Grau named LMC Interim AD following Cooper resignation

Former Lake Michigan College Athletic Director and Women's Basketball Coach, Jason Cooper, watches senior guard Hailey Maas launch a three-pointer. Maas led LMC in scoring, averaging 19.58 points a game and 83.9 percent at the line across two years. Photo Credit:Harbor Photography
Longtime Lake Michigan College athletic department employee, Melissa Grau, was named Interim Athletic Director following the resignation of Jason Cooper. Grau had been Assistant Athletic Director.

Grau named LMC Interim AD

following Cooper resignation

By Tom O’Neill

            Melissa Grau has taken over the reigns as interim athletic director of Lake Michigan College following the resignation of Jason Cooper. Cooper’s last day at LMC was March 13.

            Grau, a graduate of Hillside College and Central Michigan University, was assistant athletic director under Cooper. She has been employed by the college for over 16 years, originally starting as a softball coach. Now, as interim AD, she’ll start by overseeing the search for two coaches, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball.

            Cooper also coached the women’s basketball team for ten years, compiling a 247-71 record, including six visits in the past eight years to the NJCAA National Tournament. His best finish was second place in 2012. The Red Hawks finished eighth in 2013, and seventh in 2014. LMC is eighth in total NJCAA appearances, the most of any MCCAA teams. LMC finished ranked 19th nationally, falling to fifth-ranked Kalamazoo Valley in the second round of the District G Tournament.

            Mike Matti also resigned as women’s volleyball coach. Matti’s wife, Kelly, took a position with a company in Arizona. Last year’s team went 21-14.

            “I’ll be looking for someone with great ethics, morals and strength in play calling,” Grau said. She added “it’s going to take a positive individual who will have to fill some big shoes. I called Jason the “Miracle Man” because of the way he could take a group and develop their skills.”

            Cooper, along with his mother Doris (nicknamed Mama Coop) who served as assistant basketball coach, treated all their players as family. In a past interview Cooper said “We try to try to provide a family atmosphere for our players, and that includes life skills. My passion is to make sure they have a great college experience.” Grau emphasized that, “You are family here”, mentioning a number of former LMC athletes that stop back just to say hello.

            Sophomore guard Kelsee Kinder said she’ll remember the family that was created for all of the girls during her two years. “I’ve never been so close to a group. I love them all. I wish it was a four-year school.”  Kinder wants to continue her playing career at a southern Division II four-year college while pursuing her nursing degree. She’s looked at several schools but hasn’t made up her mind.

Lexi Hobbs, a member of the 2014 team, was once quoted as saying “coach is always telling us the next day isn’t promised. Go all out.” It’s similar advice Kinder leaves with the freshmen, “You never know when it will be your last time to play.”

            Grau said all seven freshmen have been signed for next season. Jade Mosier of Buchanan is the lone returning starter, averaging 12 points a game. I’ve got to step up a lot to fill in the leadership role Kinder and Hailey Maas shared.” Mosier hopes they find a coach similar to Cooper’s style. “He was very structured and worked on discipline.” Mosier said it was hard at first to adjust to Cooper’s style coming out of high school plus a new position.

            Haley Madison, who just verbally committed to Aquinas, said Cooper stressed playing against yourself to get better, not the other team. “Working hard and putting extra time in the gym is the difference in making it to the National Championship. When you come into the gym, you need to be thinking National Championship Tournament.”

            Cooper didn’t divulge his future plans before leaving except to say he was looking at a few things.

Asked how long the process of hiring a new basketball and volleyball coach will take, Grau said, “I hope it doesn’t take that long. In the meantime, I’ll do whatever is needed.”

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