BY DENNIS CHASE
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central athletic director Cody Inglis is a firm believer in the axiom “once a coach, always a coach.”
Mike Kelly is proof.
Kelly — who coached Suttons Bay to four Northwest Conference championships, four district titles, three regional crowns, and two Final Four appearances in four years — was named volleyball coach at Traverse City Central on Thursday. He succeeds Katherine Brege.
Kelly stepped down as coach at Suttons Bay in 2008 so he could follow his son’s collegiate golfing career at Saginaw Valley.
“I missed it (coaching),” he said. “I’m excited. It’s a great school and a great opportunity for me.”
Kelly, a 1973 Traverse City Central graduate, worked under Inglis at Suttons Bay. When the Trojan volleyball job opened, Inglis called Kelly to see if he would be interested in applying.
“I was hesitant at first,” Kelly said. “But my wife, Paula, said ‘That’s all you’ve been talking about the last two hours since he (Inglis) called. You lit up like a Christmas tree. You need to apply.’”
He did and was one of three “quality” finalists for the job, Inglis said.
“I’ve stayed in touch with Mike over the years,” Inglis said. “I consider him a friend and someone I respect greatly. As I would with any opening, I try to recruit good quality candidates to the job. Mike decided to put his name in the hat and see where it might take him.”
Kelly had several factors in his favor — he was a Trojan alum, had experience running a successful program, and was a “known quantity.”
“I know what I’m getting with Mike,” Inglis said. “I know what to expect from Mike. That’s a huge relief.”
Inglis said Kelly will give the volleyball program a “kick start.”
“Mike is truly a born coach and leader,” he said. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. He gets the best out of people. I’ve seen him do it. It’s remarkable to me, whatever he’s done, he’s truly had a tremendous amount of success. You can’t argue with the record he had at Suttons Bay.”
In addition to volleyball, Kelly coached soccer for six years at Suttons Bay, leading the Norse to four league championships, five district titles, two regional crowns and a semifinal berth.
“I had a lot of talent and working with Cody seemed to be a really good match,” Kelly said. “We did pretty well.”
Kelly said he was drawn to this job by his relationship with Inglis — “It’s not like I know all the athletic directors in the state, but I can’t believe there’s a better one,” he said — and the fact that he was returning to Central.
“It’s pretty special,” he said.
Kelly, 57, plans to “hit the ground running.”
He’s scheduling a parents meeting for May 5. And he’s already watched tape from last year.
“I’d like to change the offense,” he said. “I definitely want to step it up and get a lot faster offensively. I watched Oregon in the NCAA Final Four. They ran a quick offense. They weren’t big, but they were quick. I want to move in that direction with this team.”