Gielczyk: Baumann Ready to Lead TC West
This isn’t how any coach would want to take over a program, when the current coach dies suddenly to leave an unexpected vacancy.
In a shocking development, Traverse City West girls basketball coach Mike Wilde died unexpectedly back in February, just 10 games after taking over the varsity when Rebecca McKee resigned.
Barely two months after agreeing to be Wilde’s varsity assistant, 1997 Traverse City Central graduate Doug Baumann found himself being announced as the team’s new man in charge at a news conference on April 11.
His head is still spinning a little.
After playing basketball for coach Jon Constant at Central, Baumann went on to play at Lake Superior State in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association, majoring in education. He returned to Traverse City and taught in the elementary and middle schools for four years, which is when he first got involved in coaching, helping out Greg Farmer when he was the Titans’ varsity basketball coach by taking over the junior varsity program.
Since the girls season was in the fall back then, Baumann had the opportunity of also working with the girls program for Hall of Fame coach Patti Tibaldi.
When the seasons changed and the girls season moved to the winter, Baumann opted to stay with the girls program as the varsity assistant coach starting in 2002. He served in that capacity for six years.
He left coaching when he took a new job and left the area. He was away from it for a number of years, but always hoped to get back into it after moving back to the area when Dave Ginsberg became the girls coach following Tibaldi’s retirement.
Wilde had been Baumann’s freshman basketball coach, and Baumann had also coached Wilde’s daughter when she played for Tibaldi.
So when Wilde called him in December and asked if he’d like to help him out when McKee stepped down, Baumann jumped at the chance after taking it over with his wife and family to make sure they were on board.
It helped that Baumann’s wife is the varsity girls volleyball coach at West and is familiar with scheduling and personal commitments and sacrifices that need to be made, especially now that he’s going to coach the varsity.
"She saw how excited and how happy I was to be back in the gym," Baumann added. "Just being with Mike, being around the girls and being around that atmosphere again. She realized how much fun that was for me, and knew how important it was for me to get back in it. It was nice to have her full support."
Baumann said he was blessed to be have some tremendous coaches and role models in his life. Although they possessed excellent knowledge and enjoyed great success, it was more important that they were good people.
They were as concerned with shaping their players into good people just as much as they were helping them develop their athletic skills and become better players.
It’s what he would like to accomplish as well.
"When it’s all said and done, some kids will have a tremendous athletics and others will just do it for the social aspect of it," Baumann said. "My goal, really, is in the end to have someone that’s a good person and is able to help other people in life. I think that’s something I was taught by all the coaches I’ve had throughout the years.
"I’ve had an unbelievably warm welcome. A lot of excitement, both from the players and parents, just the community in general. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re wanted, I guess. People are excited about the future.
"And, I think a lot of it just has to do with the energy that I coach with. It’s kind of upbeat, encouraging and, like I say, developing people skills rather than just focusing on the X’s and O’s of basketball. I think the kids are receptive to that."
Many of his players will be new to Baumann, and there’ll be an evaluation process throughout the off-season to determine just what kind of talent he has on the team.
One thing he’s not going to do is try to force the players to conform to a style that he might like, but isn’t suited to their skills.
"I think they struggle with that if they don’t have the skill set you’re looking for," Baumann said. "So, I think what I’ll end up doing is deriving a lot of my ideas around their skill sets. We have a tremendous group of freshmen, sophomores and juniors coming up that are extremely athletic, multi-sport athletes.
"We have kids who are involved in numerous sports, volleyball players, softball players. We have great track athletes, phenomenal soccer players. Just their athleticism is going to bode very well for us this year."
Baumann added that the Titans are guard heavy, so he expects them to be a little more faster paced, upbeat team. He doesn’t see them being able to punch the ball down in the paint and work the inside.
It’ll start to come together this summer, and personally Baumann can’t wait. He wakes up with a smile every day.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News.