Joe Kowatch - Inductee - 2006
Joe Kowatch was an outstanding athlete. Born in Ionia, he attended Ionia High School where he participated in football, basketball, baseball and track. He excelled in football as a halfback. Joe's older brother, John, played fullback and his younger brother, Al, was also a halfback. Kowatch attended Michigan State College after graduating from high school in 1929. In 1930, he moved up to the varsity squad. "Sleepy Jim" Crowley, of "Four Horsemen" fame at Notre Dame, was the Spartan coach. The Spartans were 5-1-2. With Kowatch at fullback, MSC was 5-3 in 1931 and 7-1 in 1932, with the loss to arch-rival and undefeated Michigan, 26-0. "Joe was probably one of the most hard-nosed characters to step on the field," said Barney McNutt, who played quarterback in the same backfield with him at Michigan State. His first teaching position was at Trout Creek in 1938, where he coached football, basketball and track. From there he moved to Grant where his basketball teams won 100 of 135 games over an eight-year period. He farmed for five years and worked for the Michigan Conservation Department before returning to teaching and coaching in 1951 at Stanton. Following a 16-2 season at Stanton, Joe decided to take a crack at a job in Ludington. Kowatch was 41 years old when he came to Ludington. In his first season, the Orioles rolled to a 21-2 record advancing to the State Class B finals in Lansing, where they lost, 60-51, to St. Joseph. That was the high-point of his 13 years as Ludington's basketball coach but the successes were many: A record of 228 wins, 58 losses (.729 percentage) - 11 North Central championships - 10 Class B district titles - Six regional crowns - Four victories in the state quarterfinals. He developed seven all-state players - Pete Tillotson, Dean Adams, Wally Sadosty, Steve Schoenherr, Harrie Volkers, Van Tillotson and Mike Evans. All seven played at the collegiate level. In 1974, he was elected to the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame. Joe Kowatch, who died in 1983 at the age of 71, helped ignite a passion for basketball that burns to this day in Mason County.