COMMENTARY — A couple of coaching changes are at the forefront of the Region 9 news this week, with Cedar naming a new football coach and Desert Hills losing its girls basketball coach. Josh Bennett takes over at Cedar, replacing long-time coach Todd Peacock. At DH, Gary Tomlinson stepped down with five games left in the region season and his team involved in a tight playoff race.
Though the two coaching changes are for different sports, in different communities and involve different transactions in the coaching carousel, they are not unrelated.
I talked to Bennett and he seems energetic, gregarious and eager to begin crafting a program. He has the enthusiasm of a coach with nothing but endless possibilities ahead of him. His vision for Cedar’s football program, at this moment in time, is crystal clear. The field is white, ready to harvest.
I also talked to Tomlinson. Like Bennett, he began this season with a cloudless view of what he wanted for his program. But the big thunderclouds of dissent and criticism showed up quickly. A day after a home loss to first-place Cedar, Tomlinson turned in his whistle and clipboard.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it had to end like this,” Tomlinson told me. “It’s just not worth it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the girls. I love them. I love them all. It’s the other stuff.”
Tomlinson didn’t want to go into detail, but he disclosed to me the dirty little secret that happens to coaches at all levels and at all programs: Overzealous parents are the cancer in youth sports.
The coach said it got worse and worse as the season progressed. He was getting nasty phone calls, angry asides and lengthy (and unkind) emails.
Understandably, the expectations were incredibly high at D-Hills, coming off an incredible 25-1 state championship season. But the Thunder graduated seven seniors off that team and lost their head coach. Tomlinson didn’t know it at the time, but he was walking into a hornet’s nest.
He was (and still is) a highly-successful AAU coach and wanted very desperately to win as a high school coach. His vision was to carry on the success of the past, with mostly new personnel, and have the Desert Hills girls basketball program continue to be the powerhouse it became under former coach Chris Allred.
And that’s the thing that really gets me. All he wanted to do was be successful. Angry parents, dissatisfied boosters and high-strung relatives somehow couldn’t see that.
I coached my boys up through youth leagues in basketball and football. Even at those lower levels, I got phone calls every week. They usually went something like this:
“Yeah, hey great job out there coach, but, uh, I don’t know if you knew this, but my son used to be a star quarterback last year and, uh, you probably have him in the wrong position. What? Oh no, we had a birthday party and he couldn’t be at practice today. Anyway, I’m not sure what you have against little Johnny, but,well, do you even know how to coach? No, no, I’ve never coached before, but I can assure you Johnny has star qualities. His great-uncle played for Weber State. Huh? Oh, me help with coaching? Oh, no, I’m much too busy for that.”
I cannot count the number of coaches I’ve known and worked with over the years that have said the same thing: If I could just coach the kids and not have to worry about politics and parents, the job would be joyful.
I am constantly amazed at the coaches who are able to handle their jobs long-term. I’ve seen guys like Ray Hosner, Ryan Cuff and Reed Secrist (just to name a few) patiently listen to an upset parent after a practice or game, assure them that everything is going to work out fine, and then move on with their jobs.
Somehow, these long-tenured coaches have figured out a way to sift through all the garbage that is thrown at them and focus on the task at hand: developing young people and creating winning programs.
Desert Hills is certainly not unique and Tomlinson will not be the last coach to throw his hands in the air and say, “It’s not worth the aggravation.”
Bennett is probably already finding out at Cedar High that there is, for better or worse, a lot more to coaching than just coaching.
It’s understandable that parents and other family members want their kids to have the best opportunities possible. But parents need to let the kids fight their own battles. Let them make their own way in life. Coaches are trying to do what’s best for the team. If your child is good enough and works hard enough, they will get noticed.
I’ll state it once again: Every coach wants to win and he will put the best players on the court (or field) that he thinks will make that happen.
In other words, you’re the parent, so parent. But he’s the coach. Let him coach.
Ron Denos, who was an assistant last season under Allred, will coach the DH Lady Thunder the remainder of the season. Will that include the playoffs? That’s a good question. Right now, Region 9 is tight. With the exception of Cedar, which is 7-0, and Hurricane, which is 0-7, the rest of the region is all bunched together.
With three playoff spots up for grabs (Cedar is pretty much a lock for the first or second seed), five teams are either 4-3 or 3-4. Snow Canyon and Pine View have the leg up, with both teams sitting at 4-3. Dixie, Desert Hills and Canyon View are at 3-4.
This week will clearly be a huge one as the five teams fight for those three spots. The Lady Warriors are at Canyon View tonight. SC then hosts winless Hurricane Thursday. A pair of wins for the Warriors would all but lock up a playoff spot.
The Lady Panthers are home for Hurricane tonight and then have a huge battle at home against Dixie Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Lady Flyers and Desert Hills battle at Dixie High tonight with the loser in tough shape — 3-5 with four games left.
This week’s girls basketball schedule:
1/27 – Tuesday
Desert Hills at Dixie, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Canyon View, 7 p.m.
1/29 – Thursday
Cedar at Canyon View, 7 p.m.
Dixie at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Quest Prep, Nev. at Desert Hills, 6 p.m.
James Bennion nearly singlehandedly shifted the region race in boys hoops last Friday. The Hurricane senior, along with his Tigers teammates, knocked off Dixie in a stunning upset at the Hangar. Bennion had 37 points and eight 3-pointers as HHS beat Dixie 74-64.
While it may be too late for the Tigers to make the playoffs (they’re 1-6), the loss for Dixie sends a ripple through the top of the region. All of the sudden, Desert Hills (7-0) has a two-game lead and Pine View (5-2) is tied with the Flyers for second place.
Cedar, at 3-4, still has the inside track on that fourth playoff spot. The Redmen are a game ahead of Snow Canyon (2-5) and a game and a half ahead of Canyon View (1-5) and two games ahead of Hurricane.
Again, this is a critical week. Desert Hills is close to wrapping up the region title and win in Wednesday night’s home game vs. Dixie would get them even closer. Last time the two teams met, Quincy Mathews hit a jumper as time expired to give DH the win. D-Hills has a bye Friday night.
The Flyers also have a Friday clash at home against Pine View, so it’s definitely do-or-die time for Dixie.
Pine View is at the suddenly dangerous Hurricane Wednesday night in advance of the Friday battle with the Flyers.
Cedar has a bye Wednesday night and then the Redmen host rival Canyon View Friday. The Falcons have got ato have that won to keep playoff hopes alive.
This week’s boys basketball schedule:
1/28 – Wednesday
Canyon View at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Dixie at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
1/30 – Friday
Canyon View at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Dixie, 7 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
“This Week in Region 9″ is a weekly column written by Andy Griffin exploring the happenings in Region 9 at all sports venues. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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