Alum and hall-of-fame coach Bob Lantzy talks about attending Notre Dame and playing for another hall-of-famer.
When legendary high school football coach Walt Bazylewicz was filling out his application for the position of director of the Catholic High School League in 1972 and he came to the part that asked for references, he allegedly wrote, “Ask anybody.”
That’s because by that time, “Bazy” had established himself as one of the most successful football coaches by not only CHSL standards, but by Michigan High School Athletic Association standards. (A member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, his record was 146-42-9 when he gave up coaching to take over the Catholic League.)
Everybody in Michigan high school sports knew Bazy in 1972 and he went on to become one of the best directors in league history before passing away in 1999 at the age of 77.
But Lantzy’s not a sophomore coach by any measure. In fact, he’s set to begin his 43rd season as a coach, having spent the first 41 seasons leading Utica Eisenhower to a 304-115-1 record until the year 2011, when he first retired from coaching.
Like with Bazy, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody in football in the state of Michigan who doesn’t know about Lantzy. Yet that isn’t the only thing the two coaches have in common.
The Notre Dame connection
According to Lantzy, his coaching career was informed big-time by Bazylewicz, who was his football coach in high school at Notre Dame in Harper Woods.
“Bazy taught us all that to win you had to love the game and be willing to sacrifice your time to excel,” said Lantzy after a recent tour of the Notre Dame campus in Pontiac. “His practices were at game speed — not long — but organized to cover all the situations that could come up in the game. Bazy also did not play favorites. The best players played in the games and if you wanted to play, you had to earn it.”
He said in his own coaching career, he has utilized the same ideas he learned from Bazylewicz at Notre Dame: that to be a winner, you have to have courage, heart and brains.
“In other words, it was not how big, fast or strong you were that decided who Bazy would put in the game,” he said.
A halfback on NDHS’s football team, Lantzy and his teammates, which included former U.S. Congressman David Bonior and recently retired Warren De La Salle coach Paul Verska, shocked the Catholic League in Bazylewicz’s first year as head coach in 1962 by winning the Central Division title. The Irish also won the division in the fall of 1963, during Lantzy’s senior school year.
“Bazy was an emotional person who would kick you in the pants at one moment and tell you what a great person you were at another,” recalled Lantzy, who went on to play college ball at Northern Michigan University. “He would get in your face and tell you exactly what he expected from you.”
“He would get on the players, coaching staff and anyone else he thought was keeping us from getting better. We never knew when something was going to go flying across the film room. He was a great actor and played the role of coach perfectly,” he said.
The perfect role redux
The role of coach also has been a perfect part for Lantzy to play and the stats bear that out.
Now with seven undefeated regular seasons, Lantzy’s 306 career victories put him in the top-10 all time on the state career coaching list as well as at the top of the Macomb County chart, according to the MHSAA.
He’s earned three conference titles, six MHSAA district championships, six MHSSA regional championships, four MHSAA state final appearances, 13 MAC Red coach of the year honors and four Macomb County coach of the year honors. In addition, he was named MHSFCA regional coach of the year 10 times, MHSFCA Division-1 coach of the year in 2003, AP Division 1 coach of the year in 2004, and was a three-time Detroit News Metro Detroit coach of the year.
In 2009, he was inducted into the Macomb County Coaches Hall of Fame.
Now north of 70 years old, Lantzy shows no sign of slowing down. He credits gaining his work ethic from both his high school football coach and his high school.
“Notre Dame made us work hard every day,” he said. “We had hours of homework daily, which as student-athletes, made us all very conscious of time management. It also taught us that we controlled our own destiny and that we needed to set goals and make up a plan to reach those goals, both on the athletic field and in the classroom.
“Thanks to Notre Dame High School and Bazy, I was able to play college football four years at Northern Michigan University and have some success coaching high school football for more than 40 years.”
‘Some success’ indeed!
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.