The Macomb Daily

Iconic coach remembered as role model,‘the man I want to be’

- By George Pohly gpohly@medianewsg­ @gpohly on Twitter

The tributes told the story: Al Baumgart was a beacon.

As a devout Catholic, family man, teacher and football coach, the former Warren resident touched countless lives, and when he died many of those he impacted were drawn to pay respects.

“He had a great deal of influence, and they showed it in return,” said Mike Jolly, a former teaching colleague and coaching opponent of Baumgart. “That’s where Al’s treasure was — in the friendship­s. Al’s genius was how he worked with kids.”

At visitation, the funeral mass and gatherings after, family members, friends and colleagues reminisced about the man who taught business and social studies and coached at St. Clement, De La Salle, Harper Woods Notre Dame and Chippewa Valley.

“They were there because they thought that much of him,” said Mike Giannone, the coach at Anchor Bay. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was out of respect, not only for him but his entire family.”

Giannone grew up in the neighborho­od where the Baumgart family lived.

“He was just a good man,” Giannone said. “I’d see him all the time. He’d be walking in the neighborho­od and he’d stop and talk. Back then, I’d say, ‘That’s the coach I aspire to be someday.’ But then later I said, ‘That’s the man I want to be.’”

Allen Joseph Baumgart died Jan. 27, 2023. He was 89. Married to Regina for 67 years, his survivors included their daughters Elizabeth, Cindy, Karen and Jennifer.

Giannone remembered Al and Regina as parents and neighbors for whom material possession­s weren’t a priority.

“Everyone was welcome in Al’s house,” Giannone said. “They didn’t need everything; they just needed everyone around them (in order) to be happy.

“Everything revolved around the school and the church, and Al was big in both. Everybody knew him.”

Pro Football Hall of Fame member Joe DeLamielle­ure, who played for Baumgart at St. Clement before moving on to Michigan State and the NFL, and Chris Godfrey, one of Baumgart’s De La Salle players who was an offensive lineman for the New York Giants’ 1986 Super Bowl-championsh­ip team, were among the former

coach’s mourners.

There were several tributes given, Jolly said, including one about the time Baumgart halted practice to help look in the grass for a player’s lost contact lens.

“I heard many stories of how Al would see a kid going down the wrong path and take him aside and, with a firm arm around his shoulder, get him back going the right way,” Jolly said.

“I don’t think anyone combined genuine toughness with kindness as graciously as Al Baumgart.”

In 1968, his final season

at St. Clement, Baumgart was named the Macomb County Coach of the Year and DeLamielle­ure the Player of the Year.

After compiling a 77-11 record at the Center Line school, Baumgart coached for five seasons at De La Salle while the school was in Detroit, and then finished the decade of the 1970s at Notre Dame. He coached at Chippewa Valley from 1980-83.

A former University of Detroit player, Baumgart was inducted into the Macomb County Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001.

He also was named to the Catholic League, Michigan High School Coaches and University of Detroit Mercy halls of fame.

Jolly, who preceded Baumgart as the coach at Chippewa Valley, said toughness was a signature trait of Baumgart’s teams.

“You knew you were going up against kids who loved football and were tough as nails,” Jolly said. “His teams were classy, they were smart, they were competitiv­e. He put together some great ones.

“A great lesson of football is that as a team you can do things together and have great satisfacti­on, but you pay a great physical price. Al’s teams spent it all. When they played, they sold out. He brought out toughness in kids who may not have thought they were as tough as they could be.”

 ?? JOHN CIOLINO PHOTO ?? Coach Al Baumgart talks to Jeff Richardson during a Harper Woods Notre Dame game in the 1970s.
JOHN CIOLINO PHOTO Coach Al Baumgart talks to Jeff Richardson during a Harper Woods Notre Dame game in the 1970s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States