10 questions with retiring Grand Haven athletic director Jack Provencal

Jack Provencal said it's finally time to discover new things in his life, after a career in athletics and academics that has spanned 43 years.
Nate Thompson
Jun 12, 2012


Shaping children in both areas has played such a huge role with Provencal, 65, it’s hard to imagine him in any other capacity.

But this school season — which ended last week at Grand Haven — is Provencal’s last. In his time as the school’s athletic director the past decade, he’s helped enhance a program across the board that can match up successfully with almost any other school in the state. With girls cross country in 2010 and girls basketball this past winter, the Bucs have won two state titles and more are expected in the near future.

Provencal also deserves a lot of credit for pushing tirelessly for the approval and construction of Buccaneer Stadium, a beautiful facility that he says will impact families for generations to come.

Out of the office, Provencal made his name as a Hall of Fame wrestling coach, as his teams at New Lothrop, Eaton Rapids and Grand Haven compiled over 300 victories and four state titles. Regardless of his prior stops, Provencal should always be considered a Buccaneer for life.

Here’s 10 questions with Provencal, from inside his office at Grand Haven High School for one of the last times:

1. Grand Haven Tribune: Why the decision to retire now? Did it have anything to do with the budget crunch at Grand Haven?

Provencal: “It’s nothing specific per se. It’s been 43 years and it’s just time. I’ve never regarded this as work, so that has nothing to do with it. It’s just time to try some other things. Probably for me, (the budget issues) would have the opposite effect on me. We’ve weathered the storm, so to speak, and an endowment fund is something I’m particularly proud of. That helps in these economic times.”

2. GHT: “What’s in store for your future?”

Provencal: “I don’t know. I know I’m not good at sitting around, so I won’t be doing that. I’ll find another job or volunteer in some capacity. (As far as traveling) I do own a sailboat, so I’ll travel on the water. I’ve also always wanted to see the U.P. in the fall. Now, I’ve got the chance.”

3. GHT: “What does your replacement, Robin Bye, bring to the table?”

Provencal: “We’ve worked together a couple years, so the first piece is familiarity. He has a shared vision as it relates to the importance and essence of program. In his own right, he’s been an educator, and spent a significant amount of years in the classroom. He’s also been our middle school athletics coordinator, so he’s had a better handle in that area then I’ve ever had. 
And he knows the coaches and knows the kids, which is important. I believe his expectations are very high.”

4. GHT: “What will you miss about the job?”

Provencal: “What I’ll miss in the chance to impact kids, the program, the coaches, the community. We’ve been fortunate to have community support for the new facility that’s going to impact people and families for years to come in a positive way. We’ve made Lakeshore Middle School handicap-accessible for the first time ever. The opportunity to either do or influence those kinds of decisions or visions has been very rewarding. Plus, I’ll miss working with the people here, the coaching staff. Our coaching staff is outstanding and it’s only going to get better.”

5. GHT: “Is there a part of the job that you won’t miss?

Provencal: “I don’t really think too much about what I won’t miss. I guess in this position, I’ve been further away from direct contact with the students, so that, at times has been challenging.”

6. GHT: “Is the construction of Buccaneer Stadium one of your biggest accomplishments as AD?”

Provencal: “Obviously, I’m very proud of it. But I’d say my biggest accomplishment, which is still in the works, is the development of programs, not teams. We’ve made it possible for the head varsity coach to be in charge of their entire program. So the head varsity football coach is responsible for his assistants, the JV head coach, those assistants, the freshman coach, eighth grade, seventh grade, Young Bucs program. You think of it from an academic model, it’s K-12. In a far more removed sense, (superintendent) Keith Konarska is responsible for K-12. If a faction of K-12 isn’t functioning, Keith will handle it either directly or indirectly or a change will be made.”

7. GHT: “So you’re saying that (head football coach) Mike Farley, and other coaches, have a better idea of what coaches they need and want for their staff than you would?”

Provencal: “Exactly. If we have an opening for a position and let’s say there’s 10 applicants. I’ll sit down with the head coach and ask them who they want to interview. The head coach will have the final say on who we hire, unless I feel there’s a person who wouldn’t be beneficial for the kids. As a result, they are held accountable, whoever that head coach chooses, for the performance of that individual. 
I’ve approached (this job) exactly how I wanted it to be when I was a coach. Pretty much, I wanted my AD to get out of my way because I knew what I wanted. I know that sounds crude, but I don’t mean it that way. As AD with our coaches, I approach it like this: It’s always ‘what do you need?’, ‘let’s get set up,’ ‘do you have what you want?’, and if you do, I’m getting out of your way. But if there’s problems and you don’t take care of it, I’m getting involved.”

8. GHT: “Grand Haven has won two state titles the past three seasons. Do you, as athletic director, deserve some credit for that success?”

Provencal: “I would never think that way.
When I started coaching I thought maybe coaching played a role (in success) about 30 percent of the time. As I got older, I realized they played a much larger role. As AD, I know this sounds egotistical but I’ve heard this expression before, an AD coaches coaches. I know that sounds egotistical, and I don’t want to sound that way. You take a look at our girls basketball team. They won the state championship and they’ll inherit a JV team that had one loss. They’re in the fieldhouse right now, with their (off-season) camp. Soccer does it, basketball has B-Cubed, a lot of sports are taking that (year-round) approach. With those programs and the success its generated, it’s interwoven and it will continue to do so. And I think I’ve influenced that.”

9. GHT: “Is there a win or loss during your time at Grand Haven that stands out as most thrilling or memorable?”

Provencal: “Sure there’s been exciting games, buzzer-beaters, games like that. But truthfully, the games I remember are the ones that were determined in terms of pure effort. Even in times where they might have lost, if they exceeded expectations, gave it their personal best effort, didn’t quit and weren’t deterred when the odds were against them, that’s what sticks out in my mind. As I’ve always told my athletes when I coached, I define a champion as someone who gets up one more time than they’re knocked down.”

10. GHT: “How do you want the people in the community of Grand Haven to remember you as athletic director?”

Provencal: “I hope they know first and foremost that I cared about the kids, and not just athletically. Whether it’s performing arts, fine arts, or athletics, if kids are given the best opportunities to be successful and it makes them feel good about themselves, then as educators, we can feel we’ve accomplished our job. 
I want people to know that I’ve worked hard, even though I’ve never regarded this as work.”


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