Waterman hired to lead Neagunee Miners’ new era

NEGAUNEE – There was no way Dan Waterman was going to turn down a chance to coach the Negaunee High School boys varsity basketball team.

“It was a chance to take over one of the premier programs in the Upper Peninsula and in the state in Class C,” he said Tuesday.

“That doesn’t come along very often. It was something I couldn’t pass up.”

Waterman, who coached the last four seasons at Munising, was named Monday night at a Negaunee school board meeting to replace Mike O’Donnell, who resigned to become the men’s head basketball coach at Finlandia University.

“I’m very excited,” Waterman, 38, said. “There was only one job I would leave Munising for and this was this one.”

At Munising, he led the Mustangs to a 68-23 overall record and its first district tournament championship since 1957. He took the Munising club to a share of the Central U.P. league crown in 2012-13 and won the CUP North Division title outright last season.

Munising went 19-4 last season; Negaunee 24-2 en route to a Class C semifinal appearance.

“I’m super excited (about coming to Negaunee), but it’s bittersweet, too,” Waterman said. “I’m leaving behind some good kids.

“But Munising will be in a good position next season. There are some hard working kids there.”

He won’t miss driving back and forth to work from Negaunee to Munising, however.

“That was 50 hours a month. I have three boys and a girl,” he said. “Living in Negaunee and now working here, I’ll have more time for them.”

Prior to taking the Munising job, he was an assistant men’s hoops coach at Northern Michigan University. Before that, he coached Westwood to a 41-24 mark in three years.

The 1994 Westwood and 2003 NMU grad will be teaching math at the Negaunee Middle School come fall.

Waterman said the Miners’ M-PC success and deep postseason tournament runs the last several years make his job a “challenge.”

“There will definitely be pressure,” he said. “Winning conference, district and regional titles will be tough to live up to here. They’ve had a high standard of success here in Negaunee.

“But I was fortunate to have kids at Munising who worked hard and I know I’ll get the same thing here at Negaunee.”

He won’t have the services of Class ABC All-U.P. players Tyler Jandron and Eric Lori, who have graduated from NHS.

“There are still pieces to build around,” Waterman said. “I’m excited about the challenge.”

Waterman said his major test at NHS early this season will be to merge his coaching style with the system already in place at Negaunee.

“The offense is where you’ll see the biggest adjustment to be made,” he said. “Negaunee’s more motion oriented, where I like set plays.”

Waterman noted he and his Munising squad beat the Miners a couple of times in his stint at Munising, once when the Negaunee club was undefeated at the time.

“I used to give Mike a hard time about that,” he said.