In Play with Tom Markowski


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Tom Mach retires after 41 seasons as head coach at Detroit Catholic Central

By: Tom Markowski, February 9, 2017, 10:36 pm


Novi – I don’t remember the first time I met and talked with Tom Mach, one on one, but it doesn’t matter. Except for the gray hair we both have, I’m sure it wasn’t that different than the meeting we had the last time we spoke.

Mach is as straightforward as they come. He’s a hometown guy who grew up in Detroit, went to school in the city and played football at Wayne State.

Mach completed his 41st season as the head varsity football coach at Detroit Catholic Central last fall. C.C. lost to Detroit Cass Tech, 49-20, in the Division 1 final on Nov. 26 at Ford Field and who would have guessed that game would be Mach’s last.

Mach, 69, retired on Thursday.

Mach personified the Shamrock football program. Stoic, quiet and competitive, Mach was, above all else, a caring person. He cared about the school. He cared about his coaches. He cared about his players. Most of all he cares about his family, his wife Lynn and their two sons, Mike and Joe. Mike and Joe are members of the varsity coaching staff.

Mach loved coaching. He loved teaching the basics of football, blocking and tackling. He loved the locker room talks and post-game huddles.

He didn’t necessarily love all of the peripheral happenings that have evolved involving the sport and offseason activities.

Summer recruiting and 7-on-7 camps wasn’t Mach’s cup of tea. It’s not that Mach didn’t place value on 7-of-7s and recruiting, he just didn’t think they were as important as other aspects of the sport, such as the comradery that a team develops through time. The relationships made and the discipline acquired trumped the eyeballs summer camps attracted.

There’s the adage that football is the ultimate team sport. Take a hold of that thought and you have a better sense of what made Mach the coach he became.

To gain a better understanding of Mach, the man, the coach, the person he was and is, don’t bother with superlatives or try overanalyze. He had a simple, basic philosophy and that’s to work hard every day and continue to grow, and improve.

Don’t tell him how you might remember a particular game or a running back like Derek Brooks gliding through the line for a 15-yard gain just to prove you’ve followed Catholic Central throughout the years. He’ll see through it.

Ask him intelligent questions. Ask him about his time during the summer with his family at their summer home. Ask him about the senior who struggled as a freshman, who played sparingly on the junior varsity as a sophomore and who made himself into a varsity player who contributed to the success of the team as a senior.

And don’t tell him his teams should have thrown the ball more. Should Ohio State’s teams under Woody Hayes thrown the ball more?

Don’t argue with success. When coaches today tell you that to be successful offensively they have to get the ball in the hands of their best athletes, “in space”, look at how well their teams block and tackle. The best college teams are the ones that block and tackle better than their opponents.

It’s true Mach’s program was not for everyone. Not all good high school basketball players are made to play for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. If the temperature doesn’t suit you, move.

If you wanted to play for a program that competed at the highest level, if you wanted to improve yourself as a person and you wanted to work harder than you ever thought possible, playing for Mach was a great fit.

If you wanted to catch 50 passes in a season, and that was high on your list of priorities, then there were other avenues to pursue.

Mach was not about the final score. He was about was it took, the preparation and adjustments, to finish on top.

He won more than his share of state titles (10) and his 370 career victories has him third on the state’s all-time list behind Al Fracassa of Birmingham Brother Rice and John Herrington of Farmington Hills Harrison.

Here are so more numbers. C.C. was 13-1 last season the Shamrocks competed in the school’s 17th state finals. C.C. also won 17 Catholic League championships under Mach. Mach also taught Heath and Physical Education at the school for 34 years.

During the 2015 season Mach was given another honor. The football field, from that October day forward, would be known as Tom Mach Field.

He’s been inducted into a number of halls of fame and at the top is the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremonies took place in February of 2014 (officially the 2013 class) and Mach rubbed shoulders with the following inductees that year (listed alphabetically), broadcaster and former Michigan lineman Jim Brandstatter, Michigan State football All-America and Detroit Lion Dorne Dibble, Detroit Lion place kicker Jason Hanson, soccer star Alexi Lalas, who played at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Alexi Lalas, Detroit Red Wing and 12-time all-star Nicklas Lidstrom, Cy Young award winner John Smoltz of Lansing Waverly and Michigan State All-America linebacker Percy Snow.

Mach was humbled and overwhelmed by the honor. He wondered out loud whether he belonged on this impressive list.

Oh yes, Tom, you belong.