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Bowling News USA - July 31, 2014 National Championship Coach Dan Dorion Leaves Legacy as Bowling Guru

 
 
Dan Dorion, coach of the SVSU bowling team, is taking his team back to the Intercollegiate Bowling Championships for the 2000 season.
He poses at Zion Lanes with SVSU's two previous national championship trophies.  
Cathy Layman | MLive.com file
 
Lee Thompson | lee_thompson@mlive.com
 
 
ESSEXVILLE, MI – Dan Dorion knew bowling like nobody's business.

He knew which ball to use, how to hold it, how to release it, which board to hit, how the lanes would react and how the pins would fall.

"He could watch you roll one shot – even if it was just a warm-up shot – and be able to tell you what was wrong," said Scott Weston, a Bay City Bowling Hall of Famer. "He knew my game that well, and I'm sure there are several people out there with the same story."

But, more than bowling, Dorion knew bowlers.

Dan Dorion SVUS bowling coach
 
One of four national championship trophies won by Dan Dorion's men's bowling program at SVSU. 

And it's how he related to the people in the game – more than the game itself – that will stand as his legacy.

Dorion, a longtime Bay County bowling guru who turned Saginaw Valley State University into a collegiate bowling powerhouse with four national championships, died at his Essexville home at the age of 70 on Tuesday evening. His son, Dan Dorion Jr., said he likely suffered a massive heart attack.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, four children, 16 grandchildren and a bowling community that he was part of for nearly 50 years.

Dorion, who was inducted into the Michigan State Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 2013, was already a Bay City Bowling Hall of Famer and the 1990 MSBA Man of the Year when he took the reins of the SVSU men's bowling program.

He would instantly propel the Cardinals from obscurity to prosperity, leading the program to national championships in 1991, 1997, 2006 and 2007. In his 22 seasons at the helm, SVSU qualified for the U.S. Bowling Congress Intercollegiate National Championships 18 times, posting 12 top-3 finishes.

He coached 23 All-Americans and seven bowlers who went on to compete on the PBA Tour, including 2010 U.S. Open champion Bill O'Neill.

"Dan is an extremely passionate man, and with that passion came our share of arguments," said O'Neill, a three-time Collegiate Player of the Year while at SVSU from 2001-04. "But what never got lost was his love for the program and the players.

"Say what you want, but his record speaks for itself. He went to a school with a couple thousand kids and turned it into an annual national championship contender."

Dorion, who was a longtime fixture as a youth coach and formerly operated a pro shop at Eastland Lanes, carved his niche as a bowling genius at Zion Lanes. The old-fashioned, eight-lane house provided a perfect environment to teach and test bowlers, as Dorion dictated the lane patterns to challenge his pupils at the highest level.

Those lanes served as a training ground for some of the Bay City area's all-time greats – such as Weston, Chuck Bork, Michelle Michalski and Renee Tesner -- who often sought out Dorion for guidance.

"We all knew where to go," said Bork, a 1998 BCBA Hall of Fame inductee. "He would find time for anybody who came through the door and help them get to the next level.

"Anything I accomplished was due to Dan. He took an 18-year-old kid with a little desire and turned me into someone with a pretty good career. He'd get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and meet me at Eastland Lanes or Zion Lanes if something wasn't working. That's the kind of guy he is. He'd drop everything and go work with you."

A former Bay City Bowling Association director, Dorion helped promote the sport in Bay City and helped promote Bay City bowling across the state. In 1985, he organized the largest squad in state tournament history when he took 80 teams to compete. In 1991, he took 20 teams to the American Bowling Congress national tournament.

But friends said it was his connection with bowlers on a personal level that set him apart.

"Any time I needed anything – a place to stay, a bowling lesson or just a friend – he was there," Weston said. "He was my mentor.

"As long as I've known him, he never said no to me."

A funeral is scheduled at 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Peace, 607 E. South Union St., with a showing from 9-11 a.m.

Lee Thompson covers local sports for The Bay City Times and MLive.com. Follow in him on Facebook or Twitter: @LeeTsports


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July, 2014