Weeks ago, we looked back at 2018 and the top sports stories in northwest Lower Michigan.
A list of 15 contenders became apparent. A vote set the top 10 in motion and stories were written.
Since then, a couple high-profile coaching changes have made one story line that didn't make the cut into one that deserves a closer look.
Longtime coaching legends in Northern Michigan don't sprout up every day. However, it seems like the area is losing them at an alarming rate.
There's no better example of this than Frankfort, which in the last year witnessed departures by Mike Zimmerman (baseball), Reggie Manville (boys basketball) and Matt Stapleton (football). All three are Hall of Fame-level coaches.
Dan Loney, Derek Jackson and — very presumptively on my part — Ed Schindler have big shoes to fill.
Frankfort is far from alone in ever-turning coaching carousel.
Petoskey has seen Dennis Starkey and Kerry VanOrman each retire in 2018.
Starkey roamed the Northmen sideline for more than three decades, while VanOrman led Petoskey's football team for the last 16 seasons. Again, John Flynn and Gavin Fralick have some large shoes to fill.
Grayling has seen boys basketball coach Rich Moffit step down after 24 years and football coach Tim Sanchez retire following a decade of leading the Vikings to a 64-29 record and eight playoff trips. Richard Reilly and Eric Tunney, those shoes don't get any smaller.
Kassi Burkham steps into the Kalkaska girls basketball program after Dave Dalton stepped down following a 23-year career with more than 400 victories.
Boyne City football coach Dave Hills stepped down after 16 years and 125 wins. Suttons Bay, North Bay and Traverse City Christian soccer coach Tom Spencer retired after a long coaching career to focus on refereeing.
Some of these first-year mentors have already had great success. John Neph took over for Jim Hunter at the reins of Onekama's football program and guided the Portagers to the eight-player state championship game. Garrick Opie, likewise, had a successful first season in Suttons Bay.
The Northwest Conference lost three boys basketball coaches — Manville, Buckley's Blair Moss and Benzie's Matt Olson — just a year after Dennis Schaar called it quits after a 32-year run in Kingsley. The ones above are only a fraction of the coaching turnover experienced in the last year.
With legends such as John Lober letting go of the Traverse City Central head coaching job in 2017 and Stan Sexton similarly stepping away from Bellaire basketball, the coaching community — as tight-knit as it is — has taken a hit in recent years.
It's never been tougher to be a high school coach. Between know-it-all parents, administrators whose hands are often tied and over reactionary school boards, coaches are in the cross hairs more than ever.
We've lost many mentors, vast coaching know-how and just plain good people for the area's athletes to look up to.
Here's to hoping there's more Stapletons, Starkeys, Lobers, Zimmermans, Moffits, Sextons and the like on the way. And quick.