2017-05-18 / Sports

Lakers coach calls it quits after 92 seasons

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

PAUL CHRISTIANSEN has stepped down as Glen Lake’s girls golf coach, ending an impressive coaching career that spanned 92 seasons. Photo: Don Miller PAUL CHRISTIANSEN has stepped down as Glen Lake’s girls golf coach, ending an impressive coaching career that spanned 92 seasons. Photo: Don Miller At first, the addition of Paul Christiansen to the Glen Lake basketball program was anything but a welcome sight in the eyes of Don Miller.

“He walked into my life in 1973,” Miller said. “I was told he would be my JV coach and I was angry I couldn’t pick my own. It didn’t take me long to realize how lucky I was.”

The rest is history.

Miller and Christiansen guided the Glen Lake boys to a state title in 1977, marking the first major accomplishment of two hall-of-fame careers.

At long last, however, one of those careers has come to a close.

Christiansen recently informed the Glen Lake Board of Education of his decision to step down as girls golf coach—capping a 92-season coaching marathon with the district.

“It was time,” said Christiansen, who is spending this week with his family in Puerto Rico. “I’m not calling it retirement; I call it resigning. There’s a couple of sports I haven’t coached yet, so who knows.”

Christiansen spent 40 seasons as a track coach, 25 seasons as a JV basketball coach, about 14 seasons as a middle school basketball coach and seven seasons as a girls golf coach. The rest were spent as a football coach and middle school girls basketball coach— not to mention “three or four years” as the Glen Lake athletic director.

He led the Glen Lake girls to a 2002 state track championship, landed MITCA Division IV Coach of the Year and all-class MHSCA Coach of the Year honors in 2003, and has since made his way into the MITCA Hall of Fame and BCAM Hall of Honor.

“Every season brought something unique, fun or exciting,” he said. “Some of the greatest moments were in track when someone would have the performance of their life. To witness that, to see their joy, was just great.”

Christiansen couldn’t single out the most memorable moment of his career but said nothing beat coaching his three daughters: Katie, Abbie and Lily.

“It allowed me to spend more time with them,” he said, adding that he coached all three in a state final.

Other accolades, milestones and records have begun to blend together over the years, although the more recent memories seem to stand out.

Last fall, for example, he saw Nichole Cox win her third straight Division 4 state golf championship.

“She took me along for the ride, and it was a lot of fun,” Christiansen said.

He may go out a winner, but he still remembers the challenging seasons.

For example, he claims to hold the distinction as the losingest head football coach in Glen Lake history.

“We went 0-5,” he said of the 1974- 75 campaign, his only season as head football coach. “It was an abbreviated season because the millage went down. The school board decided no money, no millage, so no extracurricular sports. We had one practice. Thirty days later, the millage passed. We started football the next day. I felt so bad for the seniors. There were some talented kids on that team and they would have won a bunch of games.”

Glen Lake was later credited with one win when a Suttons Bay player was ruled ineligible after the fact.

“I don’t quite count that,” Christiansen said with a laugh.

He said he owes a big “thank you” to his wife, Joie Christiansen, for letting him coach so many seasons, especially those that left her at home with three daughters under the age of 5.

Through it all, however, Christiansen somehow managed to put family first.

“I’m biased. He’s my best friend, but he’s just one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of people that has an amazing capacity to serve,” Miller said. “If you’re with him, he’s always taking care of something for someone else.

“It’s been amazing to watch.”

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