BOYS BASKETBALL: Clarkston legend Fife logs win No. 600, tacks on another accomplishment in storied career on the sidelines
FARMINGTON HILLS – Dan Fife reached a pretty astounding plateau in the coaching profession Wednesday night, winning the 600th game of his 32-year career on the bench, with the Wolves 47-39 overtime upending of OAA Red rival North Farmington on the road.
He is only the eighth boys high school hoops coach in state history to rack-up 600 wins or more (tenth if you count Birmingham Roeper’s Ernie Righetti and Auburn Hills Oakland Christian’s Ed Mehlberg, each owners of over 700 total victories in between coaching their respective schools’ boys and girls teams).
"I don’t think so much of the number, but of all the great kids, great families and what a great community that Clarkston is and how much everyone has always supported me and my family, so in terms of that it’s special and something you really appreciate," said Fife of the feat.
Clarkston is 14-3 and ranked No. 7 in the state in Class A. The Wolves are in first place in the race for the league title with a week to play in the regular season.
Fife, who has been roaming the local prep sidelines since 1982, has coached his Clarkston squad to a wow-inducing seven straight OAA Red crowns and 10 of the last 11 league championship. Between 1994 and 2011, he took the team to a near-impossible 18 consecutive district titles.
If the Wolves garner the Red title next week, it will be eight championship-banners in a row in what is generally considered the top public school suburban league in Metro Detroit.
In his three decades-plus at the helm of the Clarkston program Fife has built the Wolves into a year-in and year-out state power.
Born and raised in Clarkston, Fife is unquestionably the town’s “favorite son.”
He was a three-sport star with the Wolves in the 1960s, quarterbacking the football team and earning all-state honors as a point guard on the basketball squad and as an ace pitcher on the baseball diamond.
Playing basketball and baseball in college at the University of Michigan, Fife was a team captain and all-around rock-steady presence on the hardwood (career averages of 13 points, five assists and five rebounds per game) and a reliable righty hurler while toeing the slab on the mound.
After his college days were over, Fife pitched in the Major Leagues with the Minnesota Twins and in the Detroit Tigers’ minors-system, before returning to Ann Arbor and becoming an assistant coach under Johnny Orr (earning a NCAA Final Four ring on Michigan’s 1976 team).
Coming home to Clarkston in the early 1980s, he was an assistant on the Wolves’ 1980 final four club and assumed the reins two years later.
During his tenure, Fife has gotten the opportunity to coach all three of his sons; Dugan (’92), Jeremy (’95) and Dane (’98).
Both Dugan and Dane were team captains in the Big Ten, as Dugan followed in his dad’s footsteps and played at Michigan and Dane, a McDonald’s All-American and the state’s Mr. Basketball Award-winner as a senior with Clarkston, was a four-year starter at Indiana. Dugan and Dane each played in NCAA Championship Games in their collegiate careers.
"Being able to come back to where you were brought up and then coach and coach your own kids are things that I always wanted to do," the elder Fife said. "I’ve gotten to do that. I’m extremely fortunate in that regard and now to see them become fathers, you cherish it even more."
Dane is currently an assistant coach under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, a mere three years removed from being the youngest Division I college men’s basketball coach in the country at IUPU-Fort Wayne.