By Shawn Liverance
Local Sports Journal
Gene Gifford has come full circle.
In 1974, Gifford began his coaching career as a varsity assistant and head junior varsity coach at Alma.
Gifford then became the freshman basketball coach at Oakridge from 1974-77.
Now, he returns to Oakridge as its new athletic director for the upcoming school year.
“It’s very neat for me to be back in the WMC as I am from Shelby and played in the conference,” Gifford said. “I have many friendships from my playing time still. When I recruited, everybody knew about the WMC. It is a well respected conference.”
Gifford replaces Ray Schueller, who retired after 13 years.
“It is incredible he would want to do this after basically retiring,” Oakridge Superintendent, Tom Livezey said. “He really has come full circle I guess. I joked with him that it should be a fun retirement for him.”
Most recently, Gifford coached the Olivet College men’s basketball team for five seasons. Gifford graduated from Olivet College in 1973.
“Olivet wanted to go in a different direction and I was very fortunate I was offered this positon,” Gifford said. “Oakridge is a solid program and Ray did a great job. They have a great staff and I am looking forward to the change and happy to be back at Oakridge.”
Gifford, a native of Shelby, is no stranger to the Muskegon area.
He coached men’s basketball at Muskegon Community College beginning in 1981 and was the Jayhawks’ athletic director from 1993-2007.
He won more than 400 games for the Jayhawks and was selected as the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Junior College Coach of the Year for the 2002-03 season.
He was the Western Conference coach of the year twice and regional coach of the year once.
His MCC team won the Western Conference title in 1999-2000 and to a runner-up finish in the NJCAA Division II National Championships.
As an athletic director, he was named the Michigan Community College Athletic Association AD of the year 1995-96 and 2006-07.
After leaving Oakridge in 1977, Gifford moved on to become become athletic director and varsity basketball coach at Ravenna High School.
“Gene is very well known in the area,” Livezey said. “We couldn’t be happier having him as our new athletic director. His experience will be invaluable to me and our athletic department.”