Grand Rapids Community College men’s head basketball coach Luke Bronkema announced on Monday that he plans to step down as the Raiders’ coach.
Bronkema served as head coach for the program for three seasons and accomplished quite a bit in those few years. He helped lead the Raiders to the national tournament twice and this past season, he helped the Raiders win the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference Championship, the school’s first since the ‘03-’04 season.
Bronkema announced his decision citing his desire to spend more time with his family and dedicate his efforts to his employer outside of basketball. He was just recently promoted to associate executive director of the David D. Hunting YMCA in Grand Rapids.
“I will certainly miss coaching at GRCC,” Bronkema said. “The difficult decision to step down came after taking on a role within the (YMCA) and adding a second child to the family. Both blessings forced me to re-evaluate work/family balance. My wife and two daughters, as well as my YMCA family have provided amazing support during the past three seasons and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Bronkema comes from a family of coaches and has been around the game his whole life. He addressed what he’ll miss most about coaching the game he loves.
“I will miss countless aspects of coaching,” Bronkema said. “But the top three things are the relationships with players and coaches, the ability to impact the personal development of student athletes, and the competition.”
He was very grateful to the school and GRCC staff, but specifically mentioned one man that he wanted to make sure he thanked.
“Thank you to athletic director Billy Firn for the opportunity and for three years of incredible support and guidance,” Bronkema said. “I’m confident the program is in good hands with Billy at the wheel.”
Firn also had kind words to say about Bronkema and spoke about his organization, his competitiveness and the friendship they shared.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better… coach to lead GRCC men’s basketball over the last three years,” Firn said. “Luke and I began at GRCC at the same time and he and I worked very closely with one another over those years. I’m going to miss having him as our men’s basketball coach, but more importantly, I will miss our daily interactions and his desire to be the best.
“Luke was very organized and he knew the ins and outs of how to be successful… Luke was a fierce competitor and he always gave everything he had to be the best… Luke is a great basketball coach, but to me, he was a good friend. I think I’ll miss that most. The men’s basketball program is in a great position thanks to Luke and I am going to do everything I can to hire the right person that can continue to build on that success.”
Firn did address the elephant in the room of having to find Bronkema’s replacement. He plans to make the position available on Tuesday and will hire the most qualified candidate.
“I am planning to post the position tomorrow and will begin reviewing applicants on April 2,” Firn said. “My goal is to hire the best candidate for the job and it is my hope that we have a very strong pool of applicants to select from.”
For now, Bronkema is done with the coaching part of his life. But he didn’t rule out a possible return to the sidelines in the future.
“I’m not sure when I’ll be in a position to return to coaching,” he said. “But (I’m) optimistic the day will come.”
Bronkema has twice been named the National Junior College Athletic Association District 9 Coach of the Year and won nearly 70 percent of the games he coached at GRCC.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Monday, March 25 at 8:53 p.m. to include comments from Luke Bronkema and again at 9:59 p.m. to include comments from GRCC athletic director Bill Firn.