One family, two district titles
REED CITY — Coach Kevin Dillard was riding home with his Baldwin boys basketball players Friday night after claiming the Panthers’ third straight district trophy.
While he was a proud coach, Dillard also had reason to be a proud parent.
He showed his Baldwin players a picture on his phone of his son, Mykel, holding the district championship trophy won by another team the Reed City Coyotes.
While Kevin Dillard has been coaching his first varsity season at Baldwin, Mykel has been a varsity rookie for Reed City.
Baldwin was at Mason County Eastern scoring a 48-38 threepeat Class D district title win over Brethren. Approximately 100 miles to the east, Mykel’s Reed City team was defeating Big Rapids 54-44 for the Coyotes’ first Class B district title in 22 seasons.
“I said to him ‘I’m so proud of you,” Kevin recalled. “One of their kids parents sent me a picture and it said ‘we won dad,’ and it had him holding the trophy. I shared his picture with my team and said ‘my son won, my son won.’ I called him as soon as I got on the bus.”
Baldwin and Reed City won their respective district titles at just about the same time.
It wasn’t easy being a basketball parent this winter for Kevin Dillard, who said his schedule frequently conflicted with his son’s. He watched seven Reed City games, most recently a regular-season final victory over Manistee. Mykel watched about five of his dad’s games.
While Baldwin had to hold back a talented Brethren team for the third straight time, Reed City was battling arch-rival Big Rapids after both they had split during the regular season.
For Mykel and his Reed City teammates, it was an emotional time in Clare.
“We didn’t start off that good,” he said. “We had to pick it up. We started having great intensity and it was fun out there.”
Kevin coached his son in fourth- and fifth-grade basketball at White Cloud. Kevin is a 1989 graduate of Baldwin High School, where he played basketball. Ira Sharber, currently Kevin’s assistant, was Dillard’s coach as a player.
Dillard was most recently Baldwin junior varsity boys basketball coach through the 2009-13 season. But he had no plans on coaching this season until late November when the Panthers’ position suddenly opened the first week of practice.
While Kevin was eager to try leading a talented Baldwin team to another banner season, he also had to amend his schedule, which would mean watching fewer of his son’s games.
“It was challenging because I wanted to be there and watch him play,” Kevin said. “I asked him if it was OK for me to coach because I didn’t want to miss (any) of his games. He said it’s all right because ‘dad you can watch me online.’ As the season went on, I was able to catch some of his games. It’s better in person than to watch him online.”
Kevin works at Eagle Village and lives in Reed City. Mykel, a junior, has been in the Reed City basketball program since sixth grade.
“I haven’t been able to work with him a lot,” Kevin said. “I give him a lot of advice and help him with his game. The most thing I try to do is give him insights of the game. For his first district game, I told him to play like he’s in the 12th grade like it’s your last game and how would you feel if you’re a senior playing your last game.”
Mykel, as a basketball player compared to his dad, “has his own style,” Kevin said. “He listens to me a lot more than I think he does. I think he’s trying to learn his own way. He still wants to be a great player.”
Both teams lost on Monday in regional semifinal action. Reed City fell 53-50 to Cadillac and Baldwin lost 59-49 to Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.
But it was still a memorable season for the Dillards.
Mykel recalls the season opener against Cadillac when the Coyotes struggled in a 52-38 loss.
“We all had nerves because it was all mostly juniors on the team.” he said. “(Cadillac) had great defense. They’re a great defensive team.”
He had a high game of 22 points and averaged around 13 points a game. But Mykel won’t soon forget the dramatic district title win over Big Rapids.
“It was a great game,” he said. “It was real intense and the crowd was noisy. It was a great atmosphere.”
“We were both going for the same title and trying to win a district,” Kevin said. “That was an awesome thing to see both of us win it at the same time. “