Gladwell named new basketball coach at Bay Port
By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – Bay Port High School girls’ basketball coach Dennis Gladwell sat on the bench as an assistant for the last four seasons waiting for his time to lead a program again.
The time is now.
Gladwell, a native of Negaunee, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, recently took over for the departed Kati Coleman, who stepped aside after four seasons.
“I’m excited and honored to receive the opportunity,” said Gladwell, who was the head coach of the Marinette Catholic Central boys’ team 20 years ago. “The only thing I’m slightly disappointed about is not having Kati right there next to me anymore. She’s one of the best coaches I’ve had the privilege of working with in my years of coaching.”
Gladwell, who graduated college from Northern Michigan University in Marquette along the shores of Lake Superior, said he’s worked for this moment.
“My major was in criminal justice and my minor in coaching,” he said. “I’m excited to make the Bay Port program my own.”
The Pirates, under Coleman’s leadership, won the 2019 WIAA Division 1 state title.
Bay Port also returned to state this past March at the Resch Center in Green Bay, but the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic before the team could play a game.
“It was devastating we didn’t get to defend our title,” said Gladwell. “I think we could have competed for another championship, but we’ll never know.”
After Gladwell moved to De Pere and became a police officer, he had to leave the coaching job at MCC.
“I knew (De Pere) high school Principal Nick Joseph well, and that’s how I got involved in coaching again,” Gladwell said. “I began with the boys’ program doing scouting. I also coached eighth-grade boys’ basketball before becoming an assistant girls’ junior varsity coach.”
In 2008, he became a liaison officer in the elementary schools in both the De Pere and West De Pere school districts.
Gladwell has the unique distinction of being a part of two state championship squads with different schools.
“I was lucky enough to be an assistant coach under Kelly McNiff (at De Pere) when we won the 2012 (WIAA Division 1 state) title,” he said. “After Kelly left, (head coach) Dave Johnson kept me on as an assistant until I came to Bay Port when Kati was hired. Hopefully, I can bring another state title to Bay Port someday. There are not many coaches who can say they’ve been a part of two state championships for two different schools – I’m proud of that.”
One of the reasons Coleman resigned was because of COVID-19 and the many restrictions coaches will face on the sidelines.
Gladwell contracted the virus in early September.
“I’m not afraid of COVID, but I know it’s out there because I went through it,” he said. “It wasn’t bad enough where I had to go to the hospital. There are lots of things we have to take care of with precautions this season, and things might be a little frustrating, but overall, it won’t be a bother to me. I understand Kati’s decision and where she’s coming from – she wanted to do x’s and o’s and not worry about COVID, but I’m okay with it. I want to be on the court coaching basketball more than dealing with COVID, but I’ll deal with it as it comes along. The girls need to be back on the court, so I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen.”
Winter sports in the Howard-Suamico School District (HSSD) began on time despite virtual learning being extended until at least Jan. 11.
The HSSD moved all its fall sports to next spring, but girls’ basketball practice across the state began Nov. 16.
“I’m optimistic we’ll have a season, but I’m not sure how that will look,” Gladwell said. “The recent University of Wisconsin COVID study saying high school athletics across the state isn’t a significant reason COVID is spreading, helped our cause to at least start our season.”