EDITORS NOTE: Jim Groleau is one of ten 2013 U.P. Sports Hall of Fame inductees. The Daily Press is continuing a four-part series detailing the four local inductees.
ESCANABA - Being 6-foot-5 in the late 1960s-early 1970s was one thing. Being fleet-footed on top of it made a star out of Pat Groleau.
One of the most prolific scorers in Upper Peninsula basketball history, to this day, Groleau will be inducted into the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 at a date and time to be announced.
Pat Groleau during his college days at Lake Superior State College in the early 1970s, was an NAIA All-American point guard and team captain.
"I guess this is the ultimate," Groleau said. "I've had a lot of success in athletics, but this is the icing on the cake."
Groleau was an outstanding high school player. His 1,926 points at now-defunct Nahma High School still rank ninth all time in the U.P., and at the time of his graduation, he held the U.P. single-season scoring mark of 508 points.
"I scored a lot, but we played in small gyms," said Groleau in a modest tone. "I was a good ball-handler for a big guy and I took a lot of pride in that. Normally, big guys couldn't do it.
"My best year at Nahma was my senior year. We got upset in the district tournament but we went 18-3. At that time we were in Class D. They eliminated Class E my freshman year or else we may had been state champs."
Groleau was the rare high school star that went on to college and made an even bigger name for himself.
A four-year starter at Lake Superior State College, Groleau was a NAIA All-American at point guard in 1971-72 and a two-time LSSC MVP while serving as captain of the basketball team. His final two years, he averaged 14 points and 9.5 rebounds.
"At Lake State, the best team was probably my junior year when we made the NAIA playoffs, only to get beat by a George 'The Iceman' Gervin led Eastern Michigan University team," said Groleau. "Gervin was a very good scorer that went on to the NBA, and he really kicked our butts.
"I always think back to college when we played at Eastern Michigan. We got there in the afternoon and they had a big fieldhouse. We came out the back door and there's 14,000 people there. When you're used to 500 people and all of sudden, there's 14,000, that was a big shock to us."
Groleau had good coaches in Dave Anderson, Ira "Hack" Hanson and Tom Ludwig, but he said the best lessons he received came from his family.
"My favorite memories are being coached in school by my brothers; I had four older brothers. Those really stick out because I know that's where I was taught the game of basketball, right in my backyard," he said.
"I've had great coaches though, from birth right through college."
Groleau was at Lake State the same time fellow 2013 inductee Rick Comley was there playing hockey, before going on to coach at LSSC, Northern Michigan University and Michigan State University. The two athletes roomed together in the dorms.
"It was really special for me to live with Rick and then go into the Hall with him at the same time," said Groleau.
After college, Groleau went on to become an assistant to Ludwig and Ed Douma at LSSC. He was the coach at Brimley High School in 1977-78. He has been retired in recent years, but the fire for the game has never gone away. Groleau was recently named the head coach of Big Bay de Noc's varsity boys basketball team.
"I've been retired for a while now from Hannahville where I worked for 30 years," said Groleau. "But I went to a lot of games and thought, if I got to the games, why not coach? I"m out here a lot, I live in Nahma and Big Bay de Noc is seven miles from here. It's an opportunity that I wanted to apply for. I still have that desire to be involved with basketball."
Groleau hopes to build the Black Bears back into a Class D contender though he did mention one possible hurdle.
"In the interview they asked me what my weaknesses were, and I told them I had never coached a three-point play because that didn't exist when I was coaching," he said.
Of taking over a team that was 2-19 in 2011-12, Groleau said "To me, it's more of a challenge when going from the bottom up, but I'd rather have less talent starting out. The fans expect more when you have more. It will be a good coaching challenge."