Ernst Looks to Bring Reed City Back to Championship Mentality
REED CITY — In the 1979-80 season, Reed City featured one of the top boys basketball programs in the entire state and the Coyotes finished that season as one of the most successful teams in state history.
They went 28-0, beating teams by an average of 26 points per game. Their closest matchup came in the state semifinals with a 56-55 victory over Ecorse, but they followed that with a 71-58 win over Grand Rapids South Christian in the state championship. The Coyotes were the only team to finish undefeated in the state that year.
“We were disciplined. We were a unit. There were no cliques. There were no controversies. I mean, we were all equals,” said Michael Rushford, a member of the 1980 team. “It was all about the team and it was all about the town.”
Jerry Ernst was the head coach of the Coyotes during that season, and his son, Steve, was the ballboy.
“Steven was everywhere, man. The kid was everywhere,” Rushford said. “He was part of us. He was our little brother. He was fun to be around because that’s what we were around. We were around basketball 24/7.”
“I think about all the time,” Steve Ernst said. “The guys that played there and how successful all those former players are, and it’s not surprising they were good guys. Then I think they are great guys and family men now. So yeah, I was I was lucky to be around them as a young man.”
Steve Ernst followed in his father’s footsteps to become a head coach. He has coached basketball both at the high school and college levels, which includes being the head coach of Olivet College men’s basketball for four years. In 2017-18, he led Olivet to its first MIAA championship since 1973.
He is now returning to a familiar town where his father once coached, as Steve Ernst prepares for his first season as the Reed City boys basketball head coach.
“I’m excited that he is in Reed City. We talked before he came here. I think he’s gonna be good for the program. I think he’s gonna be good for the environment. I think he’s going to be great for the kids he has,” Rushford said.
Steve Ernst also said he has taken some coaching qualities from his dad and he wants to bring that same mentality to this program again. The players have noticed.
“(He’s) very knowledgeable,” Reed City senior Isaiah Moore said. “He likes to give you pointers all the time He’s intense, but he’s also very nice.”
“For past 40 years, we haven’t really done much,” Reed City senior Canyon Reed said. “I think (there’s) a lot of motivation for us to perform well.”
Their head coach is motivated to succeed like his father once did, setting high goals for a program that has just one district title in the last 28 years.
“I love Reed City, but I wouldn’t be coaching Reed City right now if it wasn’t for the 1980 team,” Steve Ernst said. “The goals and the expectations are something I was lucky enough to see. These are all young guys and you know, they weren’t even alive when that stuff was happening. But what a tremendous opportunity I have and you know, it’s my job to make them excited about playing for Reed City and and then try to have a little fun with it.”
Reed City’s first game under Steve Ernst will be Dec. 7 against Evart.