Goorman was an instructor at Western Michigan Christian’s youth basketball camp, allowing him to hold court at the school’s sparkling 3-year-old gymnasium.
Those days appeared to be numbered, however.
“This is likely my last connection with WMC,” Goorman said.
Goorman, 66, was informed by school administrators on June 4 that he would no longer be the head basketball coach at the school, ending a career that has spanned 33 seasons at the varsity level with over 500 victories.
“We commend Jim for his very successful coaching career at WMC, but the administration has decided to go in a new direction,” WMC Athletic Director John Swinburne said in a press release from the school.
Goorman will also no longer teach at WMC, where he instructed sociology, physical education, health and Bible classes during his career.
Goorman released a statement after the school’s decision, saying he was stunned.
“I was blindsided and now will be forced to retire,” he said. “I have given my entire adult life, which is 44 years to WMC and feel privileged to have touched so many young lives. God has blessed me with so many great athletes and team-oriented players.”
A year ago, Goorman told school officials that after the 2010-2011 season, he would like to coach one more year. After this season, in which WMC struggled to a 5-16 record, Goorman said he would like to coach another year, but his request wasn’t granted.
Goorman refused to discuss the specifics of his meeting with WMC officials, but said he decided to call the meeting on June 4 when he began to wonder about his job status and if he’d be returning to coach.
“I kind of had a sinking suspicion on what the answer was going to be,” he said.
Goorman said he asked the group at the meeting if he was being let go because of his age, and was assured that wasn’t the case. He also wondered if is was a “budget crunch” decision.
When reached for comment, both WMC school board president Scott Meyers and principal Doug Doty refused to comment on the issue.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss a personnel decision,” Doty said.
Goorman made news off the court on March 17, 2011, when he was accused of shoving a female student in the back with his foot during gym class after he claimed the student was ignoring him while he was giving the class instruction. Non-aggravated assault charges were dropped and the two parties reached an out-of-court agreement when the Muskegon girl and her family decided they did not want to press charges, according to the police report.
Goorman said he believed that issue didn’t play a role in his dismissal.
“I’d rather not talk about that incident,” he said. “That’s a sore spot with me.”
Goorman said he’s received dozens of e-mails and other words of encouragement since WMC’s decision, mostly from former players and opposing coaches.
“I think it’s a shame that he wasn’t asked to come back,” said Charlie VanRees, a starting forward on Goorman’s 2008 Class D state championship squad. “It wasn’t hard to tell that he absolutely loved what he did at the school. He always seemed to be busy with something but still always had time for his students. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want him back.”
Goorman’s Warriors squads won five state championships: 1992, 1999 and three-straight from 2008-2010. One of his top players from that stretch of success was Evan Bruinsma, who is currently playing at the University of Detroit.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better Christian role model for the years I was at the school,” Bruinsma said. “He is the type of coach that genuinely cares about the kids he is coaching and would help his players anyway he could.”
Goorman, who also coached at the freshman and JV levels at WMC, became the area’s winningest coach on Feb. 21, 2009, when he passed legendary Muskegon Heights coach Okie Johnson with his 452nd career victory.
Goorman earned his 500th career victory in March of 2011 when the Warriors defeated Grand Rapids Covenant Christian.
A Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame honoree last October, Goorman finishes his career with 510 victories.
Goorman grew up in Zeeland, graduated from Holland Christian High School, received his undergraduate degree from Calvin College and his masters from Western Michigan University.
“Western was my only time in a public school,” he said with a chuckle.
He said a highlight of his coaching career was his chance to coach his three sons at WMC, Jamie, Jeremy and Jason.
“You know, coaching requires you to be away from your family,” he said. “I’ve somehow managed to juggle everything. I’ve managed to maintain a pretty active lifestyle. I’ve played rec league basketball until I was 50; I played baseball in the (Muskegon) city league until I was 39, I’ve been the deacon of my church; and I’ve helped my wife (Sue) raise three kids.”
A co-founder of the popular summer American Youth Basketball Tour, Goorman said he’s been coaching those travel teams for 17 years and may continue to do so.
“(WMC’s decision) changes everything in my life,” Goorman said. “I plan on doing some more traveling. I want to take my grand kids to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Right now, I’m just going to try to get away and assess everything. I’ll see what the Lord is telling me and what direction I may be headed.”