T hree years after Pete Lewinski moved back home to Ironwood, both the girls and boys varsity coaching jobs opened up.
That was in 1992.
Some 28 years, seven conference coach of the year awards, eight district championships, six conference titles and two UP teams of the year later, and Lewinski is calling it a career.
What a career it was.
He retires as the career win leader for his alma mater in both girls — with 173 when he stopped coaching them in 2006 — and in boys basketball with 341, finishing with a combined record of 514-413 at Ironwood.
“It’s time,” Lewinski said this week. “I had a certain feeling in my gut, it’s time to go. I’ve done this many years now and coached many teams. I just knew deep down it was time to go. I had enough. I did enough.”
Area basketball won’t be quite the same without Lewinski, who was a mainstay for almost three decades. While his fiery persona on the sidelines calmed a bit later in his career, Lewinski is the ultimate gentleman and his intricate preparation and superior knowledge of the game only improved over the years.
“I think what made him unique, it was tough love, it was no-nonsense, everything was very detailed and specific,” said Michael Pawlak, who was one of Lewinski’s point guards and the 2005-06 UP Class ABC Player of the Year. “If you played hard and understood, he was great to play for. But that was Lew, kind of his way or the highway.”
Even his on-court rivals appreciated what he brought to the game.
“Our sport took a little bit of a hit on the Range by Pete hanging up his sneakers and the whistle,” said Gary Giancola, WJMS commentator and former Hurley coach who had many great battles with Lewinski. “He’s an icon in the whole Gogebic Range in the basketball world.”