Five of six court coaches are new

The Argus-Courier sports coverage area includes six high school varsity basketball teams - St. Vincent boys, Casa Grande boys and Petaluma boys with girls teams from each of those schools. That means six coaches who not only coach teams, but run programs. Programs include at least varsity and junior varsity teams, and for Petaluma and Casa Grande boys, freshmen squads as well. The head coach at each school is responsible for all those teams.

For those without a calculator, that means six coaches are needed to run high school basketball programs in Petaluma. Of those six, five are new or almost new.

Petaluma High School has new coaches for both its boys (Anton Lyons) and girls (Sophie Bihn) teams. Chris Gutendorf takes over the Casa Grande boys program. Jim Fegundes is, for the second time, new again to the St. Vincent girls program. St. Vincent boys coach Scott Himes is almost an elder statesman of the group, returning for a second year.

Only Casa Grande girls coach Dan Sack has been around long enough to qualify for a coaching AARP card.

As far as I can tell by reading between press release lines, most of the former coaches left of their own choosing. I’m not going to go into the coaches who were asked to leave because, truthfully, I don’t know all the facts and refuse to pass along rumor and innuendo.

Before I go any further on the real message I’m trying to convey, let me get something that has been simmering under my cap.

Please, administrators, don’t put that dog excrement about “heading in a different direction” in my pathway when a coach is fired or asked to leave. It stinks. I get it that there really isn’t much you can say when a coach “resigns” or simply “leaves.”

But really, what direction do you expect the program to go? Is it some way other than to benefit the athletes? If he/she didn’t win enough, say so. If it was for other reasons, tell the truth that state law prohibits you from talking and leave it at that. Just don’t keep the program spinning in “different directions.”

Now, back to the main message. The majority of the Petaluma basketball coaches, like the majority of coaches of all sports in all communities, left because of one of two reasons.

1) The most popular is that today’s coaching positions require way too many off-the-field or court responsibilities.

2) There is way too much parental interference.

For most coaches, the attraction of the job is an opportunity to work with the kids - to teach them the skills of the sport and lessons of life.

Unfortunately, as a bonus, they get to spend hours making schedules; ensuring that officials are available; arranging transportation; keeping up with the constantly changing rules, not just of the game, but of coaching requirements; raising funds; and taking care of 101 other administrative details.

Then there are the parents. The vast majority are supportive, helpful and considerate. In fact, you can’t run a program without their support and help.

However, there are always a handful that know more than the coach (at least in their own minds), a few whose young star doesn’t get the proper playing time and/or attention. It is the proverbial clash between the parent who wants what is best for their child, and the coach who must do what is best for the team.

Long hours, low pay and, too often, controversy bordering on chaos. It takes a special person to coach.

(Contact John Jackson at

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