Disputes over coaches nothing new, but …
October 4, 2005
After 33 years in this business I’ve probably seen nearly everything, especially when it comes to high school sports. But a couple of stories have come up recently – one became fact, the other is still rumor – that I must admit are new, even to me.
First, the fact – Douglas High volleyball coach Velvet Steel and her entire coaching staff resigned after last Thursday’s matches at home against Reno. Second, the rumor – that Carson High football coach Shane Quilling will not be rehired at the end of this season.
There’s nothing new about rumors and certainly nothing new about hearing fans and parents complain about high school football coaches. I’ve seen these situations up close – South Tahoe, Whittell, Douglas and Carson, among other schools – and normally, 99 percent of those rumors would be ignored. However, the extent of what has been heard around Carson City the last couple of weeks simply cannot be ignored.
The complaints don’t surprise me given Carson’s 18-27 record during Quilling’s time as head coach since 2001. Then again, Carson’s football fortunes have been inconsistent at best for the past two or three decades. And, of course, the blame has to go somewhere and it falls on the head coach more often than not.
If you listen to fans, the coach’s offense is always to blame whenever a team is losing. Funny thing is, I’ve seen coaches over the years win and lose with the same offense. I saw Erv Hatzenbuhler coach the Single-wing exclusively at Galt High, then a school of no more than 600 students that was competitive anywhere in the Sacramento area in the 1970s and ’80s. I’ve seen coaches use multiple offenses successfully and not-so-successfully. I even saw one coach who switched offenses from week to week one season, even going so far as to install the Single-wing for his team’s game against Galt. (Lesson: You will never surprise an opponent with its own offense for more than one series.)
Right now, what I find surprising about the football rumor going around town – shocking, actually – is not so much that Quilling’s on his way out, but rather that a replacement has already been selected.
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This concerns me far more than win-loss records or anything like that. Never have I heard of a replacement even being rumored to be a done-deal before the season’s end. If a coach’s contract is not going to be renewed, the school and community deserve to have a thorough search conducted in order to find the best candidate possible.
One parent called this newspaper last week saying he had many questions about the rumors, but had received no answers from anyone at the school. True, the school administration may not be responsible for rumors on the street, however, I believe the players and people who support this program deserve to have the air cleared. Either confirm what is being said or deny it. It’s not right to leave this football team and the community hanging in limbo.
Meanwhile, down in Minden, wins and losses were no factor in the Douglas volleyball situation because the Tigers have been 38-13 the past two seasons under Steel and 18-6 overall this season (14-1 against Nevada opponents). They won a league championship in 2004 and got to the 4A state tournament finals before losing to Galena in four sets.
Instead, Steel said she resigned because of what amounted to harassment from a group of disgruntled parents. Furthermore, she said the root of the complaints stemmed from her decision to cut a couple of returning players during the team’s try-outs in August. I’ve seen that picture before, but never seen a coach leave midway through such a successful season.
Amazing! Then again, I was amazed last year when the young Tigers over-achieved at the state tournament and got to the finals against an extremely talented Galena team that was playing in its own gym – and a group of fans got after Steel and her coaching staff for not having performed better.
Again, no surprise there. That’s a scene I’ve seen before, which explains why Douglas has won league championships each of the last five seasons and gone through six coaches in the process. Looking back further, Douglas has appeared in the regional/zone tournament championship 13 times in the last 14 years – under the direction of many different coaches. To be honest, Douglas is not an easy place to coach. I just wish I had one dollar for all the times since 1980 that the school has had one of its coaches leave during a season. I’d have enough money to start my own reality show and name it “The Apprentice.”
The current situation is unfortunate because I felt Velvet Steel was one of the better volleyball coaches I’ve seen at Douglas in the last 25 years in regard to knowing the sport and caring about the kids.
There are a few instances where a coach should be replaced. Being found in the back of a van in a parking lot or motel room with one of your athletes, for example. Choking one of your athletes (or anything comparable). Choking an umpire or referee after a game, for another. Or choking one of your parents after a game.
You want to know the thing that amazes me most of all? I remember seeing these situations 20, 30 years ago and thinking that the kids of the time would grow up and know better than to behave like that. I’m still waiting for it to happen.
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1220.
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