By Jim Newell
Review Staff Writer
The Lake Orion school district named Kevin Kopec as the new varsity girls basketball coach at the end of September, and he’s a name that should be familiar to students and residents.
Kopec has been at the high school since 2002, teaching social studies and American Government. He’s also been the junior varsity girls basketball coach from 2003-16.
As the girls JV coach, Kopec’s 2005 team went 19-0 and the 2007-08 team went 20-0. Last season the team was 19-1. In the 13 years he’s coached girls JV, Kopec’s overall record is 189-67.
Before the sports seasons were realigned, Kopec was the assistant coach for the freshman boys basketball team from 2002-04 and the head coach from 2004-06.
So when he joined the district and a coaching opportunity came along, it seemed natural to Kopec to tie together his love of sports and working with student-athletes.
“Obviously I love the game,” Kopec said. “When I got my job at Lake Orion I wanted to get involved.”
Kopec notes that boys varsity coach Jim Manzo and former girls varsity coach Steve Roberts, whom he’s replacing, provided valuable mentorship when he first arrived at Lake Orion.
“Jim was great to me, one of the two mentors who helped me early on,” Kopec said. “Both of them took a shot on a guy who loved the game. I do feel like I’m ready to take this step and see how the kids grow as we go.”
Zac Abeel, a teacher at Waldon Middle School in the Lake Orion district who played basketball in Traverse City, will be Kopec’s assistant coach.
“I’m just really excited both about the opportunity and the challenge,” Kopec said. “We have a young team, but we have a really talented team.”
The Lady Dragons varsity team competes in the OAA White Division, tying for second place last year.
“Our district is very competitive; several teams can compete in districts. We have to play well and we have to play smart. It’s going to be on us to show up and work hard,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s overly ambitious to say we want to win this league (OAA White),” Kopec said. “A long-term goal would be we want to be up in that (OAA) Red Division. That’s my long-term goal: to build a consistent winning program that can compete at the highest level.”
Kopec should know, since he’s coached the players during their JV years. He’s also had two undefeated seasons as the girls JV coach.
“I’m very familiar with the players and that’s one of the great things about the transition – I know where we’re at. I’m excited to be getting started here in about a month,” he said.
“If we want to be as competitive as I’d like us to be, we have to put in the time. This is a tough league,” he said, adding he sees Bloomfield Hills as one of the toughest opponents to contend with in the upcoming season. “They have a good team returning. They have the most experience.”
“Our number one goal is to make basketball a great experience, make it fun for our team,” Kopec said. “We want them to have such a fun experience that they’re going to say ‘I can’t wait to play basketball.’”
Kopec graduated from Western Michigan University in 2001. He earned his master of arts degree from Michigan State University in 2006. He lives in Oxford with his family.