U.P. Sports Hall of Fame: Local talent strong in 2013 class
HARRIS – Pat Groleau received quite the compliment from a good friend, former roommate and fellow 2013 Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame inductee Rick Comley during the 42nd Annual Induction Banquet at the Island Resort and Casino Saturday night.
Comley, a renowned NCAA hockey coach at Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan University and Michigan State University was the first of 10 new inductees to speak. But rather than talk about himself, Comley, perhaps the most accomplished of the 2013 Hall class having won multiple national titles, instead gave one of the top quotes of the evening.
“I never saw an athlete as good at his sport as Pat Groleau,” Comley stated, causing the over 300 in attendance to erupt in applause.
Groleau, one of the most prolific scorers in Upper Peninsula basketball history and a native of Nahma, where he still resides to this day, later gave an emotional acceptance speech, crediting much of his success to his four brothers. He said he was never excluded from playing pick-up games with them for being small, a comment that drew chuckles from the crowd, no doubt having a hard time imagining the 6-foot-5 Groleau as ever being small.
He also reciprocated the compliments right back to Comley, his roommate at Lake Superior State College in the early 1970s. Groleau was a star at LSSC and was named a NAIA All-American point guard in 1971-72.
Other local inductees included Bob Whitens of Hermansville, Bob King, formerly of Manistique and Paul Miller of Escanaba.
Miller’s charismatic personality made for an entertaining speech. Known for talking for long periods of time, Miller feigned speechlessness upon taking the stage and turned to walk off, to waves of laughter. He thanked former coaches, family and his “Miller’s Killers” players in attendance who he coached on his 1981 Stephenson High School basketball team that won the Class C state championship.
Miller said he thoroughly enjoyed growing up in the 1960s and called the time period “equal to the greatest sports decade in Upper Peninsula history.” Miller is regarded as one of the finest athletes to play at Escanaba High School and said there were a few teams during that time that never got to fully realize their potential, being that state-wide competition didn’t yet exist. He cited the 1963-64 Kingsford Flivvers and 1967-68 Escanaba Eskymos football teams as two examples.
King spoke of the personal satisfaction and joy he gets out of coaching, continuing to coach to this day at Fair Oaks Del Campo High School in California. King is regarded as one of the greatest track and field and cross country coaches in California state history.
Whitens left no stone unturned in his induction speech as he told a couple amusing anecdotes on influential coaches in his life and how he applied what he learned to his own coaching style. He coached the North Central Jets boys basketball team to the 1984 Class D state championship and brought them back to the final four in 1985, a mark that went unmatched until this past season.
Other inductees in the 2013 class included former Menominee Maroons assistant football coach Ron “Satch” Englund, LSSU and NMU basketball standout Deanna (Sutton) Kreski of Rudyard, Michigan Tech football legend Ronald “Wimpy” Nettell, Gogebic Community College men and women’s basketball coach Deke Routheaux of Ironwood and semi-pro hockey star John Vasseau of Marquette.
Kreski had by far the largest following at the event as her denizens of supporters, which included St. Ignace basketball coaches Doug and Dorene Ingalls, all donned t-shirts during her induction speech.
Nettell, now deceased, was represented at the banquet by his son Tom Nettell of Iron Mountain, who spoke of his father’s greatness, being a man who came from nothing, but touched many lives and was respected and revered by many.