Mike Ahrens Returns to Manchester, Leads Varsity Basketball Program

Left to right: Dennis Springs, Boo Jackson, Coach Mike Ahrens, Jared Bledsoe. The Holland Blast, IBL, 2009. Photo provided by Mike Ahrens.

By Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

This offseason the Manchester athletic program was looking for a new basketball coach after former head coach Jacob Cousino stepped down mid-season due to personal reasons. Junior varsity head coach Will Bennett finished out the year as varsity head coach and Manchester finished 7-14 (5-10).

On July 1 Mike Ahrens officially took over as the head coach of the Manchester Flying Dutchmen Varsity Basketball program.

“He has a lot of history and tradition as far as understanding the game,” said Athletic Director Lavell Blanchard on Ahrens hire. “Knowledge and coaching experience.  He coached on the west side of the state for a while. There were a lot of great candidates but that was the person we thought would be the best.”

It came down to three candidates, but the hiring committee chose Ahrens, the 67-year old Manchester high school class of 1969 alum.

After moving back to Ann Arbor a few years ago to be closer to family, Ahrens heard about the head coaching vacancy from a friend of a friend. He didn’t even want a head coaching position, he was looking for an assistant coaching position because of the time and commitment a head coaching job entails, but the job being at Manchester was different.

“Manchester is my alma mater,” said Ahrens. “If it wasn’t for Manchester I probably wouldn’t have went on and been an educator and coach for 40 years. A couple of my past coaches were role models for me, that was the beginning of my career.”

Ahrens, now living in Ann Arbor, told The Sun Times he’s missed the game and being a head coach. He was last on the sideline as a varsity assistant for Mike Lovelace at Ann Arbor Skyline during the 2014-15 season.

“Oh yeah, a lot of people ask why,” Ahrens told The Sun Times on his return to coaching after three years. “It’s hard to explain. The older you get the more important it is to be in a comfortable environment. Going in I knew it would be comfortable.”

His resume speaks for itself, with over 250 career victories from the junior high level to the professional ranks. Ahrens, a Basketball Coaches of Michigan (BCAM) Mentor Coach, started his coaching career in 1975 with the girls’ varsity basketball team at Belleville.

His first teaching/coaching job was the next year coaching junior high basketball at Cass City Schools. Ahrens retired from teaching in 2014.

His coaching career took him around Michigan in various roles at the prep, college, and professional level. This will be his eighth stint as a head coach.

From an assistant, recruiter, and academic advisor at Adrian college in 1982 to being  the head coach of the Holland Blast of the International Basketball league in 2005, he served at just about every level on a team on the way.

Although Manchester only holds one state title in basketball, a magical run by the 2013 girls team, Ahrens is no stranger to building programs.

“Altogether (I’ve been a head coach at) seven high schools,” said Ahrens. “All of them were building programs. Every season except for one, the win loss record got better and better. That gave me confidence I was doing the right things as a coach.”

Ahrens cites the job at Cass City as one that started to put him on the path that led him to where he is today. Ron Nurnberger, the varsity coach at the time and one of Ahrens top basketball mentors, hired him as a middle school coach.

After three years, Ahrens said that Nurnberger jokingly said ‘coach, if you’re waiting for me to leave, I’m not leaving.’ He said ‘I think you’re ready for a varsity job,’

“That gave me a lot of confidence,” said Ahrens.

Ahrens told The Sun Times his coaching philosophy is based on his personality, experience and beliefs. He believes that leadership, focus on fundamentals, emphasis on defensive pressure, player development, discipline, and team culture are essential when striving for success.

“While building a program it is paramount to achieve success, teaching life skills to student athletes is a top priority of utmost importance,” said Ahrens.

Manchester opens the season on Nov. 27 at Clinton.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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