February 5, 2016 | By Chuck Carlson
Mike Turner laughs at the memory now.
“Shows how gullible I was,” he said. “My dad was an optometrist and my mom was a school teacher who coached the high school girls’ basketball team. So I thought I’d go to college to become an optometrist and a basketball coach.”
Hard as it is to imagine, he never found a college that featured that possibility for a double major, but as he looks back on a long and fulfilling career, he realized one out of two isn’t so bad.
Turner, ’69, came to Albion to play a little basketball, maybe some football, and study physical education.
“I thought I’d get the combination of athletics and academics,” he said.
He did more than that, staying on at Albion to earn the distinction as the College’s longest-serving coach in any sport.
In fact it was 1969 when then Albion Athletic Director Elkin Isaac told Turner, who had just earned his master’s degree in education from the University of Arizona, that he had an opportunity for him.
“He said they had an opening for a head men’s soccer and men’s tennis coach and assistant basketball coach who would teach a full load of physical education classes for $6,000,” Turner said.
Turner never hesitated and jumped at the opportunity.
He would be Albion’s assistant men’s basketball coach through 1973 and then took over as head coach from 1974-2007. He posted a 527-319 record and took four teams to the NCAA Tournament, including a final four team in 1978.
On top of that he coached men’s golf for 30 years and four seasons each in men’s tennis and men’s soccer.
For Mike Turner, Albion has been more than a job. It has been the place he grew up, got married, raised a family and, in a very real sense, became one of the enduring faces of the College.
“My wife (Peg) and I have lived in Albion 49 of the last 50 years,” said Turner, who met his wife of 45 years when they were both freshmen in a biology class. “This is a special place for me and my family.”
His two daughters, Amy and Tracy, went to public school in Albion and Peg taught elementary school for years, running a mentoring program for students as well, and has always been Turner’s guiding force over the decades.
And though Turner retired as basketball coach prior to the start of the 2008 season, he never really left.
For years, he’s been the master of ceremonies at the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame induction banquet. He also attends many basketball games and can be found at football games and other athletic events that time, and the couple’s vacation schedule, allows.
But while he’s convinced he got out of coaching at the right time, he also knows he couldn’t just leave the school behind.
So when Bob Anderson, Vice President of Alumni Relations and Development, suggested in January he bring his considerable knowledge and contacts back to Albion, he couldn’t say no. Indeed, he didn’t want to say no.
“I see all the positive things happening on campus,” he said. “I feel the buzz that I felt when I first got here and I think it’s all over campus.”
And Anderson wanted to tap into that.
“We’re excited to have Mike back,” Anderson said. “I think it‘s because of the credibility he’s built over the years with faculty, staff and students.Everyone knows Mike and he’ll provide a great connection between the athletic department and alumni.”
In truth, Turner, who will work part time in the Institutional Advancement Office, isn’t entirely sure what his role will entail. But he understands that his roots run deep in the College and that his ability to find and connect with alumni is important.
“I’m more of a consultant,” he said. “It’s a work in progress. But I hope I can help do some things in terms of the athletic department and fundraising and that’s the fun part of what I’m doing – keeping those connections. Hopefully I can open some doors.”
As for whether he misses coaching, he smiles.
“After games I’d get the statistics sheet and stare at it trying to get the numbers to change,” he said. “Then I’d get up the next morning and the numbers still hadn’t changed. Now? I get the stat sheet after the game and I look at it and then go to bed. That’s the difference.”