Sports Beat: Steve Schmidt surpasses 1000 games in his 32nd season as Mott CC’s men’s basketball coach

By Harold C. Ford

If successful sports coaches are measured by longevity, wins, and winning percentage, then Steve Schmidt, men’s basketball coach at Mott Community College (MCC), is, at present, one of the most successful coaches in America at any level in any era.  

Steve Schmidt and the gymnasium named for him (Photo by H.C. Ford)

Schmidt coached his 1000th game for Mott on Dec. 12, 2022m,  when his team lost for the first time this season against Lansing Community College (LCC), 81-77.

Upon reaching the 1000th game milestone, Schmidt said: “I’ve been humbled all night … To be able to do something you love for so long and work with so many kids from all over the place, the last 32 years, I’m humbled. I’m excited that I still love what I do.” 

“It’s not about me,” Schmidt asserted. “It’s about what can you do to help these young people.”

On 1000 games: “It’s a milestone; I get that,” Schmidt admitted. “My favorite number is that I’ve helped 130 young men who played for me ,,, pursue their dreams and goals and get a chance to play at colleges and universities all over the country at all levels.” 

“This is number 1000,” Schmidt affirmed, “but I’m looking forward to the next one.”

East Village Magazine (EVM) recently visited with Schmidt twice: on Dec. 12, 2022 on the occasion of his 1000th game against LCC, and Dec. 15, 2022 in the gymnasium that now bears his name.

Hall of fame career

Schmidt’s record of success is prodigious; some of the honors include:

  • Schmidt has been inducted to five halls of fame that include the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame (2006) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (2010);
  • Four times named NJCAA Coach of the Year (2003, 2007, 2008, 2012);
  • Winningest coach in the history of MCC;
  • Winningest coach in the history of Michigan Collegiate Coaches at all levels;
  • The gym at MCC’s Ballenger Field House is now Steve Schmidt Gymnasium (named so in 2009).

“The most humbling accomplishment is when they named this gym after me,” Schmidt said. “Those people believed in you enough to do that and you’re still alive, you’re still plugging away.”

Beyond the honors, the statistics attest to Schmidt’s impact:

“Basketball is my love.”

Schmidt was born in Kalamazoo and moved to Lansing with his family as a one-year-old. 

He graduated in 1980 from Lansing Waverly High School where he starred in football (as a quarterback) and basketball,  achieving all-state recognition in both sports. He turned down offers to play football at the college level.

“My passion was basketball,” Schmidt recollected. “I could shoot the ball really well.”

Steve Schmidt coaching his players during timeout at his 1000th game, Dec. 12, 2022 (photo by H.C. Ford)

Schmidt honed his skills scrimmaging with college players at Michigan State University’s (MSU) Jenison Field House during the Jud Heathcote era. His dream was to play D-1 basketball for MSU. 

Rather, with the loving guidance of his mother, Schmidt ended up at West Valley College (WVC) in San Jose, CA. He benefitted from the tutelage of WVC basketball coach Bob Burton. “He made a huge impact on my life,” Schmidt recollected. 

Homesick, Schmidt returned to Michigan and enrolled at Central Michigan University (CMU). He played basketball under Dick Parfitt. In Parfitt’s 14 years at the helm of the CMU basketball program, he compiled a win-loss record of 192-179; nine of his players were drafted into the National Basketball Association or the American Basketball Association. 

After graduation from CMU in 1986, Schmidt played basketball overseas. He visited 27 countries in three years. “I learned how to order beer in seven different languages,” he recalled. 

In 1989-90, Schmidt returned to Lansing and coached at Lansing Waverly and Lansing Community College. “I didn’t get paid, but I didn’t care,” Schmidt said. He was in the basketball gym doing something he loved. 

“Would you be our coach?”

Schmidt visited Flint in 1991 to interview for the head coaching position at MCC. He was offered the job but turned it down.  

Later, he reconsidered, discovered the MCC position had not yet been filled, and decided to revisit MCC. As he walked into the Ballenger Field House lobby, he encountered two MMC players – Mark Herron and Yusuf Harris. Spontaneously, the two players asked, “Would you be our coach?”  

That happenstance, whimsical moment turned into a most successful career at MCC for Schmidt. “It was powerful … It touched my heart,” he said of the encounter with Herron and Harris. “I had no reason to say no.”

First-timers a “unique challenge”

This year’s MCC men’s squad present Schmidt with a unique challenge. For the first time in 32 years of coaching, not a single member of the 2022-23 team played for Schmidt the previous season. All are first-timers at Mott.  

Steve Schmidt patrolling the sidelines during his 1000th game, Dec. 12, 2022 (Photo by HC Ford)

“Not a single one (player) played for me last year,” Schmidt said. “Usually at our level … you have half your team coming back.”

“I knew this was going to be a unique challenge,” he  continued.  “I was up to it; I’m still up to it. But we’ve got to mature and grow as a group. We’re not as good as teammates as we need to be, because a lot of these guys are used to being … the focal point in high school.” 

“It takes a while for them (players) to understand what I’m looking for,” Schmidt concluded. 

“Not an exact science”

“Recruiting (players) is not an exact science,” Schmidt said. “I try to recruit guys that, I think, would fit into my personality.

“I’m not going to be outworked,” he declared.  “I love to work; I love being at the gym. I have a passion for it; I always had that passion.”


That Schmidt has only two players – Chicagoan Vincent Mayes and former Carman Ainsworth High School standout, Mehki Ellison – among the top five “stats leaders” in 14 MCCAA statistical categories is a testament to his team-first values: Mayes, 53 blocked shots; Ellison, 82 free throws made of 103 attempts, 577 minutes played.

As a team, the Mott Bears have the fifth-highest assist average among 23 MCCAA teams at 15.9 per game. The team’s net efficiency (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) is third-best at 0.194. These stats also speak to team-first values. 

And that Schmidt is having another successful season in the uber-competitive Eastern Conference of the MCCAA with an all-new-to-MCC roster is another measure of his coaching acumen. As of Jan. 25, 2023, four teams in the MCCAA Eastern were ranked in the top 20 nationally: Henry Ford College at number four; eighth-ranked St. Clair Community College; the MCC Bears at the ninth position; Macomb Community College, number 11.  

Mott is one of eight teams in the MCCAA’s Eastern Conference that includes the four teams mentioned immediately above and Wayne County CC, Oakland CC, Jackson CC, and Schoolcraft CC. 

Mott CC championship banners, including four won by Steve Schmidt’s teams (Photo by H.C. Ford)`

Excluding Schoolcraft’s 2-14 overall record, the top seven Eastern Conference teams currently have a combined record of 107 wins against 33 losses – an outstanding 76 percent winning percentage – at the end of January, 2023. Conference play has just begun, and Eastern Conference teams have already begun to chew up some of their glorious winning percentages. 

“Our conference is arguably one of the best in the country at our level,” Schmidt told EVM Dec. 12, following his 1000th game. 

Mid-season sag

Schmidt started the season with nine straight wins. Since then, Mott’s record sagged to 6 wins and four losses in the next ten games as conference play in the aforementioned very tough Eastern Conference reached full swing. 

Schmidt views losses through the lens of a mature coach — “a character check for my young team,” he said. 

The skills Schmidt most wants to teach are “life-related”: “discipline … hard work … competitiveness … character … making the community proud … the college proud.” He summed up: “A byproduct of that is championships, winning.”

He predicted his current team “will really have a strong finish.”

“Not getting easier”

“It’s not getting easier,” Schmidt admitted. “There’s a lot of outside influences … friends, family members, maybe recruiters from four-year institutions … social media … tunnel visions of players.”  

“Parents want their kid to be the leading scorer,” Schmidt said. “They want their kid to get the most minutes.”

“That’s just the reality of sports,” Schmidt concluded. “It doesn’t matter if it’s at the junior college level, the Division Two level, Division One level. They have the same challenges that I have.

‘It’s tough to be part of a team,” Schmidt said. “Our society is individually-driven, but yet, we’re a team sport.”

“Not the easiest guy to play for”

“I’m not the easiest guy to play for,” Schmidt admitted. “I don’t want to say I’m ‘old school’ … I’ve been able to adapt over the past 10 to 15 years to how these young prospects have changed.” 

In an interview with EVM, 2022 Beecher High School grad Phoenix Marble, an MCC freshman, did call his coach “old school” in that Schmidt expects his players to “get ready to work.”   

Athletes-in-the-know realize that success without hard work is unlikely. “I’m working hard as I can … trying to learn every day,” said Marble. “I’m playing for a coach who’s very headstrong, wants to win, been doing it for a long time. It’s a blessing to have this opportunity.”

Steve Schmidt and Phoenix Marble under banner honoring Schmidt (Photo by H.C. Ford)

“He prepares kids to go further,” asserted Marble’s father, Jeron Marble. “I like how he cares about the kids and he gets the best out of them … He’s always been legendary … always been a winning coach … he cares about the kids … I got a chance to see it first-hand (while) he’s coaching my son.” 

“I appreciate … things he’s done for the community of Flint,”  the senior Marble concluded.

“I looked at his background record,” the junior Marble recalled. During the recruitment process, he was “absolutely” impressed with the four national championships and the number of players Schmidt successfully prepped for success at four-year institutions.

“You can’t turn down an offer like that,” the younger Marble recalled. Is he still satisfied with his decision to attend Mott? “Oh yes, most definitely,” he said without hesitation. 

“Not a car salesman”

“I’m not a car salesman,” Schmidt said of the recruiting process. “It’s all about relationships.”

Schmidt once cast a wider net for his recruitment efforts that took him to further away places like Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. Now he focuses on the Midwest – Chicago, Detroit, Flint. 

“Chicago has been really solid for me,” Schmidt said. “Mott’s name in Chicago is really good.” Three members of his current squad are Chicagoans.  

The remainder of his current freshman-dominated 10-player squad are all Michiganders: four from the Flint area; and one each from Detroit, Saginaw, and Benton Harbor:

Name — Year* — Hometown/High School

Zavion McClendon SO Detroit, MI/Douglass Academy

Nate Brown FR Flint, MI/Davison

Phoenix Marble FR Flint, MI/Beecher

Mehki Ellison FR Flint, MI/Carman-Ainsworth

Trucel Singleton FR Benton Harbor, MI/Benton Harbor

Terrance Jones FR Chicago, IL/CICS Longwood

Damarcies Moore FR Chicago, IL/CICS Longwood

Tylan Osborn FR Flushing, MI/Flushing

Duriel Mask FR Saginaw, MI/Carrollton

Vincent Mayes FR Chicago, IL/Lawndale Prep

[* SO is sophomore; FR is freshman]

How much longer?

EVM asked Schmidt how much longer he might like to be a coach. 

“As long as it continues to be fun and I can make an impact on the players I’m coaching,” Schmidt replied. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t coaching.” 

About the NJCAA

The NJCAA has three divisions:

  • Division 1: Colleges may grant full athletic scholarships.
  • Division 2: Athletic scholarships are limited to tuition, books, fees, and $250 for supplies.
  • Division 3: No athletic scholarships are permitted.

Mott is a Division 2 member meaning that MCC is prohibited from providing support to athletes for expenses such as housing, transportation, and meals. 

The NJCAA has been the governing body for two-year collegiate athletics in the United States since 1938. NJCAA has over 500 member schools in 44 states; more than 65,000 athletes on over 3,400 teams in 28 different sports. The organization sponsors 53 national championship events. 

About the MCCAA

The MCCAA has 23 Michigan-based member schools divided into three conferences: Western (seven colleges); Northern (eight colleges); and Eastern (8 colleges). All are institutions located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  

MCCAA comprises Region 12 of the NJCAA along with schools from Ohio and Indiana. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula two-year colleges are NJCAA Region 13 members along with schools from Minnesota, North Dakota, and Northern Wisconsin.  

Remaining games

Mott has only seven contests remaining in the regular season schedule including four at home (in bold below):

Sat., Feb. 4, vs. Henry Ford CC, 3:00

Wed., Feb. 8, vs. St. Clair CC, 7:30

Sat., Feb. 11, vs. Schoolcraft CC, 3:00

Wed., Feb. 15, at Macomb CC, 7:30

Sat., Feb. 18, vs. Wayne County CC, 3:00

Wed., Feb. 22, at Jackson College, 7:30 p.m.

The cost of admission to a Mott CC men’s basketball game is $5. Parking is free and the Mott CC campus is nearby. Concessions are reasonable.

By contrast, a ticket to a Detroit Pistons game starts at $20 and runs as high as $1000; parking is likely not free and concessions are very expensive. A ticket to a University of Michigan men’s basketball game starts at $27 and runs upward of $250; parking may not be free and concessions are more expensive than what you will find at an MCC contest.  


The distance from Flint to Ann Arbor is 54 miles; from Flint to Detroit is 69 miles. Thus, men’s basketball fans must factor in travel costs when considering their options. 

Post-season play

Mott will host the NJCAA Region 12 tournament March 9-12; teams from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana are likely participants as determined by the remainder of the regular season. Women play on Thursday and Saturday; men will play on Friday and Sunday. Winners will head to season’s-end national competition.

EVM Sports Beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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