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Westwood graduate Kevin Luke ends 27-year run as Michigan Tech head men’s basketball coach

Michigan Tech head coach Kevin Luke, right, looks on with Huskies’ player Bryan Heath in a January 2017 game at the Huskies’ court against Northwood. Tech won 83-72 as the victory marked Luke’s 400th win. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)

HOUGHTON — Michigamme native and Westwood High School alumnus Kevin Luke announced his retirement Thursday after 27 years as head coach of the Michigan Tech men’s basketball team.

Over his distinguished head coaching career, he accumulated 471 victories, the most all-time among the Huskies’ NCAA Division II sports, according to a news release from Charles Snelson, MTU Director of Communications-Athletics.

Luke said in the news release that he carefully considered his decision and felt the time was right after Tech’s memorable run to the Division II Midwest Region tournament championship game.

In March 2020, the Huskies earned a trip to the NCAA Division II Midwest Region tournament, but their quest was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This winter, the Huskies appeared in another GLIAC championship game, then defeated Southern Indiana 81-69 in the NCAA Midwest Region semifinals. Tech fell to Truman State in the Midwest Region championship 65-62 and tied for the deepest run in school history.

“It’s hard to believe 34 years have gone by since I started at Tech,” said Luke, who also alluded to seven years he spent as men’s assistant basketball coach. “My time here has been awesome, and my only regret is not winning an NCAA championship.

Michigan Tech head men's basketball coach Kevin Luke watches a play in the Huskies' game against Northern Michigan University played at NMU's Berry Event Center in Marquette during the 2006-07 season. (Journal file photo)

“I have met so many wonderful people who will end up being lifelong friends. I must thank all the student-athletes and coaches who have played and worked alongside me. It has been a privilege and honor working with them as they are the main reason for the program’s success.

“A special thanks to Ted (Kearly), Rick (Yeo) and Suzanne (Sanregret) for helping me and our program be successful.”

Those three were athletic directors during Luke’s tenure at the Houghton institution.

“A very special thanks to mom, dad and family, who always made an effort to attend games (and Dad coach),” Luke said. “A most heartfelt thanks to my wife Barb and my children. Without their support, I would not have survived. My hope for the future is to become MTU’s No. 1 fan and continue enjoying all of our sports successes.”

When Luke came to MTU in 1987, he had four years of experience as an assistant basketball coach at his alma mater, Westwood High School, from 1982-86.

He served as the top assistant and chief recruiter for Tech head coach Geof Kotila from 1987-94, then when Kotila left his position, Luke became the school’s 11th head coach in May 1994.

After graduating from Westwood, Luke played basketball at MTU from 1977-80 under head coach Bill Gappy, accumulating 513 points and 262 rebounds, as the 1980 team won the Northern Intercollegiate Conference title. He was named the Huskies’ Most Improved Player, later renamed the Bill Gappy Award, for the 1978-79 season, and the Outstanding Newcomer, the Bob Olson Award, for 1977-78.

He also earned the nickname “Cool Hand Luke” for his outside shooting touch at MTU.

As head coach, Luke has led the Huskies to three GLIAC North Division regular-season titles in 2012, 2013 and this year; three league tournament titles in 2002, 2003 and 2020; and 10 NCAA tournament appearances.

He celebrated his 400th win on Jan. 19, 2017, in a game against Northwood.

He was awarded the Basketball Times’ National Coach of the Year in 2003 after leading Tech to a 29-3 record and No. 1 national ranking in the final regular-season poll. He was also named the NABC Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003.

In the 2002-03 season, the Huskies set school records for wins with 29, winning percentage of .906, home wins with 15 and consecutive wins, also 15. That team also made GLIAC history by winning 17 regular-season league contests and becoming the first conference team to host an NCAA regional.

“It is very difficult for me to sum up what Coach Luke has meant to the men’s basketball program, athletic department and university in a few sentences,” MTU athletic director Suzanne Sanregret said. “Kevin has elevated our men’s basketball program to one of the best in the country and has always done it with integrity and professionalism.

“He has treated his student-athletes like family and has wanted the best for them in the classroom and on the court. He has worked tirelessly to prepare them for life after Tech.

“Not only has Kevin been an outstanding coach to student-athletes, he has mentored countless other graduate assistants, assistant coaches and head coaches in all of our sports.

“I want to personally thank Kevin for his time and energy spent in his role as associate athletic director. He was instrumental in many of the athletic department initiatives over the past 15 years and always approached the projects with the entire department in mind. I wish Kevin and Barb all the best as they begin a new chapter in their life.”

Luke was named GLIAC Coach of the Year five times, in 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2020. He owns an impressive 471-302 overall record, including 315-208 in conference play. His winning percentage of .609 is the all-time best in program history.

In addition to his basketball responsibilities, Luke became Tech associate athletic director in May 2005. He was also the head cross country coach for the Huskies from 1987-93 and was named the 1993 Women’s GLIAC Coach of the Year.

An announcement by Michigan Tech Athletics regarding the future of the men’s basketball program was scheduled for Friday morning.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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