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Swartz takes over Hurley boys hoops from his former coach


Jason Juno/Daily Globe

New Hurley boys basketball coach Mike Swartz plays defense as Hurley players, including James Sukanen, learn about post moves at the Midwest Elite Basketball camp Monday at the Lindquist Center in Ironwood.

HURLEY - After Hurley won its first regional title in 26 years back in 2005, coach Gary Giancola jumped into the arms of one of his best players, junior Mike Swartz.

Nine years later, Giancola is handing the reigns of the boys basketball program to Swartz, who will also become his son-in-law next month.

Giancola stepped aside this spring after finishing his 11th season and becoming the school's all-time career wins leader.

"That junior year, when we finally got it done, how that fourth quarter unfolded, the pressure and how tight that game was and what was on the line then, just the way it ended and the emotions that poured out, I remember running out on the court, Jimmy Valvano-ish and jumping into his arms," Giancola said of Hurley's 58-55 regional final victory over Phillips at Hayward. "I remember that like it was yesterday and for the celebration we had at that moment, it was very, very special. To spin it forward 10 years later, for him to be my son-in-law and to be handing him the job is just really special for us. It's just one of those moments, you can't write it up. It's really special."

Swartz led Hurley to back-to-back regional titles in 2005 and 2006 and is the Midgets' fourth all-time leading scorer at 1,056 points. Giancola is not surprised that, of all the players he coached, Swartz is the one on the sidelines already, calling him the best leader he had in his 11 years as the varsity coach.

"Of all the 1,000-point scorers that I had, some of them were strong," Giancola said. "They were blessed with either a lot of height, tremendous quickness, good shooting. Mike had a little bit of all those things and he was able to enhance it with his knowledge and leadership and the way he went about his business on the basketball floor. He was very creative. He just put himself in the right position. He had coaching instincts back when he played. You could sense those coaching traits back then."

He already has a year of head coaching experience, at South Shore, in 2012-13. The Cardinals were 7-14 that year, but one of the smallest schools in the state was competitive, losing a number of close games.

"I got a taste of it at South Shore for one year," Swartz said. "I learned a lot, just some of the things you don't really think you have to do as far as getting the team ready. That experience made me want to come back and coach again here."

He returned to Hurley last year when he was hired as a teacher. That didn't come with a head coaching position until now.

"It's where I'm from, where my family is," Swartz said. "I'm just real excited and thankful for the opportunity to be honest with you. I wanted to coach when I was done playing. How cool to come back to your hometown where I had a lot of success playing for coach Giancola."

The Midgets won four regional titles under Giancola.

"I tell you what, he sure likes to put a lot of pressure on me; he says state or bust in two years," Swartz said. "He's had a great program. He took a program that didn't win regional titles and he got a handful of them in his time here. I'm hoping to keep that tradition, but let's get sectional titles. I want to take a team to the Kohl Center. I hope we can do it."

Giancola is proud of all the regionals he has won. The program was in rebuilding mode when he took over. All of that's history; now he wants to see something more.

"Most programs would be tickled pink to win a regional every other year and average over 15 wins," Giancola said. "We've reached that level and got stuck there. We're looking to kick it up a notch with Mike and make a serious run at Madison during his run. He's going to get all my support. We'll see what happens."

Swartz's focus will be on defense.

"I just want them to compete; win, lose or draw, we compete, we play hard, we'll take the outcome," Swartz said. "There's a lot of talent here. If we play as hard as we possibly can every night, we'll be in good shape, we're going to win a lot of basketball games."

The Midgets lost a lot to graduation, but they also return talented players.

"I'm excited," Swartz said. "We've got a lot of talented kids. We're going to be able to compete. I'm excited about that."

Giancola finished his 11 years with 172 wins, the most in school history. He plans to stay involved and he hopes Swartz breaks his record.

Swartz will marry Giancola's daughter, Alaina, next month.


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