Erich Murphy's Sez MEE column
That is a question that needs to be asked to the powers that be who ultimately make the decision on who will coach athletic teams at Pontiac Township High School.
So, are you happy with the direction the boys’ basketball program is going?
There are many people in the community who are not happy with what has taken place over the past six years.
In an objective approach, let us look at pros and cons of the current coaching staff as a whole. Two members have been at the top for six years. The other two, not so long, though one did coach at the junior high for a number of years.
Personable and likable as people, they are good to have drink with and kibitz. There seems to be an understanding of the game.
However, their collective ability to coach high school kids has been questioned by players, parents and others in the community. There is also said to be an apparent lack of respect for the coaches, and an apparent belief that there seems to be a lack of respect from the staff toward players.
In an objective look at numbers, the varsity boys’ basketball program sports a 55-107 record over the past six years. Although it is true that the Indians have made the regional championship game four times in that span, they have won just once. And, of those six years, each of the regional tournaments involving Pontiac has been one of the very weakest, if not THE weakest, in the state.
The one year PTHS did win was as the third seed at Prairie Central and the Indians finished 9-19 that season.
As for hard numbers, the won-loss record is the only tangible item that should be used. One should not look at making four regional title games, because one would then have to see a 25 percent win rate in those games. This, too, defeats the argument of success.
Also, there was just one time when PTHS was the top seed, and that was with an 11-13 record when the regional started. And the Indians went one-and-done.
One can look at no winning seasons as an argument for change. With the best record in the past six years being 13-13 in 2014-15, one trying to figure out the direction the program appears to be headed is obvious.
OK, besides coaching and numbers, one needs to look at the athletes. Are they really good basketball players?
There hasn’t been a ton of talent turnover in the program during the past six years. There have been a few decent athletes, but the best sport for most of them was something else.
Subjectivity can creep into an argument being made regarding the aforementioned respect factor. This includes the number of players who left the team out of what they perceived to be poor coaching ability. This could be why only 20 prospective players showed up the other night for a meeting of the entire program — freshmen to varsity levels.
A more objective view might be that the head coach is not around the players enough. Two factors are involved in this point. The coach has a job in El Paso while the school district does not currently offer a position available to bring in someone new.
A problem any coach will have at Pontiac is that this is no longer a basketball community. There has not been a lot of height roaming the halls, nor many blessed athletes who naturally excel at the game.
Are there sensitivity issues at work? You bet there are, and in handfuls. People will be upset at this piece just because it goes against what they might be thinking and how they feel about the situation.
From this person’s perspective, it doesn’t matter what town you live in, there will be people who don’t like the coach and all sorts of stories come out — true or not.
When it comes right down to it, the biggest issue is the athlete and the coaches are not on the same page. The grade school programs do not seem to be jibe with the high school’s, which is important when trying to develop a winning program.
When looking at successful coaches through recent history — since coaches have no longer been required to be teachers — they have been at the school or at least working in the community while maintaining daily contact with the athletes and parents, even during the offseason.
That is not the case here. The head coach does not live in the community and does not work in the community. Also, none of the coaches are on staff at the high school, according to the website’s directory.
Are there ways to have an open teaching position? Possibly, it will depend on who is retiring or leaving what spaces open up, should a new coach be desired.
However, back to the original question: Are you happy with the direction the boys’ basketball program is going?
In this case, the question is pointed to the Pontiac District 90 school board, but not exclusively. It is also pointed to those who have a vested interest in the program — whether they feel change is needed or it is not.
All I ask is this — use your head to make your decision, not your heart. If you have an opinion, use logic not emotion as the tool for establishing a point of view. If you are happy with where the program is currently going, don’t do a thing and leave well enough alone. If you feel change is needed, do something about to effect that change.