Warren — Longtime De La Salle boys basketball coach Greg Esler resigned late Thursday, according to a statement sent out by the high school.
Esler, 65, steps down as one of the state's most successful basketball coaches, with a career 425-199 record. The hall-of-fame coach helped lead the Pilots to four Detroit Catholic High School League tournament titles, 22 state district championships and two Final Four appearances. He coached 188 varsity players in 26 seasons since starting at De La Salle in 1995.
"Bernie (Holowicki) told me that you’ll know when it’s time, and it’s time,” Esler said in the statement released by the school. “Priorities change and it’s time to move on. I hope I have a lot of life left and things to do.”
Esler served as the director of the St. Clair Shores Parks & Recreation department before joining De La Salle in 2019 in a full-time position as the school's major gifts officer. He said in the statement he hopes to spend more time with his wife, Renee, and grandchildren in retirement.
De La Salle was playing for its sixth straight district title before the state tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the Pilots never won a MSHAA championship under Esler, they made the Final Four in 2006-07 and again in 2017-18.
“My goal was to win a state championship at De La Salle, but we didn’t do it,” Esler said in the statement.
Esler began at De La Salle as the freshman head coach in 1984, and prior to that coached at Webster Elementary and St. Anne Catholic School. He was the head coach at Saint Clair Shores Lake Shore from 1987-94 before returning to the Pilots as head varsity coach in '95.
Esler went 558-235 overall in 33 seasons, producing 27 district titles, and eight regional crowns. He is also one of a handful of basketball coaches in Michigan high school history to earn State Coach of the Year three times.
According to the MHSSA website, Esler’s wins total ranks No. 15 among all-time boys’ basketball coaches.
“Quite frankly there was a time when we dominated the Catholic League,” he said in the statement. “... We had solid coaches. We ran a clean program. Our student-athletes always were of the highest character.
"A lot of our kids have done extremely well. The biggest thing is that these guys have been great family guys and the fact that so many come back for the alumni tournament. It shows me that we did something right.”