Mr. Mike Fergus taking a shot at retirement

After 43 years in education North Penn High School's Mr. Mike Fergus will retire on Dec. 31.

Mr.+Michael+Fergus+will+retire+December+31st+after+a+career+as+a+health+and+physical+education+teacher+as+well+as+a+basketball+coach.

Prasham Jobanputra

Mr. Michael Fergus will retire December 31st after a career as a health and physical education teacher as well as a basketball coach.

TOWAMENCIN- To say that Mr. Mike Fergus likes basketball is an egregious oversimplification.

“When I was a little kid, I played three sports in high school but basketball grabbed me when I was young.  By the time I got to junior high, I ate, drank and slept basketball- practiced it nonstop, all year round.  I used to sleep in the gym up at Penn State overnight and get up at three in the morning and shoot baskets.  I was just consumed by it.  The next chapter when you can’t play anymore, you become a coach and I can’t explain the hold it’s had on me my whole life.  It still has that hold on me; it grabbed me when I was young and it hasn’t let go of me yet,” Fergus said on his love for the game.

Officially on December 31, North Penn will say farewell to Mr. Michael Fergus after 43 years in education and 24 years in the North Penn School District as a health and physical education teacher as well as a former head coach for the boys basketball team.

Fergus attended State College High School as a teenager and was a natural athlete playing basketball, baseball, and soccer.  He was even the basketball MVP of the league his senior year of high school.  He then went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania for a year to play basketball before transferring to Penn State and walking on to the basketball team.  Walking on to any college team is hard enough, but a team like Penn State is extremely difficult, but Fergus’s love for the game helped him accomplish it.

He then graduated and got a masters degree in education and administration at Houston Baptist University.  Fergus then began what would become a long coaching career.  He started off as the girls State College High School basketball coach for two years.  Then he was an assistant coach for the Houston Baptist (at the time a division one program) boys team for four years.  Next up was Robert E. Lee High School for seven years as the head coach of the boys team.  He then returned to State College High School to be the head coach of the boys basketball team for six years.  Then Fergus moved to Lansdale to be the head coach for the boys basketball program for twelve years.

In 1996, the move from State College to North Penn made sense financially and morally for Fergus.

“I wanted to move to the eastern part of the state due to the fact that teachers’ salaries are so much higher here than in the western part of the state and I knew that long term, that would help my retirement if I got a higher paying job, which is helping now.  So that and the fact that North Penn, the size of the school, appealed to me,” Fergus explained.

Fergus began coaching for the Knights in the 1996-97 season and from then on, there was a lot of success.  The Knights made the district playoffs ten out of twelve times in Fergus’s tenure and saw the state playoffs twice.

Flashback: An article from a 1996 edition of The Knight Crier introduces Mr. Mike Fergus as the new NPHS boys basketball coach.

“We had really really skilled kids who were athletic, but more importantly, were really coachable and extremely competitive and bought in to all the things I was trying to teach them in regards to defense, and taking charges, and sharing the ball, and playing a certain way rather than playing one on one,”  Fergus explained.  “We wanted to play team ball.  Players like Marcus Etheridge, who teaches here, and Jay Joseph, and Jay Jameson, and Mike McKenna, players that fit that mold and fit that team style of ball and really played defense and that was our big thing, defense first.  Those kids bought in and we were successful.”

A team’s success all starts with the head coach and Fergus believed that being consistent was the key to being a good coach.

“I was demanding but I think I was fair and I think they also knew what to expect from me everyday.  I think the coach should be the same guy everyday at practice.  Players come in and have had fights with their girlfriends, or they didn’t get enough sleep, or who knows, they’re teenagers.  Good coaches aren’t like that.  Good coaches are the same everyday and I felt like they knew I was going to be consistent, I was going to be firm, but I was going to be fair and I was going to push to make them better and they appreciated that and they also knew that you’re going to get the same coach from me on Mondays as you are Friday,” Fergus reflected.

“I am going to be the same guy and I think that helped a lot.  I always felt like that was very important as a coach, they can count on you all the time to be the same guy,” Fergus said.

After his coaching tenure at North Penn, Fergus, while still teaching at NPHS went to Upper Perk to be the head coach for three years.  He then went to Kennett High School for two years and then joined the Delaware Valley University staff as an assistant.  Finally, Fergus became the head coach at Christopher Dock High School and is in his sixth year as the head coach.

“Every school that I have coached at has been a different kind of a community.  So Houston was inner city kids, State College was professors’ kids because their dads and moms were all professors at Penn State.  North Penn were suburban kids.  Upper Perk were kinda rural kids, Kennett same thing.  Christopher Dock is a private school.  So I’ve coached boys and girls, men and women, in all different settings, so every place has been a little different, which has made it kinda fun,” Fergus said.

Fergus has had 100 wins at three high schools (Robert E. Lee, State College, and North Penn) and should add a fourth as he approaches 100 wins at Christopher Dock along with most likely his 600th career win next year.  With all the success Fergus has had, it’s no surprise that he was inducted into the PA Hoops Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012.

Fergus has had 100 wins at three high schools (Robert E. Lee, State College, and North Penn) and should add a fourth as he approaches 100 wins at Christopher Dock along with most likely his 600th career win next year. ”

“I think the biggest consistent thing through all those things is conditioning, fundamentals, and teamwork.  Everywhere I’ve coached, that’s  been the three things that I wanted to focus on.  We would be in better shape than every team we played.  We would share the ball not on offense but defense requires more teamwork than offense, people don’t realize that.  The way we play, it’s team defense and then fundamentals, teaching kids how to dribble, pass, and shoot and making a fundamentally sound team.  Then, besides those three areas, constantly stressing the defensive end of the floor.  Toughness, getting on the floor, taking charges, guarding the other team.  Everywhere I’ve been, that’s been my philosophy no matter what kind of kid I was coaching and what kind of area.  It was defense first, teamwork, conditioning, and fundamentals,” Fergus said.

Over 40 of Fergus’s former players have gone on to be coaches themselves.  Fergus offered his advice for younger kids with aspirations to play basketball for as long as possible.

“Be coachable and to learn how to shoot.  The good shooters will make up for a multitude of sins was once said.  So a guy that can shoot, coach will find a place for him.  And if you’re coachable, coach will find a place for you,” Fergus explained.

Most current students know Fergus as a health and physical education teacher at North Penn High School.

“I want kids to move around.  I want them to like phys ed.  I want them to be active, want them to get off their devices, move, and have fun.  It’s really important they enjoy phys ed and to understand being physically active is really important and it’s something that will help them live longer, happier, and more productive lives.  I’ve always tried in my gym classes to stress movement, fun, and activity.  I don’t care what it is, it doesn’t matter what the activity is and it doesn’t have to be really complicated.  As we get older, people want to do less.  When kids are young, they want to do things, they want to be active.  I’m seeing now, younger kids acting like older people.  They don’t want to do things so I always try to motivate my kids to work out and move,” Fergus said.

The longtime teacher and coach sees great value in the phys-ed department at North Penn High School, a department he believes doesn’t always get their due.

“We have a great phys-ed department at North Penn.  I don’t think they get credit for all the hard work they do.  Every one of the phys-ed teachers is a really caring and hardworking teacher that really takes their craft seriously and I would say the school is lucky to have them all,” Fergus said.

We have a great phys-ed department at North Penn.  I don’t think they get credit for all the hard work they do.  Every one of the phys-ed teachers is a really caring and hardworking teacher that really takes their craft seriously and I would say the school is lucky to have them all”

— Mr. Mike Fergus, NPHS Health and PE Teacher

After 43 years in education, Fergus weighed many factors and decided the time was right to step away.

“It basically is a healthcare issue.  Situations changed in my home life where healthcare is no longer a problem for us.  Because of that I am able to retire and still we have all the health benefits we need and that was what was keeping me from being able to do it.  I certainly have the years.  If I’m not the oldest, I’m the second oldest teacher in the building I think, so it’s kinda tough when all your peers that I started off teaching with and coaching are all gone.  I’ve been looking to do it for a while and the opportunity arose where I could do it,” Fergus said on his decision.

Just because Fergus will no longer be teaching, that doesn’t mean he will be looking to relax in retirement.

“If I ever retired again, I wouldn’t do it during basketball season.  I’m going to continue to coach forever, for as long as I can.  I don’t see that coming to an end soon hopefully.  And as for the retirement part, I’m just going to finish out basketball season and this spring take a look and see, maybe get a part-time job somewhere.  I don’t know, I’m not sure.  I’m too focused on the season right now to think about it too much,” Fergus said on his life after retirement.

After 24 years at North Penn, Fergus wants to be remembered as person who enjoyed being in the district.

“I want to be remembered as a teacher who enjoyed his classes, who liked his students, who’s students enjoyed having his classes and looked forward to coming to them and a teacher that even at sixty-five, could relate to younger kids and could laugh with them, joke with them, but at the same time get them to do what they were supposed to do,” Fergus stated.