Hoops tourney supports new scholarship

The inaugural Richard Olds Roundball Classic was held on Feb. 26-27 at Mountaineer Gym. The championship team consisted of, from left, Kyle Johnson, Richard Olds, Marcus Johnson, Pat Flood, Garret O’Neil; (back) Adam Nolde, Kyle Monroe, Justin Bloniarz, Bryce Bilski and Dawson Bilski. The tournament is planned to run annually with proceeds going to the Richard Olds Basketball Dedication Scholarship.

IRON MOUNTAIN — For decades there have been men’s basketball tournaments across the U.P.

Those who either have played in the events or who know the circuit throughout the years can name the locales — Negaunee, Carney, Hermansville jump to mind quickly. There were and are several others.

Despite being a basketball-rich community, Iron Mountain was a noticeable absence on the circuit. But that may change. On Feb. 26 and 27, Iron Mountain High School was the site of the inaugural Richard Olds Roundball Classic, named for the venerable Mountaineer coach.

Proceeds from the tournament are going toward the establishment of the Richard Olds Basketball Dedication Scholarship to be awarded to Iron Mountain High School basketball players, both boys and girls, who have dedicated their high school years to the sport.

Current Iron Mountain boys varsity basketball coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson said the exact criteria for scholarship recipients has not yet been completely established, but dedication to the game is at the core.

“We want to give it to a student who played basketball for four years,” said Johnson, Olds’ son-in-law. “And they don’t necessarily have to be the star pursuing a college career in basketball but that might play a factor. It’s going to be a basketball dedication scholarship.”

“Basically that was Bucky’s decision, and I fully agreed,” Olds added. “It should go to someone who has dedicated him or herself to the sport from the ground up.”

Olds, who is originally from Marquette, has put a lifetime of work into the Mountaineer basketball program and the district’s physical education program. He taught elementary physical education for 30 years — Iron Mountain legends Tom Izzo and Steve Mariucci were fifth-grade students of Olds — and has been involved with the Iron Mountain High School basketball program for decades.

“Back then when you were hired as a P.E. teacher, you were expected to coach,” Olds said.

Olds coached the Mountaineers’ freshmen and junior varsity teams in the 70s and became the varsity coach for the 1979-80 season. He remained the leader of the program through the 1996 campaign, retiring from teaching after the school year.

Though he ended up at the top of the Mountaineers’ program, Olds always enjoyed working with the younger players. And still does as he works with elementary school-aged players on Saturday mornings during the season.

Current IM coach Harvey “Bucky” Johnson’s sons Kyle and Marcus came up with the idea for the scholarship tournament.

“Marcus and Kyle have played in men’s league tournaments in Carney, Powers, Ishpeming, Negaunee,” Coach Johnson said. “And they were like, ‘Can we have one in Iron Mountain?’ And I said, ‘Well, we’ve always talked about starting one in the name of your grandfather and we talked about it like three years ago before COVID-19 hit and then we just kind of got away from it.

“And so then this year, they played in one of the Carney Earlybird tournaments and that kind of started the idea again and I checked with the school … and we got the gym reserved.”

Nine teams from across the U.P. participated in the Class A-level double-elimination tournament. The tournament was won by a team which included Kyle and Marcus Johnson, along with recent Michigan Tech stars, Huskies’ all-time leading scorer Kyle Monroe, and former North Central star Dawson Bilski.

Ten games were played on Saturday and six more on Sunday.

Current Iron Mountain High School players volunteered to run the clock, keep the scorebook, take tickets and run the concession stands.

Local referees joined the effort as well.

“I want to thank the officials because that’s critical,” Johnson said. “They kept things running smoothly.”

The tournament was sponsored by Iron Mountain Basketball and Friends, as well as four local businesses.

Johnson said the proceeds amounted to enough to award the scholarship this year, though the process involving the school’s scholarship committee will have to be completed.

The plan is for the tournament to be an annual event and the scholarship to be ongoing.

“We want to try to build it up to being a perpetual scholarship,” Johnson explained. “Meaning (the winner) will get $500 a year for four years. Or we want to give it out to a male and a female every year and then it wouldn’t be perpetual.”

Olds, who recently turned 80 years old, said he felt the event went well.

“We had a good turnout, especially since we got it together at the spur of the moment.” Olds said. “It feels good to be honored this way and I’m thankful they did it for me. And (the proceeds) are going to the kids, that’s the main thing.”


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