After three successful years, MCC Coach Lamar Jordan and his son are making their final tournament run together

By Steve Gunn
LocalSportsJournal.com

MUSKEGON – The “Jordan and Jordan” era is nearing an end at Muskegon Catholic.

Lamar Jordan became the head varsity basketball coach in 2012. His son, Lamar Jordan III, joined the varsity as a sophomore the same year.

MCC Coach Lamar Jordan, right, and his son Lamar Jordan III. Photo/Jason Goorman

MCC Coach Lamar Jordan, right, and his son Lamar Jordan III. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Crusaders have accomplished a great deal since then, particularly in the past few weeks.

On March 5, Jordan, Jordan and the rest of the Crusaders beat Spring Lake to clinch the first boys basketball conference championship in school history.

Last Friday MCC won its fifth consecutive Class D district championship, and the third in a row with Coach Jordan at the helm and his son in the lineup.

But Coach Jordan’s Crusaders still haven’t won a regional trophy to add to the school’s collection. Two years ago MCC fell in overtime to Tri-Unity in the regional finals, and last year lost to Fulton in the first round.

The Crusaders (16-6) will have a rematch with Fulton in the Class D regional opener Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Big Rapids Crossroads High School. If they win they will advance to Wednesday’s finals.

But this time the stakes will be a little higher, because there is no next year for the Jordans. Lamar Jordan III is a senior, so the Crusaders’ next loss will mark the end of his time playing for his dad.

Neither Jordan is eager for that day to arrive.

‘Soaking it all in’

The Jordans’ three years together at MCC were not the beginning of their coach-player relationship.

“I’ve been coaching him in football and basketball since he was about four years old,” Coach Jordan said. “He’s always been into sports and he’s always been pretty good at sports. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’ve tried to push him as hard as possible to be successful, not only in football and basketball, but in life in general.

“Looking back to 2005 when I first came here, my ultimate goal was always to eventually become a head varsity coach, and then to have three years with my son on the team has been really enjoyable.”

Lamar III admits there are times when he and his father “butt heads,” but said it’s been a special time that he wants to extend as long as possible.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Lamar III, who will study and play football at the University of St. Francis in Illinois in the fall. “We’re always around each other. Spending that 2 to 2 1/2 hours together in the gym each day has brought us closer together. Even at home it’s brought us closer together.

“I want to play for my dad as long as possible. It’s been fun. We’ve had our good times and bad times but I really want to keep it going.”

While being a coach’s son can be challenging, Lamar III has clearly benefitted from his father’s mentoring. He’s become a major contributor for the Crusaders on the court, with his outstanding defensive play and ability to score key points when necessary.

This season he’s averaging a very solid nine points, six rebounds, four steals and four assists per game.

Lamar III has also become a leader, to the point where it’s almost like the Crusaders have a second coach on the court.

“In the earlier years, when he was a sophomore on varsity, I was coaching him a lot off the court,” Coach Jordan said. “There were times when he was not able to handle himself in the proper way on the floor. This year we haven’t talked a great deal about what he does right or wrong in a game. He already knows.

“He’s grown up so much, not only with the way he plays, but as a vocal leader. The other coaches and I call him the glue that holds our team together. There were times over this past season when he was sick and the team didn’t play as well.”

Lamar III, a team co-captain, admits he has learned a lot from his father.

“I really struggled at first when I came up to varsity, and it’s been a big learning experience, but it’s come to the point where I think I’ve become a leader,” he said. “I’ve noticed that during games most of the time (the coach) doesn’t have to call plays because we already know what to do. We end up calling the plays ourselves. It just came down to me learning a lot and soaking it all in.”

A league title and beyond…

Perhaps the Jordans’ most thrilling basketball moment came on March 5, when Lamar III played a starring role in helping his dad capture his first conference title as a coach.

Muskegon Catholic played Spring Lake in the final game of the regular season, with the teams tied for first place in the Lakes 8 Conference.

MCC trailed by three points with about seven seconds left when Lamar III took a pass and tried to launch a 3-point shot. He was fouled on the play and went to the line to shoot three, with the conference season resting on his shoulders.

He made the first two, putting the Crusaders back in the game. Spring Lake called time out before his third shot, and he ended up missing it. But MCC got the rebound and Christian Martinez hit a buzzer-beating jumper to seal the first league boys basketball championship in school history.

“I think any high school kid would probably have been pretty nervous, but all season I had a pretty good free throw percentage so I was pretty confident I could make at least one,” Lamar III said. “I don’t even know how to explain it. It was one of the biggest games I’ve ever been part of.”

The coach wanted his son to have the game on his back at the end.

“(Lamar) was the person I wanted at the line at that moment,” Coach Jordan said. “We drew that play up specifically for him to take that (3-point) shot. He looked confident on the first free throw and he made it. On the second one I think God may have helped us a little bit and got that one in there it hit the back of the rim and just kind of dropped in.

“I told the kids to crash the boards really, really hard if he missed. We did, we got some tips, Christian got the ball and put it in. To win a game like that for the champiopnship just showed the desire and determination the kids have.”

Both Jordans agree that this year’s MCC squad is the deepest, most balanced and hardest working of the past three years. They both hope the team has what it takes to make a long tournament run.

As Coach Jordan put it, “Everybody on our roster is capable of putting up big numbers on any given night – there’s no one person the other team can key on. This has been one of my most enjoyable years. I don’t have to try to get kids to play hard, because they always play hard.”

But the coach has learned that the end can come in any game at tournament time, so it’s wise not to look too far ahead.

“I talked to the kids and told them to enjoy the present,” he said. “I remember the first year we won districts, I didn’t really enjoy it because I was already looking ahead to figure out how to win regionals.

“I found out you have to enjoy the moment, because anything can happen at any time. I’m trying to enjoy every game and every moment we have.”

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