Dan Loney Steps in at Frankfort
Dan Loney knows all about the expectations people in Frankfort have for the boys basketball team, especially after former coach Reggie Manville’s successful seven-year run at the helm.
The Panthers won three Northwest Conference titles, five district championships and three regional crowns under Manville and began fighting for the headlines that usually were the girls basketball program’s private domain.
Loney spent the past four years as Manville’s varsity assistant and benefited from the veteran coach’s knowledge and mentorship, even getting to run the team during games. Sometimes it was Manville’s choice, and other times it was a matter of necessity with Manville sidelined with various surgeries, including a hip replacement a couple years ago. He actually coached nine games during one stretch.
It was Manville’s plan to groom Loney to take over as the head coach down the road. If not at Frankfort, then somewhere.
“So I do have some of that stand up experience,” Loney said. “It’s different. In the time out huddle all the guys are looking at you. That’s different from being an assistant to the head coach.
“But I kind of thrive in that situation. I know basketball so I’m comfortable in that situation. The kids are all ears and they’re always eager to learn. It’s going to be a good combination.”
When the school board notified Manville it was not renewing his contract and opened the position the 29-year old Loney immediately applied for the job. Exactly a month later the board unanimously approved his hiring.
“It’s going to be challenging, but that’s what makes it fun, that’s what makes it exciting,” the 29-year old Loney said. “I’m excited, the kids are excited. I think everybody is looking forward to it.
“I think we have a lot of good pieces coming back. A lot of the kids didn’t get a lot of reps (repetitions) because we’ve been loaded the last couple of years with talent. We have guards that are juniors and seniors that haven’t seen the floor a ton.
“But that doesn’t mean they’re not good players. There’s some sleepers on our team and we’re confident that we’re going to put in the work this summer and we’re going to practice hard. I have a good group of kids. They are super coachable. That makes it easier for me. I’m just excited to be here. This is where I want to be.”
Frankfort wanted him, too.
“Frankfort athletics is excited about the hiring of Dan Loney as the new varsity basketball coach,” athletic director David Jackson said. “He is without a doubt the top young coach in northern Michigan.
“He has a history in Benzie County having played at Benzie Central and serving as the Frankfort assistant varsity coach the last four seasons. He has a great knowledge of the game and he relates well with the players.
“He has the ability to break down the game so it is simple to understand what he wants. We are excited that he will be the face of Frankfort basketball for many years to come.”
Jackson will stay on as the Panthers junior varsity coach. Loney, whose brothers played at Frankfort, has not chosen the rest of his coaching staff.
A three-year varsity letterwinner in basketball for Blair Moss at Benzie Central as a center and a two-year varsity letterwinner at quarterback for the Huskies, Loney averaged 14.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game as a senior. He was named to the Detroit Free Press All-State Team, was All-State honorable mention in the Associated Press and Michigan Basketball Coaches Association Class B All-State.
In his junior year Loney averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds per game to be named All-State honorable mention, and averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game as a sophomore.
Moss’s coaching philosophy suited Loney. He fit nicely into Moss’s system.
“Blair is a run and gun coach. He likes to score,” said Loney. “He likes to put up shots. He’s a player’s coach. He’s fun to play for. He knows the game. He’s been around it a long time (retiring at the end of last season at Buckley).
“I enjoyed my time playing for Blair. I learned a lot from Blair. He moved on to Buckley and had a successful group there (reaching the state championship game the last two years). The proof’s there that he knows what he’s doing. I was fortunate enough to play for him for three years at Benzie and I had a good time doing it.”
Loney said he has a great personal relationship with Manville to this day. He says they talk often and it’s clear the two built up a lasting bond in their time together.
“When we first got together four years ago he told me he wanted to be my mentor,” Loney explained, “to teach me how to coach and he wanted me to take over at Frankfort. Obviously we didn’t have a lot of say in that but it did work out that way.
“I talked to him just the other day and he congratulated me and said he was super happy for me. He kind of feels that the legacy he built is going to continue on. I’m confident I can keep the ball rolling.
“That’s easier said than done. He set the standard super high here. But we have the formula, we have the kids. A lot of these kids that are coming back played under Reggie. They know the formula. They know about practice, they know the mentality. They know what expectations are around the program. It’s a good group of kids coming up.”
Loney said his biggest take away from playing college ball was how much there actually is to the defensive game.
Especially in scheme, switching defensive rotations and how to guard a pick and roll.
“The average fan doesn’t really realize how much goes into a practice,” Loney said. “They come to a game and don’t realize that you can switch a screen, or you can play a ball screen five or six different ways, you can rotate on defense or you can double team or not double team, or you can be in your help side gap or not be in the help side gaps.
“So I feel that the defense and help side rebounding really come from Western Michigan. As far as Reggie he was super strict in attention to detail. If he’s going to run a play he’s going to he’s going to run it a certain way. He’s going to want guys in certain spots at certain times.
“Timing matters. Where the ball is, where you enter the ball, where you catch the ball. Attention to detail is super important to Reggie. He did a real good job of executing stuff like that because he made the kids pay attention to that.”
Loney will use the summer to evaluate the talent he has on the varsity to determine what kind of team he has, and is not putting any undue pressure on the players by making any predictions of what he expects the Panthers to achieve on the court.
His approach, he says, is that every game and every situation is different. He just wants the Panthers to go out and give 100 percent effort every time out and he’ll be satisfied with the results, win or lose.
But he also recognizes that the Panthers have filled their fans with high expectations during the last seven years, and he sees that as a positive motivation for the players to put in the effort and hard work.
If they do that, the rest will take care of itself.
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. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.