Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Jerry Barich Holiday Classic

Lots of times toward the end of his tenure on the bench, Jerry Barich was undermanned.
He spent 24 years coaching the boys’ varsity basketball team at Royal Oak Dondero High School.
For some of that time, it was difficult to compete for the student-athletes at the school on North Washington Avenue.
The population was shifting to the north and west in Oakland County. Dondero was even the smaller of two high schools in Royal Oak.
A blurred, barely acknowledged boundary in the district allowed more and more students to attend Kimball at the expense of Dondero.
Still, Dondero regularly faced the likes of Rochester, Rochester Adams, Troy Athens, Southfield-Lathrup, West Bloomfield, Birmingham Groves and Bloomfield Hills Lahser in Metro Suburban Association play.
“When I started at Dondero in 1970, there were about 2,400 students,” said Barich. “By the time I left, I think we had around 600. Fewer students meant less talent.
“But the thing about education is, you do it because you love to be around the kids. I always liked sports, so coaching was part of the natural progression. The relationships formed, and the friendships made, went far beyond wins and losses. They were and are invaluable, even to this day.”
While the scoreboard was not always kind, Barich’s Dondero players always competed hard and the coach always had them well-prepared.

Barich also served as athletic director at Dondero for 17 years. The Jerry Barich Holiday Classic will be held Friday, Dec. 21, and Saturday, Dec. 22.
On Friday, there will two game sites for the boys’ basketball tournament, Royal Oak High and Bishop Foley. The junior varsity games will be played at Bishop Foley that day; the host Ventures will take on Clawson at 3 p.m. and at 5:30, Royal Oak and Redford Union will meet. The varsity games will be at Royal Oak High; Bishop Foley and Clawson will meet at 5:30 p.m., and Royal Oak-Redford Union play at 7.
All Saturday games will be played at Royal Oak High. The day tips off with an alumni game at 10 a.m. All former players from Dondero, Kimball and Royal Oak High are invited to play. The junior varsity consolation finals will be at 2 p.m., with the junior varsity championship game at 3:30. The varsity consolation game will be played at 5:30 p.m., with the championship game slated to start at 7.
“We’re holding a holiday tournament in Jerry Barich’s honor,” said John Sebastian. “He helped build Royal Oak basketball not just at Dondero but in the entire city. Jerry Barich exemplified class.”
Sebastian is the junior varsity boys’ coach at Royal Oak High. He helped organize the event, along with Royal Oak High boys’ varsity coach Mike Massucci. Sebastian’s relationship with Barich is multi-layered. A 1987 Dondero grad, Sebastian played for Barich. He later coached with Barich, and took over when his former coach stepped down.
“We were always very well-prepared,” said Sebastian. “We practiced hard to get ready for every opponent. Jerry Barich created so many relationships during his tenure as a coach and an athletic director.”
While Dondero did its share of struggling, especially during the school’s later years, there were definitely some very successful runs for the Oaks.
It was in the early 1980s when the Oaks were led to some outstanding seasons by Jim Lama, George Heike and John Newton. Lama and Heike were both about 6-8 and they provided an intimidating inside presence. Newton, a guard, provided much of the firepower from the outside.
When the players were juniors, the Oaks lost their first regular-season game and then reeled off 19 consecutive victories. Dondero wound up falling to Brother Rice in a regional championship game played at Southfield-Lathrup.
The following season, the Oaks’ raced to a 20-0 start and then fell in overtime to Ferndale in a district title game.
Ten years later, Theron Wilson helped lead Dondero to another amazing season. He was surrounded by outstanding athletes like Ben Bancroft, Ron Owens, Jason Beverlin and Mick Lovelace.
Eventually, continued declining enrollment caused the demise of Dondero. The storied school closed following the 2005-2006 school year. The district now has only one high school, Royal Oak High, which is located on the site of the former Royal Oak Kimball.
Dondero was renovated and is now Royal Oak Middle School.
“We wanted to continue to honor the tradition of Royal Oak Kimball and Royal Oak Dondero, as well as Royal Oak High School,” said Massucci, the second-year coach at Royal Oak High. “Last year at our first home game we welcomed many of the coaches from the past like Chuck Jones, Jerry Barich, Paul Galbenski and John Sebastian. We had also reached out to people like Mike Lewis and Gary Fralick.”
Two of those former head coaches are now on his staff. Sebastian is handling the junior varsity team and Lewis, a former head coach at Kimball, is the freshman coach.
“It is important for our young people to understand some of what they are playing for,” continued Massucci. “It is important they realize it is more than just for themselves. There is a tradition and a larger legacy to realize.”
Massucci is a Royal Oak Shrine grad. He grew up in the city. While this is only his second year at Royal Oak High, he coached at Shrine for years.

“I feel very honored and humbled about having a Christmas tournament in my name,” said Barich.
Merry Christmas, coach. It’s a present you deserve.

Anyone interested in playing in Saturday morning’s alumni game should contact John Sebastian at 248.563.8264.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ink leaves an indelible impression

I’ve been watching way too much television lately.
How do I know? Because I am starting to critique the tattoos people are getting on shows like “Ink Master” and “Tattoo Nightmares.”
That from the totally unlearned perspective of a guy who doesn’t have a single smudge of ink on his body. In fact, if I mistakenly run a Bic pen across the back of my hand, I’ll scrub it right off.
But I watch “Ink Master” and “Tattoo Nightmares.” I’ll give my opinion on dragons crawling across thighs, pirate ships sailing across backs  and lotus flowers sprouting on backsides.

Don’t ask me why, but I find it fascinating. That probably says something about my intellectual capacity. Give me an ink blot test and I’ll see a botched tattoo.
It’s official; I am holding back on my dream vacation to Alaska. All you have to do is catch about 30 minutes of “Alaska State Troopers” to realize the entire state is nothing but an episode of “Cops” dressed in earmuffs. I swear on a stack of Sarah Palin election posters that if they are not driving drunk in Alaska, they are driving stoned. If they are not illegally poaching moose, they are snagging salmon. And, about 90 percent of the state seems to be armed.
Still, I find the show both enthralling and disturbing at the same time. I’ll bet nobody from the state’s tourism bureau gives it a thumbs up, though.
I love “Pawn Stars,” too. It’s about a pawn shop in Vegas and revolves around the owners and the intriguing people and items that walk through the door on a daily basis. A phony Babe Ruth baseball card. A book allegedly signed by Shoeless Joe Jackson. A sword from the War of 1812. There’s always some knowledge interspersed with the haggling and that makes it even more interesting.
“American Pickers” follows the same theme, but rather than waiting for the items to come walking through the door, a couple of guys from Iowa hop in their van and go searching for antiquated items of value by driving around the country. Sometimes they have appointments. Other times, they just pull into the driveway of places that look interesting.
The bottom line is, I’m watching too much television. I’m critiquing tattoos, Alaskan arrests, and pinball machines from the 1940s.
I need a hobby. In the meantime, pass the remote.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dial 1-800-SUH-HIM

I don’t know Ndamukong Suh.
I mean personally.
All I know is I wouldn’t want to meet him on a football field.
His track record for fair play is not exemplary.
He stomped on an offensive lineman’s arm.
He kicked a quarterback in the crotch.
He blocked another offensive lineman after an interception so hard the poor guy has a concussion and then Suh supposedly  laughed about it.

Do they hand out a sportsmanship award in the NFL? Even so, don’t bother swinging by the banquet, Ndamukong.
Here’s a word of warning to the Lions’ third-year defensive lineman: What goes around comes around. You take enough cheap shots, sooner or later you’ll be on the end of one yourself.
You never know when it is going to happen, either. It might be a guy going for your knees. It might be someone reaching in with a vice-like grip to turn your genitals into Spam. It might be a helmet to the chin that puts you in the Twilight Zone. 
It could be anything at any time, but if you believe in karma, your time is coming.
At first, I did not want to believe you were a dirty player. That was my hometown loyalty showing through. Especially after that rookie season when you were virtually unstoppable.
But the indictments keep piling on. You stomped an arm. You kicked a crotch. You laughed at an injured opponent.
I know that NFL is barely controlled mayhem. I know that it is violence wrapped in corporate niceties and merchandising deals.
I also know there is a time and a place for the snarling chaos. I know there are the rules of the game. There is also the Golden Rule. You don’t seem to want to adhere to either.
Do unto others? Better keep your head on a swivel. Karma might be coming your way sooner than you think.