Former WMU basketball coach takes the reins at Portage Northern

High School Preps

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Former Western Michigan University basketball Steve Hawkins is back on the hardwood — but in a smaller gym.

Under his leadership, the Broncos won eight Mid-American Conference West championships, won the MAC Tournament twice and earned two invitations to the NCAA Tournament. But after back-to-back losing seasons, WMU and Hawkins parted ways last year.

“Last year was really hard,” Hawkins said. “It was really, really hard. It was the first time in 40 years I didn’t have a team to coach.”

So when Portage Northern called, he was intrigued. He figured out how he could make it work alongside his consulting business and got back into coaching.

But he soon realized high school preps ball is a whole different world.

“It’s like I was coaching soccer,” Hawkins said. “I had no idea. The kids I coached for the last 30 years, basketball was their life. Here at the high school level, they just want to have fun. They’re competitive, but a lot of them are here to have fun. They like play basketball, they like their friends.”

He also had to scale back his playbook. At Western, he would have had 50 or more plays ready to call at this point in the season. For the Portage Northern opener, he had five or six.

But the teacher in him, he says, is excited about the challenge.

“I worked for coach (John) Wooden. Coach Wooden considered himself an educator. I feel the same way,” Hawkins said. “The basketball court, it’s a lot of fun. We’re all hypercompetitive. If winning and losing didn’t matter, we wouldn’t have a scoreboard. But we do and losing it’s OK. But there are a lot of life lessons to be learned on the court.”

Portage Northern fell to Kalamazoo Christian 47-40 in the season opener Tuesday. The next game is Friday at Mattawan.

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