By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
Over 30 years.
Five state titles.
Five-hundred-and-four career wins.
And a legion of former players and fans that would walk over fire for him.
Yes, it’s been quite a career for Coach Goorman.
Last year, Jim Goorman, a founding member of the American Youth Basketball Tour was honored with a selection to the Muskegon (MI) Area Sports Hall of Fame (MASHF) for his outstanding tenure as head coach of the Western Michigan Christian varsity boys basketball squad.
The ceremony was held last June at the Muskegon Country Club.
Goorman finished his career at WMC with an astounding overall varsity record of 504-282, capturing state titles in 1992, ’99, 2008, ’09 and 2010 while playing in the state title game a total of eight times. He was just the third coach in school history.
However, in an admission that may surprise some, when Goorman took over the head coaching duties from Elmer Walcott prior to the 1979-80 season, he certainly didn’t envision anything close to a 33-year career.
“I certainly had some big shoes to fill,” said Goorman of Walcott, who, in his own right, won three state titles. “Now, after the state titles and all those wins I can honestly say that when I became head coach I never would have guessed I would have lasted as long.”
A graduate of Holland Christian High School, and then of Calvin College, in his day Goorman was quite the baseball prospect. Eventually, though, he landed at Western Michigan Christian beginning in 1968, teaching physical education and coaching baseball (for 26 years) and JV basketball.
Eleven years later, he began his run as varsity head basketball coach, culminating in a career that arguably can be considered the greatest in Muskegon area basketball coaching history. For example, Goorman finished with 50 more wins than former Muskegon Heights head coach Okie Johnson, who was a member of the inaugural MASHF class.
For his part, Goorman remains humble in that conversation.
“There are so many great coaches in the (MASHF),” he said. “Just to be considered along with all the others is an honor to me. It was a special way to cap of a successful career.”
Never one to sit on his laurels – and frankly while looking for something to do in the summer off season – in the mid-1990s Goorman took over as the director of the North American Youth Basketball organization. Eventually he helped found, with the help of a group of basketball enthusiasts, what has become the AYBT organization.
“What started out as a summertime job became the perfect opportunity to stay involved in basketball and help develop the skills and talents of young basketball players,” said Goorman. “It was a great fit. I’ve enjoyed it very much over the last nearly two decades.”
Goorman said what he loves most about AYBT is the chance to improve the skills of younger players.
“I’ve seen the improvement,” he said. “Now kids in third grade can dribble with both hands, between their legs, behind their backs. The increase in the level of skill between (before AYBT) and now is obvious. We like to think we have something to do with that.”
He added, “We’ve held onto the belief that if we focus on basketball skills, kids will get better and become better players.”
But it isn’t just about skills. Goorman hopes AYBT offers life lessons which extend beyond the individual.
“We’re here to offer more than just players a chance to get better,” he said. “We want to see teams get better. And we hope that playing (in tournaments like AYBT), their commitment to getting better, together, over the summer will pay off later in the season.”
The American Youth Basketball Tour is America’s foremost leader in team basketball skills and character development. For more information on AYBT district tournaments and events, head over to http://test.aybtour.com/.