FJA basketball team

Frankel Jewish Academy (FJA) basketball coach Mike Marek cites location, let-downs from this year’s season as reasons for stepping down.

The coach who revived the Frankel Jewish Academy boys basketball program almost overnight has left the West Bloomfield school to take another coaching job.

Mike Marek is the new coach at Canton Preparatory High School. He was one of 31 candidates for the position.

Marek went 24-18 in two seasons at FJA including 14-8 this past season, a far cry from the 4-16 record the team posted in the season before he arrived.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to coach at Frankel. The people there are great, and you won’t find better players and parents,” Marek said. “I really got choked up when I told the players about my decision to take the new job.”

So why did Marek, 30, leave FJA?

Canton Prep is five minutes from his home, where he’ll live with his wife-to-be after they’re married in October.

Coaching at Canton Prep will mean less travel for work. Marek’s full-time job is in the patient transportation department at Beaumont Hospital in Farmington Hills.

Canton Prep is a bigger school than FJA, with varsity and junior varsity boys basketball teams. FJA doesn’t have a JV team.

Those are facts and Marek’s overriding reasons for taking the new job.

There also was the heartbreak of last season.

FJA qualified for the Catholic League C-D tournament, but the Jaguars didn’t compete because the tournament schedule conflicted with Shabbos.

FJA finished second in the Intersectional 2 Division with a 7-4 record. The Jaguars beat every other team in the division — including champion Riverview Gabriel Richard — at least once.

“It was so hard looking my kids in the eye and telling them they couldn’t play in the tournament because the Catholic League wouldn’t accommodate us,” Marek said.

“We were good enough to win that tournament.”

Associate Catholic League members like FJA can opt in or opt out of upcoming league tournaments at the end of the previous school year.

FJA opted out of the 2019 boys basketball C-D tournament, and Catholic League officials pointed to that decision as their reason for not changing the tournament schedule.

The Jaguars shook off the disappointment of not playing in the Catholic League C-D tournament to give eventual Division 4 state champion Southfield Christian its closest game in the post-season, losing 67-48 in the district finals.

Southfield Christian beat Frankfort 63-39 in the state title game.

“Our district game with Southfield Christian was closer than the score looks. We were within 10 points in the fourth quarter,” Marek said.

“Their coach (Josh Baker), who just took a job an assistant coach at the University of Alabama, called me and praised our game plan and how hard our kids fought. I’m so proud of the way my kids left everything on the court that night.”

FJA Athletic Director Rick Dorn said he received 20 applications for Marek’s old job, and he hopes to have someone in place by July.

“We were fortunate to hire Mike,” Dorn said. “He’s a young guy with a ton of energy, and our kids took to him right away. That’s half the battle for a new coach. You want to build relationships as quickly as possible.”

Dorn said Marek knows the X’s and O’s of coaching basketball more than most young coaches.

Marek said he doesn’t want to step on the new FJA coach’s toes, but he’ll be available to help.

“I can be a reference,” he said. “I have films of all our games.”

Read more: FJA Jaguars Qualify but Won’t Play in Catholic League Tournament