MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - In late March, assistant women's basketball coach Kathy McGee announced she would be stepping away from basketball, a passion that has consumed her life since 1976. For McGee however, basketball has always been more than a game, it has been a life lesson.
McGee began her coaching career in 1976, at Flint Powers Catholic High School, as the girl's head basketball coach. While at Flint Powers she won four state titles, had four runner-up finishes, 13 regional championships, 20 district championships and 18 league titles, all while capturing 599 career wins. Flint Powers, while under McGee, currently holds the fifth-longest win streak (58 games), is first in consecutive district championships (17), third in regional championships (13), first in most consecutive regional championships (10) and fifth in appearances in the finals (7). When McGee left Flint Powers in 2006 she was in the Michigan High School Athletic Association as all-time winningest coach.
For her accomplishments at Flint Powers she was also named Women's Basketball Coaches Association National High School Basketball Coach of the Year in 2002 and received the same honor in 2001 from the National Federation of High School Coaches. In 2002, McGee was inducted into both the Basketball Coaches of Michigan Hall of Fame and the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame.
While each accomplishment means something unique to Coach McGee, there was one season in particular that changed her view on coaching.
Just before the 1996 school year began, McGee's top returning student-athlete, Liz Hallman, died in her sleep from a congenital heart defect. Devastated, the team began the season with a 3-3 record.
"We struggled to just put one foot in front of the other," said McGee. " I had kids who had a hard time just making it to the gym. Then one day at practice I could sense tremendous tension so I made them sit and talk."
McGee learned that day that her team was trying to play for something other than themselves; basketball was no longer just a game.
"I told the team we did not have to play another game this year, they needed time to grieve and overcome this obstacle. They looked at me and said coach we are going to win a state championship for Liz."
Behind the leadership of McGee her 1996-97 team reeled off 20-straight wins en route to McGee's second state championship.
"When they held that trophy over their heads there wasn't a dry eye in the house," commented McGee. "They believed enough and wanted to win the state title. After that year I was never the same coach. That season taught me what players can do when they put their heart into something and when they are playing for something other then themselves."
Two years later, in 1998, McGee had the opportunity to lead a new type of team. She was selected to serve as an assistant coach for USA Basketball in the 1998 World Youth Games in Moscow. "It was an absolutely wonderful experience," said McGee.
This was the first and only time the youth games were held and McGee, along with two other coaches, was selected to lead a group of junior high school kids to Moscow, Russia to compete for the Gold.
"I had goosebumps all over when I entered the facility," recalls McGee. "When you put that USA across your chest, it is an experience like no other."
The team brought back the bronze medal and many members of that team went on to be successful players such as Kara Lawson, Cheryl Ford and Chantelle Anderson.
Along with being a high school girl's basketball coach, McGee served as a high school teacher at Flint Powers for 19 years and was the athletics director for 11 years (1992-03). She worked as the school's Director of Development and Alumni Relations from 2003-06.
In 2006 another unique opportunity landed on McGee's doorstep. She was asked by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association to write a book titled, Coaching Basketball Technical and Tactical Skills. The proceeds from this book went toward a coach's internship that the WBCA offered. Along with writing the book, McGee served as a consultant for an online coaching training program that was on a national scale.
After 2006 McGee decided to take a new journey in life and returned to her alma mater, Central Michigan University.
"I have always been a fan of Sue Guevara, so to be able to work with her was an amazing chance," said McGee. "I got the opportunity to come back to the place I love."
While at CMU McGee was part of a coaching staff that had back-to-back 20-win seasons, four straight trips to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals, two straight trips to the semifinals and the program's first trip to the championship game since 1991. CMU also advanced to the postseason twice.
"What was great about the last five years is they were the icing on the cake," recalls McGee. "It is a bittersweet ending for me though. You never forget a loss and that MAC Championship game will remain with me forever. I have really enjoyed working at CMU, the staff, the community and most importantly with the players. I would like to think that I have left a small part of me with this team and I look forward to returning to CMU next year to watch the great things they are going to accomplish."
McGee will now enjoy her free time in Flint, where she will work part-time with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, a relationship that she began developing with her involvement over the last two seasons with Hoops for Hunger.
"I have learned that life is all about the opportunities you are given," said McGee. "I have been blessed to do so many wonderful things in my life and I am ready to see what the next chapter holds."