Paying tribute to coach

Longtime football coach Dick Koski to be honored this weekend

Assistant coach Dick Koski, far right in top row among white-shirted coaches, stands with the 2005 Negaunee varsity team whose head coach was one of his former players, Paul Jacobson, second from left among the coaches. (Journal file photo)

NEGAUNEE — The formative years of high school shape many lives, especially when good influences are involved.

That’s a major part of the impetus by some Negaunee-area residents in paying tribute to longtime Negaunee High School varsity football coach Dick Koski this weekend.

“He coached the Miners from 1968 to 1999, and we’ve been ‘guesstimating’ that he directly coached 550 to 650 players in that time,” said Gary “Raz” Rasmussen, one of the main organizers of the event.

Not only was he coach for a long time, but a successful one at that, winning more than two-thirds of his games at Negaunee with a record of 208-96-1, including a high-water mark of 13-1 and a trip to the state championship game at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1991.

Maybe in keeping with Koski’s focus on the basics as a coach, Saturday’s event won’t be any kind of fancy black-tie event.

Dick Koski, 1999

Rather, former players and fans of Koski will gather at the Miners Dry building, the lockerroom building just outside the football stadium, from 6 to 9 p.m. for a meal featuring Tino’s cudighis, cole slaw and bottled water. Organizers are charging $10 to cover costs.

“I want to get RSVPs from those who are coming just so we order the right amount of food,” Rasmussen said. “Right now (the middle of last week), we had 40 or 50 people signed up and I’m hoping for 100 to 150 guys.”

He can be reached by cell phone at 250-8651 or on his online account on Facebook.

There isn’t a special anniversary this year, but Koski, now in his mid-70s, has had some health issues in recent years.

“This (celebration) really should’ve taken place 10 or 15 years ago, so I thought it was about time to honor Coach Koski,” Rasmussen said.

The program will start with the meal at 6 p.m. before Rasmussen and several others will give a short talk about Koski, including some statistics about his program and what he meant to the school and community.

While also involved in basketball as a player and track and field as both an athlete and coach, Koski is a “lifer” when it comes to football. He was an all-state player at Wakefield High School in the 1950s and played at Northern Michigan University from 1959-62, including serving as team captain as a senior.

“I signed a free-agent contract with the Patriots but with knee and neck injuries, I just wasn’t in 100 percent health then,” Koski said about his post-college playing career last week in a telephone interview.

Those Patriots were the American Football League’s Boston Patriots that became the reknowned New England Patriots of the NFL less than a decade later.

“It was just a natural fit for me,” he said about getting into coaching. “My life has revolved around sports and I’m lucky that my No. 1 fan was my wife, Charlotte.”

He said he also felt fortunate to have people at Negaunee like Mark Marana, now the high school principal, and Paul Jacobson, a former player of his who went on to play at Central Michigan University, then followed him as head football coach.

“We always stressed the fundamentals,” he said about his coaching style. “I always really believed in the fundamentals. Maybe I spent too much time on them in the preseason, but I thought it was important to keep things as simple as you possibly could.

“And keep it fun for the kids.”

Koski, who was an assistant coach and head coach at Ontonagon High School for several years before coming to Negaunee, has been honored numerous times, too.

He’s been named to the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the similar-sounding Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame and the NMU Sports Hall of Fame.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee.