It was a homecoming of sorts for Denny Dock on Monday.
The former Lakeshore football coach will return to coach the Lancers after six years away. Dock compiled a 209-64 record at Lakeshore from 1988-2013. He replaces Bryan Keim, who finished with a 4-5 record this season and 39-23 overall in six seasons with Lakeshore.
"I wasn't looking for a job," Dock said during his introductory press conference. "I gave it a day and former coaches on my coaching staff starting talking about getting the band back together. I got enthused about it and more importantly, my wife got enthused about it. If you have that half of it covered, you have a decent chance.
"I approached some former coaches and decided to come back."
Dock will continue as the head softball coach after leading the Lancers to a runner-up finish last spring. He also spent the last three seasons serving as an assistant football coach on his son Jeff Dock's staff at Middleville Thornapple Kellogg.
"That was where I thought (my coaching career) was going to end," an emotional Dock said. "That's what I wanted to do. After watching hitting drills, I'd think to myself, 'that's a lot better than what I was doing.' And those thoughts accumulated over a three-year period until this opportunity presented itself.
"I blame my son," Dock said, jokingly.
Dock arrived at Lakeshore in 1988 after leaving Dowagiac, where he served as head coach. His team finished with a 5-4 record his first season but followed that up with 7-2 record in 1989, including a 17-14 win over St. Joseph, his first of many over the Bears.
"They used to say we weren't good enough to beat St. Joe or that our schedule wasn't as good as theirs," Dock said. "We've heard it all. Winning that first game was the slingshot and off we went from there."
Dock was one of the state's most successful coaches during his initial tenure with Lakeshore, compiling 26 winning seasons, 11 conference championships, nine district championships, five regional championships, and a 24-8 record over rival St. Joseph.
Dock led the Lancers to 16 consecutive playoff appearances from 1998-2013.
For Lakeshore athletic director Greg Younger, making a pitch to Dock was an easy decision.
"When you have a Hall of Fame coach roaming around your school, you might as well start at the top," Younger said. "Principal (Jeff) Yauchstetter and I just started talking with coach Dock last week. By the end of the week, we had the answer that we wanted and he was very comfortable with it, and we made sure his wife was comfortable, too.
"That was what we had to do."
The Lancers finished with a 4-5 record last season, the program's first losing season since 1987 – the year before Dock was first hired as head coach.
Dock has a clear picture of what's needed to get the program back on track.
"Practice structure and commitment to an offense, no matter what it would be," he said. "I believe you can run whatever you want to run if you know how to practice it. Coaching is about putting the puzzle together. That's what I love to do.
"I love making a practice plan that works."
Younger believes Dock's hire will be a boon for both the Lakeshore program and the Stevensville community.
"It's unbelievable in terms of the energy that he'll create," Younger said. "The community knows what he's meant to the program over the years. That gives instant credibility to him, our program, and our kids. The kids will buy into what he's teaching and what he's trying to do. With our open coaching spot, we wanted to make sure our kids were going to be led in the right way.
"It's going to be a great opportunity for them to be able to play under coach Dock."
Contact: email@example.com, 932-0371, @HPMaxwellHarden