Dave Thorne had an inkling last month while in Europe. But, it wasn’t until returning to Detroit that Farmington Hills Harrison’s defensive coordinator officially learned he’s destined for a spot in the Michigan High School Football Coach’s Association Hall of Fame.
“It was funny. John Herrington, Jon Herstein and I got asked to speak in that American Football Federation Clinic in Germany and I was actually there when I got the call about it,” said Thorne. “It was the first time I had ever been in Europe but I didn’t use my phone over there. I got a voice message and the area code was from Holland (Michigan).
“Herrington kept telling me, because he and I did a lot of stuff together while we there, that that’s where Jack Carlson (the MHSFCA’s historian who notifies the inductees) lives and that has to be him. He kept saying ‘I think that must be Jack and I think you got into the Hall of Fame,’ and he was all excited about it.
“Actually, on the way back from the airport when we landed in Metro on Dec. 9, I called Jack back and he told me on the phone,” he said. “And it was pretty cool,”
Thorne is one of 14 coaches who comprise the MHSFCA’s Hall of Fame Class of 2018. He is the seventh Farmington Hills Harrison football coach to become a member of that esteemed group.
That list is headed by Herrington (1986 inductee), the only head coach in program history who became the state’s all-time winningest mentor last fall. The other Hawk coaches residing on that revered roster include Bob Sutter (1990), Bob Sallow (1993), John Witkowski (1996), Jim Weston (1999), Ron Brown (2006), and now, Thorne.
“I never really thought about (going into the Hall of Fame) as a goal, but it sure is truly an honor for me,” said Thorne. “I mean, working with the guys I’ve worked with … Herrington, Sutter, Brown, Witkowski and Weston … they are all in the Hall of Fame and it makes me very happy to be in the Hall of Fame with the guys I’ve coached with all those years.
“Herrington had nominated me for it a few years back and I’m sure there are a lot of other guys who had been coaching longer than I have,” he said. “So, it’s quite an honor to be selected.”
A proud head coach
Herrington couldn’t be happier for his longtime assistant. And, since Herrington takes over as the MHSFCA president on Jan. 17, he will serve as Master of Ceremonies at the official induction ceremony scheduled for March 10th at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West.
“I’m very proud of him. He’s the sixth (assistant) coach from our school to go in and I think that’s more than any other school in the state,” said Herrington. “He definitely deserved it. I think he’s one of the best defensive coordinators in the state without a doubt. He’s very innovative and he’s done a lot of things.
“I thought maybe he would have gone in sooner than this, but this year is perfect timing,” he said. “I’m going to be president of the Association and I’ll actually be kind of the Master of Ceremonies for the night and I will get to see him go in. It’s going to be a great night.”
More: Hear coach Thorne fire up the Harrison squad included in this video tribute (below) to head coach John Herrington
With Farmington Harrison’s 39-0 victory over Berkley, coach John Herrington reached the magical number of 431 wins to become the all-time coaching career wins record holder in the state of Michigan. Wochit
Thorne is a Harrison lifer.
A 1975 Harrison graduate, Thorne was a three-year varsity player for Herrington as a running back and defensive back. In his senior season in the fall of 1974, Thorne helped lead the Hawks to an 8-1 record while amassing more than 1,000 yards rushing.
Thorne then went on to play football at Wayne State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and later a master’s degree in Sports Administration.
He began his coaching career in 1980 at Livonia Stevenson where he served as junior varsity coach for two years before heading over to North Farmington in 1983. He spent five years with the Raiders as a JV/varsity assistant before taking a nine-year coaching hiatus to help raise and tend to his family.
In 1998, Herrington asked Thorne, who was teaching at Harrison, to help with the football program. Thorne has been with the Hawks ever since, moving up the coaching ladder from JV assistant, to varsity line/defensive backs to varsity defensive coordinator – a position he’s held since 2007.
“I was so happy to work in one school district for 31 years, to teach Special Ed which I wanted to do and coach. It is a neat feeling,” said Thorne, who also coached track and field for the Hawks. “It doesn’t happen much any more when you can teach in one school district for that many years. It was just fantastic and I don’t think I’d do anything different. It was a great time.
“Somebody once asked me if I wanted to be a head coach and I said, ‘No, not really,'” he said. “I just enjoyed doing what I did and enjoyed my place at Harrison. You find your niche; you find your place and it’s been great working with the guys that I’ve had the privilege of working with who have been great mentors for me.”
Capping a tremendous year
The Hall of Fame honor caps a tremendous year for Thorne and the Hawks football program.
Harrison, in its second-to-last year as the school is closing, earned a share of the Oakland Activities Association White Division championship. The Hawks then followed that excellent regular season with an exciting post-season.
Harrison won district and regional championships, earned a semifinal victory and advanced to the Division 3 state championship where it lost to a superior Muskegon squad. The Hawks finished with a 10-4 overall record.
“It was a special year, although it was really tough because of distractions,” said Thorne, whose team successfully dealt with all the media coverage dealing with Herrington setting the state record for most career coaching victories. “But, it was great. With Herrington’s leadership and the coaches coming together just trying to focus on one game at a time.
“We made it to to state finals and it was a tremendous year. The kids put in a tremendous amount of work, as did the coaches. I don’t think people, other than the wives, know all the time that coaches put in. That’s our system and we just do it.
“I guess that’s one of the things I’ve learned the most,” he said. “You have to stick with the system and you got stick with it and stick with it and get kids to buy into it and believe in what you’re trying to teach them and it’s pretty cool to see the kids respond.”
Thorne stuck with the program and his reward is now the Hall of Fame.