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Third time is the coaching charm for GH's Smaka

Nate Thompson • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:49 AM

Smaka has guided the Bucs to their first-ever trip to the Class A state semifinals, where they will battle Temperance Bedford tonight at 5:30 p.m. If victorious, Grand Haven will return to the court on Saturday for the state championship match at 2 p.m.

But in his third stint as head coach of the Bucs’ varsity program program, Smaka is unlike any other coach at Kellogg Arena.

He was promoted as Grand Haven’s junior varsity coach to replace Scott Vanderwerp in 2006 and remained in that position for the next three seasons, until demands at home pulled him away.

Smaka’s children, son Cayden, and twin daughters Taylor and Jordan, were in the toddler stage at that time and dedicating himself to several weekend tournaments as well as daily practices was too much of a burden for Smaka and wife Heather.

“I just didn’t have that balance I needed where I could be at home when I was needed, but at the same time, I wanted to give more to the program, but I couldn’t,” he said.

So Smaka resigned in 2008, despite having led the Bucs to three district championships during his tenure.

He was replaced by former Cornerstone University head coach Steve Burmaster for the 2009 season, however, Burmaster lasted just a few months on the job when he resigned to take a coaching and teaching position in the San Francisco area.

Feeling a pinch to find a replacement in the middle of the season, then-Grand Haven Athletic Director Jack Provencal sought a familiar face — Smaka. Feeling an obligation to a program he had already dedicated so much time to, Smaka accepted the fill-in role and proceeded to lead the Bucs to the regional finals, where they were eliminated by rival Rockford.

And then he proceeded to step down again.

“Family comes first,” Smaka said.

To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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