, I just did not feel that same energy and passion. I am sure it’s something I’ll get back at some point.”
Massucci’s teams have won the Catholic League Division four times, and finished undefeated in league play three of those years. His teams have advanced to the Catholic League semifinals eight times, and have played in four Catholic League Finals.
During the off-season, he regularly holds camps at Shrine and works camps for coach Greg Kampe at Oakland University. He also established a Leadership Camp at Shrine.
Massucci has always been one of the top coaches in the area. His teams were very well prepared. The Shrine Knights played hard, regardless of competition.
Few knew that better than Marc West, the coach at Catholic League rival Bishop Foley.
“I have a lot of respect for Mike and I learned a thing or two through the years from coaching against him,” said West. “In terms of his teams, they were always prepared to play. They played the full 32 minutes. You never felt comfortable with a lead in the fourth (quarter) until the game was over. They were always one of the smallest schools in our division and they always competed very well with the class B schools and bigger class C schools.  He got his kids to believe they could play against bigger schools and gave them a mindset they could compete with anyone,” said West.
“His teams always had the ability to play a multiple number of defenses, which made it very difficult to prepare for a game against Shrine. You never knew if you would be playing against one of the presses, 1/2 court zones, or man to man, so you had to try and prepare for everything.  Offensively, his teams did a great job of controlling tempo.  Then they would find and expose the opposing team's defensive weaknesses.
“As the coach at one of our rival schools, he set a great example for everyone involved in the game.  He was an intense competitor during the games and a great man before and after the game. The Bishop Foley-Shrine rivalry will miss Coach Massucci as will the Catholic League.  I wish Coach Massucci and his family nothing but the best in their future endeavors,” continued West.
After 16 years coaching the kids of others, Massucci believes it is now time for more time with his own children.
Mike and Karen Massucci have three son; A.J., who is 10; Anthony is nine; and Jake is seven. All are students at the Shrine grade school.
“Somebody told me once that there are only a few years when your kids are young that they still really look up to you and admire you; that is before they are teenagers and I have to embrace those years right now,” said Massucci, laughing.
There’s no doubt that Massucci is a family man. His family extends way past the confines of his own return address, though.
He has a deep affection for the entire Shrine community. He not only has coached at Shrine, but it is also where his own kids go to school. It is also the school he attended.
His brother, Marty, and his sister, Amy, also went to Shrine. Marty has been Shrine’s junior varsity coach for the past decade. His sister, Amy has kept the scorebook every year since Mike Massucci became the head coach. She has also tutored many of his players.
His mom and dad, Art and Mimi, are constant fixtures at games. Art Massucci coached the fifth and sixth grade basketball teams at Shrine Elementary for years. He was also the eighth grade football coach.
“When I decided to step down at Shrine there were a lot of emotional phone calls that had to be made. Probably the most emotional call was to Mr. Kirkwood, the principal who hired me at Shrine who was also the principal when I went to Shrine. He gave me a great opportunity and I wanted to make sure I thanked him for that.”
Massucci was 24 when he was hired as the head coach at Shrine. He’s 40 years old today.
He will continue teaching history at East Hills Middle School in Bloomfield Hills. He’s long had a hankering to write children’s books.
Massucci has long proven he has the Right Stuff as a basketball coach. How about the Write Stuff as an author? Only time will tell.  He penned quite a legacy at Shrine.


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