Marian, Catholic League lose well-loved AD David Feldman to COVID-19
Battle Creek — Birmingham Marian was set to play its biggest match of the season Friday afternoon in the Division 1 state volleyball semifinals at Kellogg Arena, but it was without its biggest supporter in longtime athletic director David Feldman.
Feldman, who always had a smile while greeting fans, former players and reporters as they walked in at Marian’s athletic events, died Thursday after a long battle with COVID-19. He was 65.
Mayssa (Bazzi) Cook, whom Feldman hired as Marian’s volleyball coach three years ago, said Marian was going to play because that’s what he would have wanted.
“We’re going to go out there and honor his name by playing as hard as we can and be Marian strong,” Cook said. “He loved his job and he loved the athletes and the community is heartbroken and we’re going to mourn his loss for years to come.”
Feldman, Marian's athletic director since 2004, enjoyed talking about the athletic program, and showing tremendous pride when talking about his sons (Davis, Nathan) and daughter Jacqui Rose, who graduated a couple of years ago from Marian and was helping out with the freshman and JV volleyball teams this season.
Feldman also loved coming to Kellogg Arena with Marian’s volleyball program, watching the team play in the Class A state championship match four straight years (2007-10) under the guidance of Irick Gardner, and bringing home the ultimate trophy in 2009 and 2010.
Feldman also had fun in working alongside Marian teacher and basketball coach Mary Cicerone for more than 15 years, including Cicerone’s most recent state-championship years in 2014 and '15.
Cicerone was trying to hold back tears talking about Feldman during a phone interview Friday morning. She said Feldman was watching tryouts for basketball in early November before athletics shut down for COVID, noting he was fine then.
But Feldman soon got sick and was in the hospital the last six weeks, the final two on a ventilator.
“He fought it hard but lost his battle and it’s frickin' awful because you kept thinking he’s going to be all right. It just doesn’t seem possible because he’s always been there, it’s just so sad,” Cicerone said. “Just seems like he and I have been here forever, working together every single day.
“He was so good about caring about the kids and making sure they had things right. He always wanted them to have the best equipment. He was all in to kids looking good, that was part of the whole persona that he wanted. They were good players and he wanted them to look good too. He just wanted to make it a good program for the kids. He was super organized and passionate about the kids and their sports.
“I just can’t imagine if we were able to have a real funeral because there wouldn’t be a place that could hold it because he’s impacted so many lives, young people who are now adults and parents of the kids. He was so involved, it just doesn’t make any sense. I just always thought he’d pull through until really those last two days and we’re all struggling today. It’s just so awful.”
Marian often hosted the Catholic League boys basketball tournament, U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly enjoyed his talks with Feldman, noting their sons — Colin Donnelly and Davis Feldman (Birmingham Brother Rice) — competed against each other with Donnelly now a grad assistant for Arkansas’ basketball team and Feldman a pitcher at Eastern Michigan.
“We would see each periodically throughout the year and prior to him being at Marian he coached I think at the Lady of Sorrows in basketball so I knew him through that, but his son and my son were similar in age so they would compete against each other in basketball,” said Donnelly of Feldman who graduated from Notre Dame where he was friends with Adrian Dantley.
“Every time I saw Dave he was all smiles," Donnelly said of Feldman, who graduated from Notre Dame where he was friends with Adrian Dantley. "He was a great conversationalist. He was a very proud guy, very proud of his sons and family. We’d always talk about Davis’ accomplishments. It’s just so sad, a guy so young. He was just a real genuine guy and a real gentleman.”
It was last February at Marian during the Catholic League basketball playoffs when Feldman talked about his plans to travel south to Florida to watch his son pitch with Eastern Michigan during a spring trip.
“As far as supporting his family and kids, he drove all over the place to be with them and watch them, just a good all-around guy, family guy,” Cicerone said. “He loved being around young people, had great energy and was just a happy, energetic type of guy. He was just passionate about the girls and his kids, just proud of everything that everybody accomplished and loved being a part of it.”
Warren Regina athletic director Diane Laffey and Farmington Hills Mercy athletic diretor Nancy Malinowski cherished their time working with Feldman at Catholic League events over the decades.
“Dave was just as competitive as anyone else, but when you walked in that building for that game he was as friendly as you’d want anyone to be, greeted everybody and made sure you were comfortable, just really took care of the visiting teams," Laffey said. "Aside from being a very good athletic director, he did a lot with the CYO program so I knew he was a very good coach too.”
Said Malinowski: “I just can’t believe it. He was just like a family member. I’m so devastated, you know we’ve worked together for so many years, even if it was at different schools most of us wants what’s best for the athletes and I’m going to certainly miss him.”