Greg Esler always knew he’d have a future in basketball.
But initially, he figured it’d be as a player.
“I thought I was a pretty good player, but thinking and actually doing are two different things,” he said. “I never got to play, just wasn’t good enough.”
So when that didn’t work out, he turned to his plan B — coaching.
Decades and 400 wins later, that backup plan has worked out pretty well for Esler, who will officially enter the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan’s Hall of Fame this fall.
Esler, who coached St. Clair Shores Lake Shore to the 1994 Class B state title and has had routine success at Warren De La Salle since, started attending coaching clinics when he was 18.
“I got into coaching at an early age, loved it,” he said. “I’ve been really fortunate. Basketball’s been very good to me. I always tell kids, if you’re good to the game, it’ll pay you back ten-fold. I’m living testimony of that.”
Esler, a Shores resident, will be inducted Oct. 6, along with Tom Dykema (Grand Rapids South Christian), Lee Gilbert (Muskegon Heights) and Al DeMott (Sandusky).
“I was surprised,” Esler said upon learning of his selection. “It’s basically the highest honor a high school coach can get. I like the idea that it’s your peers — former coach and administrators — selected me.
“There’s a lot of prestige to it,” the coach continued. “I feel honored. I’ve been blessed. It’s very humbling.”
Esler noted that he’s had several people to thank over the years for helping him achieve his success, from his family and friends, his staff of assistants and players, to mentor coaches, and current and former administrators, including ones that gave him his first coaching jobs.
Just because Esler will enter the hall, doesn’t mean he has any intentions of hanging up his whistle.
“I want to continue to keep coaching until I don’t have the desire; I still have the drive to win,” he said. “I’d love to win a state championship for De La Salle. I’d like to be the first coach to win Class A and B titles. No one has ever done that.”
Esler led De La Salle as far as the Class A state semifinal in 2007.
“We’ve had great tradition. We’ve knocked on the door, just haven’t got the prize yet. I’m still motivated by that,” he said. “I want basketball to be in my life for a long, long time. I still get nervous before the games. I still want to win.
“I don’t plan on retiring any time soon, that’s for sure.”