For 11 years, Fenton has been Tim Olszewski’s basketball home.
But for 48 years, Howell has been Olszewski’s lifetime home.
So when the opportunity to take over the Howell varsity girls basketball coaching position came up, Olszewski knew he had to go back to his roots.
Olszewski, who led the Fenton varsity boys basketball team to five Metro League championships in 11 years, recently resigned his position at Fenton so he could become the Howell varsity girls basketball coach and in the process replace the coach who he considers his mentor, Lee Piepho. Olszewski also teaches at Howell High School and graduated from Howell.
“I’ve taken this job because it holds the possibilities for future advancements,” Olszewski said. “I have had nothing but great experiences at Fenton. I love Fenton. I thought I was going to cry when I told (Fenton athletic director) Mike Bakker. It has nothing to do with anything negative. It was a great job, working for a great AD and a great program.”
For long periods of time, the Tigers were pretty great under Olszewski. He leaves Fenton with a 152-84 record overall and a 126-46 record in Metro League contests. His 126 Metro victories put Olszewski fifth on the all-time Metro varsity boys basketball list. Linden’s Denny Hopkins (238 wins) leads the list while Fenton’s Bob Bruder (210) is third. Fenton captured five straight Metro League crowns from the 2008-09 season through the 2012-13 season. In 2012-13, the Tigers were a perfect 16-0 in Metro games, and came one win against Powers away from a perfect 20-0 regular season overall.
“He was my first hire. I’m happy for Tim,” Bakker said. “He’s worked really hard. Obviously, I’m disapointed for our program because he’s a great guy. He’s a great coach. he’s done a great job and done a lot of good things for our program. ... He helped change the energy level and gave it his heart and soul for 11 years. He will be a difficult person to replace. ... I hate to replace a guy like that, but the reality is you always want people striving for more and that’s what he is doing. If he wants to take a next step for his career professionally, I’m all for that.”
Bakker said Olszewski told him about the resignation on Monday and he received his official resignation on Wednesday. The position will be posted and a committee will be put together in the pursuit for a replacement. Bakker hopes to have a new coach before the school year is up, or at the very latest by the end of June.
In 2012, the Tigers captured their first Class A district title in school history, breaking Clarkston’s 18-year run of district crowns in a 68-66 overtime victory at Swartz Creek High School. It was Fenton’s first district crown at any class level since 1990 and the first one by any Metro squad since Linden won a regional in 1998. Since then, the Metro has enjoyed more success in state tourney action.
“I remember my first year like it happened yesterday,” Olszewski said. “I remember specific plays. … I remember coaching the brothers like Tyler and Kyle Hamilton and having those relationships. I remember the district championship win over Clarkston. I remember looking in the stands and thinking ‘Can you believe this is where we are compared to where we were at?’ I remember conversations with Trevor Kline and Tyler Szczepanski. I remember specific instances with every team over the years. The best memories involve building the relationships I’ve created through the years. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
But, when it comes to memories, one place may be able to surpass Fenton in Olszewski’s mind, and that place is Howell. He played for the Highlanders when he was a student. Olszewski’s first full-time coaching position was as the freshman girls basketball coach. He’s coached girls AAU teams at Howell and then coached JV boys basketball. He eventually became the varsity boys basketball coach as well before moving to Fenton. He’s also been teaching at the high school for 17 years.
“I graduated there, teach there and the reception there has been outstanding, very positive,” Olszewski said. “Just like at Fenton, some of the memories there feel just like yesterday.”
Prior to Olszewski taking the job at Fenton, the Tigers struggled to a 6-15 overall mark and a 2-12 Metro record in 2003-04. Fenton had yet to post a winning Metro League record since winning a league crown during the 1998-99 season. But that first year Olszewski wanted to improve the team’s play and increase excitement into the product, and he quickly did both. The first two seasons he brought an uptempo basketball game to Fenton which drew fans to the games.
“That for sure drew excitement,” Olszewski said. “But after a couple of years we weaned ourselves away from that.”
His second season at Fenton the Tigers jumped to second in the Metro at 10-4, starting a run of 10 straight seasons at .500 or better in Metro action. From the 2008-09 season until the 2012-13 season, the Tigers captured five straight league titles, posting a 95-15 record overall during that period. And while the Tigers haven’t been Metro contenders the last two seasons, the excitement the fans have invested in the program since Olszewski came to Fenton, remains. Arguably the crowds remain the largest and most enthusiastic in the Metro League.
“I hope I treated people respectfully and led our program with class,” Olszewski said. “I wanted the program to be a positive experience for all people involved. That was the goal. There’s a right way and a wrong way and I always wanted to do it the right way.”