By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – After serving for three years as varsity boys basketball coach at Mona Shores High School, Gene Gifford is heading back to the college ranks.LSJ Logo incert

Gifford confirmed on Monday that he has accepted a position as an assistant men’s basketball coach at Aquinas College, where he will work under interim men’s basketball coach Ryan Bertoia.

Gene Gifford

Gene Gifford will coach at Aquinas College this season.

Bertoia has been running the program since September, when the former men’s basketball coach, Dave Hammer, announced his retirement.

Bertoia was previously an assistant coach under Gifford at Muskegon Community College and Olivet College.

“Early in September Dave Hammer resigned (as head coach at Aquinas) and they named Ryan to be the interim coach for the year,” Gifford said. “He contacted me about being his assistant. We’re very, very close. We developed a very good relationship during our time working together.

“I thought it was a good opportunity for me to get back to the college game and work with somebody I’m close to. It wasn’t anything I went looking for. The situation just arose.”

Gifford was the men’s basketball coach at Muskegon Community College from 1981-2007 and the head coach at Olivet College from 2007-2012. He was also the athletic director at MCC for 14 years.

Gifford said he will maintain his job as part-time athletic director at Oakridge High School.

“It was a tough decision (to leave Mona Shores)” Gifford said. “It took me a couple of weeks to decide. I enjoyed my three years at Mona Shores and the people I worked with and the kids. This was just something I really wanted to do at this time.”

Mona Shores Athletic Director Ryan Portenga said he will recommend a candidate to fill the boys basketball coaching vacancy this week. The candidate will require the final approval of the school board.