Longtime Kalamazoo Valley coach Ron Welch heading to BCAM Hall of Fame – MLive.com

Posted: October 12, 2019 at 10:44 am


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KALAMAZOO, MI - Ron Welch started his coaching career with Brown Citys seventh and eighth grade boys basketball team in 1964, and after five decades around the game, theres hardly anything that surprises him anymore.

But he couldn't help but be taken aback when he learned earlier this year that he'd be joining the likes of John Beilein, Jud Heathcote and a personal hero of his -- Tom Izzo -- in the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan's Hall of Fame.

The Southwest Michigan coaching legend and longtime leader of the Kalamazoo Valley Community College womens hoops team is part of BCAMs four-member 2019 induction class, which also includes current Hudsonville Unity Christian boys basketball coach Scott Soodsma, current Clinton Township Chippewa Valley boys basketball coach Kevin Voss and former Cornerstone University mens basketball coach Kim Elders.

Also joining Welch at the ceremony is Ron Boven, a middle school basketball coach at Mattawan since 1974, who is being inducted into the BCAM Hall of Honor.

The induction ceremony begins 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Auburn Hills Marriot Pontiac's banquet room.

"Well, I was a little stunned to start with, but that kind of turned into gratefulness and thankfulness and just generally got me thinking about all the people that had a hand in getting me there," Welch said of the his hall of fame honor. "I've had some terrific players, and the bottom line is this is a wonderful, wonderful recognition, but it doesn't happen without having those good players that you've built relationships with and many of whom I still talk to. It's pretty special."

KALAMAZOO GAZETTE

KVCC women's basketball Head Coach Ron Welch huddles up with his players before his last game after 20 years of coaching at KVCC in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Monday February 23, 2015. (Christian Randolph/Kalamazoo Gazette)

Welch said he first got the spark to start coaching when his own high school hoops coach -- Brown Citys Lee Noftz -- hired him fresh out of college to be the middle school coach at his alma mater in Michigans Thumb region.

From there, he went on to coach middle school girls basketball teams at St. Joseph Parish in Kalamazoo, before taking his first high school job as the junior varsity coach at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central.

Welch was promoted to lead the girls varsity program at Hackett, before getting his first shot at leading a college program at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo.

When Nazareth closed in 1992, Welch found himself out of a job, until Comstock athletic director Fred Smith offered him a job as the Colts girls junior varsity coach.

It was during his time at Comstock that Welch got to know Kalamazoo Valley athletic director Dick Shilts, who brought the now veteran coach into the Cougars family as a volunteer assistant on the women's basketball team.

One year later, Welch became the head coach of the Cougars' women's team, all while balancing varsity coaching duties at Comstock.

He continued to coach high school girls in the fall and junior college women in the winter for several years, before shifting his focus solely to Kalamazoo Valley.

Patrick Nothaft | MLive.com

KVCC women's basketball coach Ron Welch (right) and assistant coach Maureen Brown get a dousing from their team as part of a cold-water challenge benefitting the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. (Patrick Nothaft | MLive.com)

It turned out to be a wise choice for both Welch and the Cougars program, which went on to enjoy one of its most successful stretches, including a 29-game winning streak, a national No. 1 ranking and two trips to the National Junior College Athletic Association's Final Four.

"That was a great group of players, and you don't win 29 in a row without them, but they were also great people," Welch said of his time at Kalamazoo Valley. "We never quite got that cherry of a national championship, but we enjoyed tremendous success."

Welch retired from Kalamazoo Valley in 2015 after 21 seasons with the Cougars and watched his daughter Maureen, a former KVCC player and assistant coach, take over the program Welch brought to national relevance.

KALAMAZOO GAZETTE

KVCC women's basketball Head Coach Ron Welch is honored before his last game after 20 years of coaching at KVCC in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Monday February 23, 2015. (Christian Randolph/Kalamazoo Gazette) KALAMAZOO GAZETTE

He was inducted into both the NJCAA Hall of Fame and the Kalamazoo Hackett Hall of Fame in 2016, but he said the BCAM honor has a different type of significance for him because the nominations and voting are done by current and former coaches that have spent a lot of time in his shoes.

This one is pretty special because its being recognized by your peers, not someone elses opinion of what youve done, he said. "Not to down play the other ones, but that probably makes it the most special.

"A hero of mine, Tom Izzo, is in the same hall of fame, and he's a guy that in many ways I've patterned my programs after, obviously at a very different left, but I've had some success because of that."

Even after he retired from Kalamazoo Valley, Welch stayed involved in coaching, serving as an assistant under his son-in-law, Jesse Brown, on the Kalamazoo United high school football staff and helping his daughter, Maureen Brown, when she took over the Kalamazoo Hackett girls hoops head coaching job in 2017.

This winter is the first season Welch won't find himself courtside in a folding chair, and looking back on his five-decade run as a coach, he said it was never just about the game; it was also about helping his players reach their potential off the court.

Coaching basketball isnt just about basketball, its about teaching life skills and growing young men and women of character, and I feel weve done that along the way, he said. Im proud of the young men and women, whose lives Ive had the opportunity to touch in what was, up until last year, a 47-year journey of coaching.

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Longtime Kalamazoo Valley coach Ron Welch heading to BCAM Hall of Fame - MLive.com

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October 12th, 2019 at 10:44 am

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