By Sue Moore
“I am proud and honored but don’t consider myself worthy of being selected to the Vicksburg Athletic Hall of Fame,” Mike Cloney said when notified of his admission. “I know many of the great ones who have been selected and this is very humbling.”
A person in particular that Cloney admires is Frank Stafinski. He was the father of Dave and Doug with whom Cloney played all sports by the time he graduated from Vicksburg in 1962. He also fondly remembers Whitey Linton and George Gembis who were great teachers and athletes in their time at Vicksburg.
Cloney played basketball for Lyle Bartlett in high school and also had him for a teacher in 7th and 8th grade social studies. “He was patient, clever, a class person, and a great guy. Cloney played in the Showboat pit band under Bartlett’s direction.
Another hero in Cloney’s book was Al Suter, the baseball coach. “He had us playing hard and dedicated but we still had fun. Bill Root, my band teacher, had the most influence on me. He taught the fundamentals of doing everything right or do it over until you get it right. Bristol Shutes was our JV and varsity football coach. You didn’t mess with him.”
Cloney was a winner of eight varsity letters, graduating in 1962. Three were earned in basketball, probably his favorite sport, three in baseball, one in football and one in cross country. “Likely, my best sport was basketball. I was a guard, specializing in ball-handling, passing, and making assists. My best game was against Kalamazoo State High with a 15-point output. My teammate was Bob Pursel who broke the Wolverine Conference scoring record and is in the Hall of Fame.
Playing second base under Al Suter’s direction, Cloney was the leading hitter and MVP his senior year. While participating in these sports he was asked to be a sports writer for the Vicksburg Commercial by Meredith Clark the editor, who was one of the first men selected to the Hall of Fame when it began in 1989.
Probably Cloney’s greatest claim to fame was being selected to the High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014. For 40 years he was a middle school teacher and coach in Mattawan after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Michigan University. He coached for 16 years at St. Monica’s middle school in football and basketball. He served as athletic director for four years. He has a total of 710 games coached altogether, 250 in high school and 460 in junior high school.
Mike’s most rewarding achievements came with his 1972-73 high school basketball team in Mattawan which was ranked number one in southwest Michigan by the Kalamazoo Gazette. His eighth grade teams had a 71-15-1 record.
Cloney lives in Kalamazoo with his wife Marlynn. They have three children, Michelle in Dallas, Tex.; Ryan in Portage; and Todd in Mattawan.
“I loved teaching and coaching. But you do have to know when it’s time to not do it anymore,” Cloney said.