Moyes’ Memories: Keith Guy leads at Muskegon from his basketball rich past and competitive drive

By Jim Moyes
Local Sports Journal

When my long time sidekick Gene Young informed me that Keith Guy had been hired to perform double duty at Muskegon High School a couple of years ago, we both were unanimous in our opinion that the Big Reds had hit a home run with Guy.

Big Red coach Keith Guy talks to his team during a Jan. 24 contest against Mona Shores. Photo/Jason Goorman

Big Red coach Keith Guy talks to his team during a Jan. 24 contest against Mona Shores. Photo/Jason Goorman

With his beloved alma mater Muskegon Heights hung out to dry, and not knowing if there would even be a Muskegon Heights High School, not to mention a viable sports program, Guy had to do what was best for him and his family.

Certainly Guy had to have mixed emotions for departing the Heights to take over the same duties at Muskegon. But it has not only worked out well for him, but what a boost Guy has given the entire Muskegon School system and their student-athletes.

As an athletic director, he has been the Don Canham of the Muskegon area. Large crowds continue to fill up Hackley Stadium in the fall, but now Muskegon’s Redmond Potter gymnasium is seeing packed houses for the first time since this remarkable gymnasium was erected nearly 40 years ago.

Obviously it’s nice to have such talented players as Deshaun Thrower and Deyonta Davis, but it is the coach that has to have all the players buy into a team concept.

One certainly can’t point the finger at Guy and mention that he has put together this incredible winning streak by feasting on a cupcake schedule.

In addition to teams within their own conference that the Big Reds must play twice during the season, Guy, as the Athletic Director, put together a schedule that included some of the toughest competition in the state, and even the country.

Included among the Big Red victories this season was their victory at the start of the New Year over Chicago Curie. Guy, with considerable help from his good friend Larry VanHaitsma, assembled the Muskegon Basketball Showcase which perhaps was the toughest triple-header ever formed here in the Port City.

Saving the best, and the toughest for last at the Showcase event, Muskegon dealt the No. 2 nationally ranked Curie their only defeat, 73-66, before a partisan house that braved another blizzard in packing the Redmond—Potter gymnasium.

Sure, many of the naysayers will point out that Curie was playing without superstar Cliff Alexander, but in the previous year’s match up between these two Midwest powers, Curie didn’t exactly blow out a Big Red team that is now much improved over last year’s squad.

Included among the Big Red victims this year were perennial powers such as Rockford, Saginaw Arthur Hill, Grand Rapids Christian, and Benton Harbor.

Muskegon Big Reds coach Keith Guy. Photo/Tim Reilly

Muskegon Big Reds coach Keith Guy. Photo/Tim Reilly

 

On February 15th they handed newcomer Mt. Clemens, the state’s 3rd rated team in all classes, their only defeat of the season. The Big Reds concluded their regular season Thursday by topping River Rouge, a school that has been a dynasty in basketball for many years.

Surely many of the kudos for this teams’ success should be showered on Keith Guy.

I first remember Keith as a diminutive left-handed guard on the hardwoods at Muskegon Heights.

Following his graduation from Muskegon Heights back in 1993, where as the point guard and team leader, he led the Tigers to the state championship game against Saginaw Buena Vista, Guy played basketball at the next level for the Jayhawks at Muskegon Community College.

It was at MCC where I first met Keith Guy.

Undoubtedly Keith is most widely known for his basketball coaching skills, or maybe even his past work as a city councilman for the Heights in his ‘spare time.’

However, I best remember Keith for befriending a foreign student who my wife Mary and I took into our household some 20 years ago.

His name was Marvin Stubbs, a native from the Turks & Calicos Islands, who with a lot of help from Muskegon Community College coach Gene Gifford, was accepted at MCC as a student/athlete. 

I must confess I was a little less than honest about Marvin’s physical attributes when attempting to talk (con might be the better word) coach Gifford into offering Stubbs a spot on the Jayhawk basketball team.

Although I was truthful in describing Marvin’s quickness, leaping ability, high academic standards and his defensive prowess on the court, I left out one little factor:  Marvin only had 3 fingers on his shooting hand, a handicap I conveniently forgot to mention to Coach Gifford until Stubbs was already enrolled at MCC. 

“So, he can’t palm a basketball, nor shoot very well,” I later said to my good friend Gifford, “but he’s a great kid who really deserves a chance at getting an American education.”

Shortly after Marvin arrived on New Years day, during a typical Muskegon snowstorm, he began classes as well as playing basketball for the Jayhawks. Marvin asked me if there were any players on the team he should seek out as a friend so he could help himself better understand our culture. 

When he mentioned Keith Guy — I quickly said,” you could find none better than Keith.”

During his two year stay here in Muskegon Marvin did receive an excellent education as well as a great experience, with much of the credit going to his new friend Keith Guy.

Guy followed up his two-year stint on the Jayhawks by finishing up his playing days as the point guard at Ferris State, proudly acquiring his coveted degree in 1998.

Talk about a man who has paid his dues — Guy has coached at virtually all levels on his way up the ladder.

His first step into the coaching fraternity began at West Michigan Christian as a freshmen coach for the Warriors. Hired at WMC on the recommendation of Jim Goorman, the hall of fame coach had nothing but praise for Guy.

“I could see from his playing days (at MCC) when he played with my son Jeremy that he had the fire to play hard, and I could see he understood the game so well,” related Goorman. “We often had Keith over at our house for spaghetti dinners and I quickly liked Keith.

I liked the idea that he came from Muskegon Heights with their great tradition and I knew he would fit in very well with ours,” added Goorman.

Following his apprenticeship under Goorman at WMC, Gene Gifford was so impressed with his coaching acumen with the Warriors that he asked Guy to return to MCC to help with the Jayhawk basketball program.

Guy was ebullient in describing his former coach and mentor at the Jayhawks. 

He (Gifford) helped me so much with my career,” said Guy.  He gave me my start out of high school and he taught me so much about the game of basketball.  Coach Gifford was one of the most organized coaches I have ever been around and he had a wealth of knowledge,” replied the appreciative Guy.

Keith Guy talks with Mona Shores coach Gene Gifford before their teams squared off against each other on Jan. 25th. Photo/Jason Goorman

Keith Guy talks with Mona Shores coach Gene Gifford before their teams squared off against each other on Jan. 24th. Photo/Jason Goorman

“When I came out of high school I was not a very good shooter.  Coach Gifford was a very good shooting coach and by the time I left MCC I was a much better shooter.”

Guy, and the man he credits with being so instrumental with his coaching career, have now come full circle.  Still itching to coach in the twilight of his own very successful coaching career, Gifford has taken over the reigns as the head coach at Mona Shores, following a long stint coaching in the collegiate ranks at MCC and Olivet College.

When asked what it was like this year to compete against his former coach, now the head coach at Mona Shores, Guy said:  “ It was a different feeling. It was like I was coaching against one of my parents.”

Guy’s primary job at Muskegon Community College was working in the admissions office, but would assist Gifford and his long time assistant Glen Metcalf at practices whenever he could fit in basketball around his office duties.

“Keith couldn’t make all the practices because of his work schedule but he would make all the games,” recalled Gifford. “He was really helpful in mentoring the kids, especially the freshman, as they could stop by his office where they would receive some helpful advice from him on how to prepare for the college life.”

When asked what it has been like coaching against Guy this past season Gifford responded:  “Keith played for me for two years at MCC and I could see right away that he had the makings to be a good coach.  He was a natural leader with a very good understanding of the game, extremely coachable and was an outstanding point guard for us.

I’ve followed his career and I’m very proud of Keith, as I am of many of my former players with whatever occupation they went into,” added Guy’s former coach.

“I’ve always been impressed with how he works with his players and the discipline he instills in his program, and you can see the respect that all his players have for him as a coach and as a person.

It’s obviously a little different to actually coach against Keith, but once the whistle blows I quickly forget about all that stuff.  It’s a lot different from talking to him before the game to when they toss the ball up to start the game,” chuckled Gifford.

Gifford, however, showed his true colors when he concluded his praise of Guy by saying:  “It is different in coaching against him, —and enjoyable — and I’m really happy for him for the success he has had, but I sure would like to beat him once this year,” laughed Gifford.

Guy is now 2-0 over his former mentor with a 3rd game a distinct possibility— if they can both advance to this weeks district championship game in the Big Red Gymnasium.

Following his one year at MCC, Muskegon Heights came calling and Guy returned to his former high school where he would coach for 12 years, the final nine as the Tiger’s head coach.

Guy had a magnificent run at his alma mater, taking the Tigers to the elite final four in five of those 9 years, twice reaching the state championship game.

My last basketball game I broadcast locally in Muskegon was a regional championship game seven years ago between Muskegon Heights and East Grand Rapids.

The game was tied with about 15 seconds left on the clock in regulation. During a timeout, Guy diagrammed a play he wanted run in the huddle for the Tigers.

When the star player on that Tiger team failed to follow Guy’s directions, putting up a poor shot that sent the game into overtime, Guy put the player on the bench for the ensuing overtime session.

Heights would lose that game, but his steadfast decision solidified my opinion, as well as that of my broadcasting partner and legendary basketball guru Gene Young, that Keith Guy was going to be a great coach.

And he has disappointed no one.

When I asked Keith about his remembrances from that game he answered:  “I learned that decision from the coaches I played under and the coaches I served with that you have to do things the right way.  You have to hold yourself accountable and you have to hold your student athletes accountable.  Your players have to follow directions, and if they don’t, they have to suffer the consequences.”

Today’s players now do it the Guy way, and to say it has worked, is a huge understatement.

His Big Reds open the tourney against the Grand Haven Buccaneers, a very familiar opponent on Monday March 3rd. 

Fortunately for Big Red fans, this game will not be played at the old Grand Haven Pit. But for the first time in history, the district will be hosted at Redmond Potter gymnasium where a full house of Big Red and Grand Haven supporters will raise the roof.

Guy’s thoughts at this time of the year are not just solely focused on his basketball team, but as the athletic director at Muskegon High where he has a multitude of other duties.

First and foremost amongst his current main concerns is finding an opening day opponent for next year’s season opener in football. “That is definitely one of my top priorities and I’m hopeful that we can find an opponent within the next week or so,” added Guy.

Not surprisingly, Guy’s favorite athlete at Muskegon High isn’t one of his current Big Red players, but a player on the Big Reds varsity girl’s team, his daughter Keirra.

And like a typical proud father, Keith likes to sing the praises about his daughter.  “She’s a senior, and its a been a joy watching her play the last couple of years…. It will be sad to see her go as she’s my little girl.”

Guy has been able to watch his daughter in action this season while sitting in the stands accompanied by his wife Kesha and younger sons Christian and Cameron.

When I asked if Keirra was left handed like her dad Keith said “no, she’s right handed— but I tell you what— she can go to her left as well as she can to her right,” boasted Guy the father and not the coach.

The current Big Reds are riding high, one of the top rated teams in the country, with enormous expectations placed on these youngsters to bring home the first basketball state championship at Muskegon High since 1937.

I did not have to ask Keith his thoughts on his two Division I superstars, Deyonta Davis and Deshaun Thrower, as so much has already been mentioned, and deservedly so, on their incredible contributions to this year’s Big Red Team.

But Keith Guy clearly understands it takes more than two players to make a long run in this year’s upcoming tournament. Guy was quick to praise William Roberson, a lightening quick point guard and a left handed sharpshooter.

“He is really tough, can shoot the ball and he is the quarterback on our team. Roberson is the guy who makes sure the engine is running,” replied Guy.

“Then we have Joeviair Kennedy, who I call the X-factor. He is a 6’3 player who plays on the wing and who I feel is also a Division I player.

Jordan Waire is our defensive stopper, one of the best defensive players that I have ever coached.  We put him on the opposing team’s best player and he also can score as well,” Guy replied.

Sounds like the perfect ‘recipe for success’.  But as they often say during those dreaded infomercials on the ‘telly’ (But wait, it gets even better.”) , Jason Loera comes off the bench and does a very nice job for Muskegon as a defender.

“We also have a couple of very good low post guys that come in and give Davis a rest —- Michael Dobson and Jamel French. Dobson is a football guy, who gives us a change of pace from what Davis gives us and French is another player I can count on off the bench who can really pass the ball,” concluded Guy.

Guy has done a great job in perfecting a group of players who have bought into their roles; perhaps the toughest challenge a coach faces at any level.

During my conversation with Keith I asked him if he had any second guesses on leaving his alma mater to take over his pressure packed duo role as a basketball coach and AD at Muskegon.  “I have no seconds thoughts at all. I am really happy I made the move, both for me and my family.” 

In making his decision a little easier, Guy was quick to point out that things are not as they once were at the Heights. 

“Muskegon Heights as a public school is closed. My alma mater no longer exists in my opinion. This is the right move for me, I’m happy to be here and good things are happening. I am blessed to be in this situation,” said Guy near the close of our conversation.

When I asked Guy about these high expectations placed on his Big Red basketball team from our local basketball zealots, Guy responded:  “its good to be in that kind of discussion but as you very well know, everything has to go just right. 

We have to avoid injuries, not have a poor shooting night, and hope that our opponent we’re playing does not have a career night. I realize that on paper we may be as good as anyone but you have to go out and play hard every night and to prepare to play up to our potential.”

If it happens, and the Big Reds accept the championship trophy in East Lansing —- Great! But if there comes a game when the shots don’t fall, or maybe the calls don’t go their way, let’s just remember an old quote from a former British friend of mine: “That its just a game, and not a bloody war.”

In the meantime, Muskegon fans are just elated that Keith Guy is now a Big Red.

jimmoyes@aol.com

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