By VINCE PELUSO
Following a successful five-season stint that included a Northeastern Athletic Conference title and a sectional championship, Grand Valley boys basketball coach Luke Strohm has decided to step down to focus on his family and health.
“It was my decision, it’s something I’ve been wrestling with lately,” he said. “The time commitment is a lot and my kids are starting to get into all kinds of things like soccer, dance, karate. I want to be there for that.”
This past season was particularly difficult for multiple reasons for Strohm.
The Mustangs were decimated by graduation and only managed to go 4-19.
This, coming off two previous winning seasons including the NAC and Division III sectional title in 2010-11.
“It was tough,” Strohm admitted of the season. “I think expectation-wise we didn’t quite meet where I thought we’d be, however by the time we got to the end and look back on where we started and where we finished, we showed progress and growth.
“I don’t think you can always define success based on wins and losses. At the end of the day it’s high school basketball, it’s an extension of the classroom so I think progress is where you measure a season. By the end I think we showed a lot of progress from where we first started.”
While the Mustangs struggled on the court, Strohm struggled off it with what he thought was a heart problem.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case as his doctors informed that he was simply experiencing stress and needed to make some changes to his life.
“It’s been a lot of stress and it’s taken a toll on me,” he said of coaching. “I was worried I was having a heart issue, luckily I didn’t. But I had dizzy spells and some other issues and it was mostly related to stress and anxiety.
“So, my doctor recommended I make some changes.”
All told, Strohm racked up a 58-50 (.537) record while leading the Mustangs.
He said he’s pleased with what he and his teams accomplished.
“I’m certainly proud of the things we were able to accomplish and that I was proud to coach each and every boy I had, even the current group,” he said. “I feel bad... I told them the same thing I say to all my guys at the end of the season — if you ever need anything, even beyond graduation, don’t ever hesitate to call, text, email, whatever.
“I just told them to let me know, if they need help with anything I’m still here.”
Strohm said there was no particular moment that sticks out above the rest during his time with the Mustangs, but admitted even some of the big moments during this current four-win season were as memorable as the ones during his winning seasons.
“There’s nothing particular, obviously two years ago winning the conference and sectional, those are things that I will always carry,” he said. “Every bit is special though. This season with Kyle Orgovan’s last second shot to win against Badger and even the second Badger game, that may have been the best we played all season.
“Then the Bristol game, where the kids gave everything they had, all their heart. Even those are maybe more so memorable than winning the conference and winning the sectional.”
Despite the struggles, Strohm believes the Mustangs have a bright future ahead with the current foundation they have.
“There’s a lot of youthful guys,” he said. “And the guys that are going to be seniors next year like Jake Vormelker, Ray Marsch and Chandler Verhas, those guys have been around. They know what they are doing and they have some leadership to them that the younger guys can follow.”
Strohm said his two children — Roman (7 years old) and Pipe (4) — are excited to have their dad home more now.
“Oh yeah, the kids are real excited,” he said. “They’re starting to get into all kinds of stuff. We just had swimming lessons this afternoon. I don’t want to miss that stuff.”
Overall, Strohm said the experience at Grand Valley was a positive one.
“Absolutely, I will always look back on it fondly,” he said. “With anything in life there’s going to be disappointments but also found memories. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Unfortunately, for me and my personal life, it got to the point where the negatives of coaching began to outweigh the positives and I couldn’t give those guys as much of myself that they deserve. And I won’t let them down.”
For the foreseeable future Strohm doesn’t see himself returning to coaching.
But, never say never.
“That’s difficult to say, do I see myself getting back into it? No, not necessarily with the parts of my personal life I need to attend to and my personal goals,” he said. “But, life is long. You never know 10 years down the road what could happen. I’ll never say never.”