LELAND — Larry Glass, who became an area coaching legend by leading the Leland Comets girls basketball program to three state championships two decades after coaching Northwestern University’s men’s basketball program for six seasons, died Monday. He was 84 years old.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Laurie Glass. Glass, who lived in Leland since 1970, had been battling illness for several years.
Glass was a fundamentalist when it came to his roles as a middle school grammar teacher and as a coach. Laurie said his impact was felt by many.
“I think he was a lot of things to a lot of people — a teacher, a mentor, a colleague, a coach, a father, the grandkids called him papa,” Laurie said. “He had a very quick-witted sense of humor and he doted on his grandchildren. They were all genius as far as he was concerned...He really loved his family. They were very important to him.”
Glass coached the Northwestern University men’s basketball team from 1963-69, posting a 61-71 record over that span.
He was one of the youngest Division 1 coaches at the time, taking over the Wildcat program at age 28 and his 1967-68 team posted an 8-6 Big Ten record. Northwestern has only had one Big Ten season that ended over .500 in league play since (2016-17). He ended his Wildcats tenure with four consecutive seasons at .500 or above.
At Leland, Glass led the Comets to three consecutive girls basketball Class D state championships — 1980, ‘81 and ‘82.
Glass took over the Leland girls basketball team in 1977, five years after the passage of Title IX, and quickly turned the Comets into a power.
“He influenced every bit of my coaching,” Laurie, who has gone on to win more than 1,000 career volleyball matches, said. “He was a fundamentals guy and believed in doing the right things for the right reasons and believed the outcome would follow. I modeled many of my practices after the way he handled things as a coach. I played for him.”
Laurie recalled the memory of winning her first state championship in 2002, hugging her father and saying she did it like he did. Laurie and Larry each have coached three Michigan state championship teams at Leland.
During one stretch, Leland, with class sizes around 25 students, produced five Division 1 basketball players in five years — four at Big Ten schools.
Julie Polakowski became the state’s first Miss Basketball in 1981 under Glass. She finished with 2,109 career points, second in state history at the time.
Polakowski joined Glass’ daughter Rebecca (Glass) McKee on scholarship at Michigan State. A year later, center Stephanie Chambers landed at Northwestern. Shawne Brow signed with University of Michigan the year after that. Marie Polakowski landed at Dartmouth.
The Comets won 67 straight games at one point, a streak only ended by Class A Traverse City. Glass finished his first tenure at Leland with a winning percentage of 84.
“I think in northern Michigan he was respected and his advice was often sought after,” Laurie said. “He was quick to help anybody.”
Glass will be remembered by his wife Elizabeth, who he married in 1956, daughters Merri Lynn Bouckaert, Laurie Glass and Rebecca McKee, and son, Michael Glass.
“He had a beautiful marriage to my mother,” Laurie said. “That was a beautiful thing they had together.”
A memorial service will be held Saturday at the United Methodist Church in Leland at 11 a.m. The family will arrive at 10 a.m.