Jacob Bean clearly remembers a conversation he had two years ago with then new Frankel Jewish Academy boys tennis coach Larry Stark.
“It was before my sophomore season. Coach Stark said he’d booked rooms in Kalamazoo for our team for the (Division 4) state tournament,” Bean said. “He was dead serious.”
To put Stark’s remark into perspective … the team had never qualified for the state tournament in the West Bloomfield school’s 15-year history and there was no reason to believe the drought was going to end.
But Stark knew what he was talking about. The Jaguars did qualify for state in fall 2015, and they’ve done it two times since then.
Stark is a perfect 3-for-3. The Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame inductee has been Frankel’s boys tennis coach three years, and it has gone to state three years.
“After we went to state the first year, the guys said let’s do it again,” Stark said. “After we went the second year, they said let’s go for a three-peat.”
Frankel has finished in the middle of the pack in its three state tournament appearances. Last month the Jaguars tied with Grand Rapids West Catholic for 10th place in a 23-team field in Novi.
The Jaguars finished 9-7-1 in dual matches this season with wins over Walled Lake Central, Allen Park, Fowlerville, Plymouth Christian, Hazel Park, Warren De La Salle, Dearborn, Dearborn Divine Child and Grosse Ile.
There are lots of much bigger schools on that list.
There were five seniors on this year’s Frankel team: Bean, Ilan Elrom, Seth Kahan, Noah Kahan and Noah Goodman, with Bean, Elrom and Seth Kahan serving as captains. Each senior went to the state tournament three times.
What has turned around the Frankel boys tennis program? A number of factors.
“Getting talented kids to work harder, making sure they have proper seeds at tournaments, creating a winning culture and developing match strategies where our boys try to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses with their strengths,” Stark said.
Bean, who played No. 2 singles for Frankel as a freshman and No. 1 singles the next three years, earning All-State honorable mention this season, pointed to Stark’s never-ending positivity and dedication to his job.
“If you’re playing a tough opponent, coach Stark will say, ‘We’ll figure out a way to win,’” Bean said, “And his dedication to our team is above and beyond what you’d expect. He’d start calling me in June to talk about practice.”
A former tennis star at Berkley High School and Michigan State University and a winner of several major U.S. Tennis Association tournaments, Stark was inducted into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
He’s still playing today on the USTA senior circuit.
Stark was the boys tennis coach at West Bloomfield High School for seven years before coming to Frankel.
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Frankel Jewish Academy boys tennis lineup and roster with 2017 records:
No. 1 singles — Jacob Bean (9-8)
No. 2 singles — Ilan Elrom (11-7)
No. 3 singles — Seth Kahan (10-8)
No. 4 singles — Eric Adelson (12-7)
No. 1 doubles — Noah Kahan and Noah Goodman (9-4); No. 2 doubles — Alex Bean and Eli Grey (7-5); No. 3 doubles — Russell Presser and Isaac Mintz (6-6); No. 4 doubles — Andrew Schulman and Ben Goldstein (4-6)
Also: Benny Shaevsky, Mack Glass
and Jack Harris
Coach: Larry Stark
Assistant coach: Gary Gates