FRANKFORT - On Monday, brothers Dan and David Loney were right where they like to be this time of year, in the gym at Frankfort High School preparing for the final week of the high school boys basketball season.
Dan Loney is the head boys basketball coach at Frankfort and his brother David is an assistant with the team.
“There’s never enough time in the gym the way we look at it,” said David Loney.
The Panthers will be playing in the MHSAA Div. 4 State Quarterfinals on Tuesday night against Hillman. It’s the third time in Dan Loney’s five years at the helm that the Panthers have reached the quarterfinal stage.
“We’ve had an up-and-down year and there’s been a lot of times where people didn’t give us a shot and for these kids to overcome all that and rally together, it’s the experience of a lifetime,” Dan Loney said of this year’s Frankfort squad.
The Loney brothers are no strangers to playoff basketball. Dan Loney was a standout player at Benzie Central and played collegiately at Western Michigan before returning to Northern Michigan to coach at Frankfort.
“I started off just kind of hanging around practice and didn’t really want to commit to a full-time thing,” he said. “Obviously, once you get in the gym, one thing kind of leads to another and before you know it I was an all-out assistant coach there with Reggie [Manville] and kind of fell in love with it and here we are now.”
It was during his early years as an assistant that his brother David was shooting his way into the Frankfort school record books. David Loney helped lead Frankfort to a state semifinal appearance in 2014 and is the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“We only live about 10 minutes from the school so we’re always going to be local guys and it means a lot to us to be coaching at a local school like this where we know all the parents and all the kids more so than just on the basketball court,” said David Loney of coaching at his old school.
He’s been an assistant under his brother ever since Dan Loney first took over for Reggie Manville in 2018-19. In the brothers’ first year at the helm, the Panthers made it all the way to the Div. 4 State Championship before falling to Southfield Christian.
“That was a really special group of kids [in 2019]. We were never the most talented group,” said Dan Loney. “We just had a bunch of kids that wanted to win, that worked hard and played together. Nobody really saw that coming.”
After this year’s Frankfort squad finished 13-8 in the regular season, nobody really saw them coming either. The Panthers have notched wins over top-tier teams like Gaylord St. Mary and Lake Leelanau St. Mary during their run thus far.
“That  team is talked about almost on a daily basis, at least here at practice,” said Frankfort junior Emmerson Farmer. “They were all about teamwork and taking inspiration from them helped us come together and have one goal.”
On Tuesday night, this year’s Panthers will get their shot at a trip to the Breslin Center against Hillman.
“You get into regionals and it seems like everything happens in like two or three days,” said Dan Loney. “So that’s one thing I want to make sure is that [they] soak it up. You’re in a quarterfinal game. Take a minute, look around the crowd, the environment, the energy and soak that up and remember that.”
Dan and David Loney are right where they want to be: in the gym at Frankfort High School preparing their team to still be playing in the last week of the season. With the success the brothers have had leading the Frankfort program, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re here.
But just because they’ve been here before doesn’t mean they take for granted how special it is to still be competing this time of year, and how special it is to be doing it alongside each other in the community they love.
“I watched [David]’s run to the Breslin,” said Dan Loney. “They went to the Breslin and watching him play and [become] the all-time leading scorer here and now having him on the sideline and we continue to make these runs, it’s special to share that moment after games with someone you’re so close with.”