Town to induct late HML coach into Sports Hall of Fame
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Mike Uspensky was in hospice care at his Miami Lakes home when his wife Carolyn shared some news: The town council approved the entry of the retired, much loved football coach into the Sports Hall of Fame.
Uspensky, 72, died that night, April 2.
He had suffered with complications from diabetes over many years, his wife said.
“He would’ve loved the honor,”
Carolyn Uspensky said of the induction ceremony. “It meant the world to him.”
Later this year,
Uspensky, also 72, will represent her husband of 16 years when his name is added to the hall’s wall of legends.
Among the names already there: Former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula and William A. Graham, builder of Miami Lakes and its playgrounds who was an all-around athlete and world class badminton player.
The Hall’s nominating committee picked
the coach before selecting other candidates because his health was failing and they wanted him to know he had been chosen.
Uspensky, shown above in a photograph, taught for 38 years, mostly at
Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School.
He was a physical education teacher and later became the school’s guidance counselor.
Uspensky was the Trojans’ assistant football coach under Joe Brodsky when the team won the state title in 1975.
Uspensky became head coach and led the Trojans to district, regional and sectional championships in 1978 and 1990, his wife said.
Some of his coaching successes include former NFL players Devin Bush, Sr., Michael Timpson and Don Bailey, Jr.
“He was a very sweet man, a great man,” said Bailey, 59, who played center for Tampa Bay and the Indianapolis Colts and is the WQAM Sports Radio color analyst for
University of Miami football games.
Bailey treasures his relationship with Uspensky that began when he played for him at HML and continued with monthly chats until his mentor’s death.
“I think the thing about Coach Uspensky is he did a wonderful job of making sure everybody felt special,” Bailey said. “It’s nice to recognize the guys who went on to have college and professional careers. But the thing that describes him more is how he impacted everybody.”
Bailey said Uspensky helped maximize students’ talents in the classroom and on the playing field.
Bailey said the life lessons he learned from Uspensky were composure, commitment, and “that hard work is part of the equation of success. He was a very patient man.”
Uspensky remained HML’s head coach until 1998.
He grew up in West Palm Beach, played fullback at Palm Beach High School and earned a scholarship to the University of Florida in the 1960s. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, his wife said.
Before Uspensky retired in 2008, the Florida
Association recognized him for his decades of coaching high school football.
In 2017, the town of
Miami Lakes named
November 7 as ‘Mike
Uspensky Day,’ for his coaching and teaching careers and for the impact he had upon youth in the community.
Uspensky’s failing health led to the amputation of his legs. Nevertheless, his wife said their years together were blissful.
“We had a grand marriage,” Carolyn Uspensky said. “We had a great time.”
Jim Hamilton is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame, is on its nominating committee and was Uspensky’s longtime friend.
“Mike’s dedication to the students he served for 36 years makes him most deserving to be inducted into the Town of Miami Lakes Hall of Fame,” he said.
Hamilton said Uspensky’s spirits were always high, despite his medical issues.
“He was such a fighter,” he said. “He always had a smile on his face, as if nothing was wrong with his health.”
Carolyn Uspensky said her husband had no children; she has a daughter from a previous marriage.
Arrangements for a memorial service will be posted on Facebook when crowds are allowed to gather again, she said.