Greater Flint Area Sports Hall Of Fame Inductees
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Kathy McGee Has Lifted Powers To New Heights. It's not true that Kathy McGee was around when James Naismith hoisted the first peach basket in Springfield, Mass.
She's coached for a long time, but not that long. But when it comes to the women's version of the game, McGee has lived the history of the sport.
She was there for its humble beginnings as a six-on-six game, setting the school scoring record at Elkton-Pigeon Bay Port before graduating in 1969.
She was good enough to earn a college scholarship, but none were available at the time for women. She began coaching at Powers Catholic when the skill level and acceptance of the girls' game began to grow at the high school level during the late 1970's and early 1980's.
McGee helped spearhead that growth, becoming a coaching legend in a game that is now one of the most popular high school sports in Michigan. She has received numerous local, state and national honors, the latest being her induction tonight into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame. McGee joins Jo Lake of Holy Rosary and Kearsley, Dorothy Kukulka of Northern and LeRoy Decker of Fenton as the only girls' basketball coaches in the GFASHF.
"You don't do it for accolades, you don't do it for honors," said McGee, the 2001 national coach of the year. "You do it for the passion you have for the game and the love you have for your players. I'm very honored to receive this. I'm receiving this individually, but it's because of the teams I've coached through the years. It goes back to the players I've had the opportunity to coach over the years." McGee has coached some great ones, including nine All-Staters. Powers has had at least one Associated Press All-State pick for a record 15 straight years. McGee was the AP's Coach of the Year in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1996.
McGee has built Powers into one of the premier programs in Michigan, but the Chargers were hardly an overnight success. In her first 12 years from 1976-87, McGee's teams were 157-98 (.616), won one district championship and never got past the regionals in the state tournament. Since 1988, the Chargers are 355-30 (.922), own a state record streak of 15 straight district titles, have won 13 regionals and have won four championships in seven trips to the state finals.
It's hard to imagine that McGee's teams were bounced in the first game of the districts in three of her first four years and had losing records in three of her first five seasons. Like so many other schools, Powers was getting players with little or no experience by the time they reached the ninth grade. The quality of play improved after McGee began running a summer camp and Emil Snow added girls basketball to the Knights of Columbus' sports program for Catholic elementary students.
"It's changed so drastically," McGee said. "There are a lot of people that are women's basketball fans. It's a great game, really a team-oriented game. That wasn't the case 20 years ago when kids didn't have the skills. You look back when kids didn't have the option of playing in the WNBA or getting a college scholarship. There are a lot more things out there as carrots for young players to be good. All of that has really changed the game. Basketball players are really great athletes now. It used to be they were just girls playing basketball; now they're really athletes."
There were a handful of such athletes around in the 1970's Linnell Jones at Northwestern, Pam and Paula McGee and Leteia Hughley at Northern. Flint's basketball tradition was established by Northern, Beecher, Holy Rosary and Northwestern, teams that won multiple state championships.
"I remember watching (Beecher coach) Dave Hollingsworth's teams because they'd beat us all the time," McGee said. "We were thinking, "We're going to get a little bit closer this year. The first time we beat them to win the Big Nine championship was pretty special to us. They were definitely the team to beat."
"Watching Northern through the McGee and Hughley era, those were just incredible teams. We were thinking that's the kind of program we'd really like to have. Certainly they set the bar and we were just trying to reach it." Now it's the Chargers who have set the standard throughout the Flint area.
"Once the tradition is set, the kids work so much harder and are so hungry to keep that going," McGee said. "That's really important to a program. Once you get over the hump, it makes it much easier."
McGee's legacy as one of the greatest coaches in Flint area history was secured last season when she became the first coach in Michigan to win 500 girls' basketball games. The victory came in the state semifinals against Lansing Catholic Central. The following night, Powers completed its first unbeaten season and won back-to-back state titles for the first time with a come-from-behind victory over Detroit Country Day.
McGee's record is 512-128 (.800). She's proud of those numbers and the championships that have gone along with them. But she's more proud of the type of young women the Powers' program has produced. "When you think about it, it's not about wins and losses," said McGee, who came to Powers from Central Michigan University in 1972as a student teacher.
"They're really here for a day. You hope the lessons the players learn from the game are what last a lifetime. That's what we're in this for, learning to be better people and how to really be a team player. That's what discipline and hard work are about."
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