Clarkston legend Dan Fife passes away, at age 74

By Wendi Reardon Price
Staff Writer

The Clarkston community lost a legend last week as Dan Fife passed away Thursday at the age of 74.
Fife is remembered as a friend, husband, father, grandfather, and for his impact on Clarkston Athletics as a player, athletic director and coach.
Clarkston Basketball shared on its social media accounts last Thursday evening: “So saddened by the passing of Coach Dan Fife today, but honored to celebrate his life and legacy. Coach, the lives you impacted on and off the court are truly remarkable. Your commitment to Clarkston Athletics, in particular Clarkston Basketball, is second to none. It is amazing how much you got out of your players and teams consistently year after year. Your election to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame spoke volumes of you as a coach. You were, and still are the best basketball coach in the state of Michigan. From coaching your own kids, to remembering every kid’s name in our McGrath Basketball league for years, to coaching your former players’ kids, your impact will be felt for generations. More importantly, your love for Jan, Dugan, Jeremy, and Dane are something to be admired. Family was always No. 1 for you, and you poured your heart and soul into them. We will always continue to play hard, play smart, and play together. We love you and miss you, Coach Fife.”
Fife retired from being the head coach for Clarkston Boys Varsity Basketball September 2018 after coaching for 36 seasons. During his tenure as head coach, he had a record of 703 wins, the third most in state history behind Roy Johnston and Lofton Greene.
Fife also led the Wolves to 29 league titles, 30 district titles, 13 regional championships and two state championship wins in 2017 and 2018.
Winning a state championship was a dream for Fife since he was a basketball player for Clarkston.
“It’s really unexplainable,” Fife said after the Wolves defeated Grand Rapids Christian in the MHSAA Boys Basketball Class A State Championship game at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center, March 25, 2017. “I am proud of the kids. I have said it before and I truly mean it – Clarkston is a special place. We have great support from our administration, staff and families. I don’t think you can be successful in athletics in today’s world without that kind of support from everyone.”
Tim Wasilk, a former player for Fife and assistant coach for boys varsity basketball, took over as head coach.
“Coach Fife was like a second father for me, and he is still the little voice in my head helping me to make the right decisions in life,” Wasilk shared. “He was my coach, my friend, my mentor. The life lessons he instilled in me will stay with me forever.
“Coach Fife drew parallels between life and every sport kids played. He truly impacted thousands, and we are all better to have known him. He taught me how to compete at a high level, work harder than your opponent, and win and lose the right way. More importantly, he modeled how to be a great husband, father, and friend. He loved Clarkston Athletics more than anyone I ever knew. I wouldn’t be coaching today if it weren’t for Coach Fife.”
Wasilk added, “Coach Fife’s legacy will continue in Clarkston and beyond for decades to come. I am honored to help carry on the legacy he built. I miss him dearly.”
Fife prepared younger players with the winter McGrath basketball league and two summer camps, Fife Fundamentals and Fife Basketball Camp.
Fife graduated from Clarkston High School in 1967. He was Clarkston’s first All-Stater in any sport and was the first freshman to play varsity basketball for the Wolves. When he graduated, he held 14 basketball records at the high school, including the most points scored, 1,589 points.
Fife continued his basketball career at University of Michigan.
Fife was drafted into the National Basketball Association by the Milwaukee Bucks and Major League Baseball by the Detroit Tigers, both in 1971. In 1973, he pitched seven games for the Minnesota Twins, finishing 3-2, prior to shoulder issues ending his time in the pros.
He went back to University of Michigan and was an assistant coach.
He didn’t stay away from Clarkston for too long. He came back to Clarkston where he and Jan, his high school sweetheart and wife, would raise their family of three sons, Dugan, Jeremy and Dane.
Fife also served as Clarkston Athletics Director, retiring August 2016. Jeff Kosin took over the position.
“Growing up, I wasn’t from Clarkston, but I knew of the Fife name,” said Kosin, adding when he came to Clarkston he coached football. “I really started a great relationship with Coach Fife my first year. He was an incredible person. He really cared about every individual. When you talk about Clarkston, he was 100% Clarkston. Every sport, every athlete. I am still at a loss.
“I look at McGrath, he knew every kid in that gym. Every kid either had a nickname or he knew the kid by his real name or by his last name. When you get 175 kids in a gym, and he can build that rapport with those kids and build that relationship with those kids. Having three boys myself going to the McGrath program on Saturday mornings, that was the highlight of their week. Being in there with Coach Fife, being in there with the varsity players, that’s a huge deal. When you look at the success he has had across the board, it’s really not surprising because everybody had a relationship with him. He was an incredible person.
“For me, he was a huge mentor for me. He taught me more than just how to be an AD. He taught me more about how to be a coach, how to be a good husband, a good father and just overall good friend.”
Fife was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 on his birthday, Oct. 5.
“Looking up at the stands to see about 40 people from Clarkston was really humbling,” he said.
Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan shared the passing with the district.
“We lost a beloved member of our school family, former Coach and Athletic Director Dan Fife,” he wrote. “Coach Fife was truly a legend in Clarkston. After growing up and playing basketball in Clarkston, he played at the University of Michigan and then returned to his hometown to raise a family and coach at CHS. Off the court, Dan was more than just a coach; he was a mentor, a role model, and a friend to many within our community. His passion for the game of basketball, dedication to our students, and unwavering commitment to excellence left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of knowing him. As we reflect on Coach Fife’s life and legacy, let us take comfort in the memories we shared and the lessons he imparted. Dan taught us the importance of teamwork, perseverance, and sportsmanship. His kindness, generosity, and unwavering belief in the potential of every student inspired us all to strive for greatness. Arrangements for a memorial or other service are in progress, and details will be shared with the community when available.”

Dan Fife fulfilled one of his dreams as he led the Clarkston Boys Varsity Basketball team to their first state championship in 2017. The Wolves added another championship win in 2018. Dan Fife passed away on May 30, 2024. File photo: Larry Wright

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