ELIDA — Disappointed. Angry. Blindsided.
Denny Thompson said he is feeling a wide range of emotions after his contract was not renewed as boys basketball head coach at Elida after 15 seasons and nearly four decades coaching in the school district Thursday.
“I am not sure I have totally grasped this whole thing as being something that has transpired,” Thompson said. “It is still pretty early with me grasping this. The sun is going to come up tomorrow. Our kids will be OK. Our staff will be OK and I truly am grateful for being in the role I have been in the last 15 years.”
In a prepared statement released by the Elida school district it stated, “For a variety of reasons, the Board and Administrations feel that a change is needed in the direction of the boys’ basketball program. In respect for the 33 years that Coach Thompson taught at Elida and now, 37 years coaching within the district he was presented with an opportunity to announce his resignation, at which he obviously has decided not to do so. As a result, the district will begin the process of posting the position and finding our next basketball coach.”
Thompson said he was made aware of the situation Tuesday and was taken by surprise by the board’s decision.
“It was a total blindside on my side of it,” said an emotional Thompson, “It would never occur to me that this was a scenario that would pan out. Quite honestly. I felt like I would be able to coach until I decided that I was done. Not that I was above the administration for the decision but I felt like the job that I had done I felt warranted in finishing the way I wanted to.”
In his tenure as the head coach that began in 2006, Thompson went 201-161 as Elida’s boys head basketball coach. The Bulldogs tied for the WBL titles in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14. In 2012, Elida reached the 2012 Division II state championship where it lost 54-52 to Dayton Dunbar.
The last two seasons, due to transfers and personnel changes, resulted in back-to-back losing seasons where the Bulldogs went 13-33.
Thompson said no one from the administration or the school board communicated that they were not satisfied with his duties or approach to the program.
“Between the school board and the superintendent,they said they chose to go another route or another direction,” Thompson said. “There had not been any communication from school board members or the superintendent of concerns that they have had made to me ever. I have never had a conversation with an administrator or school board member about how I handled or dealt with things in my basketball program.”
Thompson admits that they did convey that the last two years have been tough but he points out the transfer of players and the pandemic as to areas that he had no control over.
“Every school is cyclical and it comes and it goes and we had a double whammy with personnel leaving and I hate to use COVID, the pandemic as a thing because it has been devastating to such higher levels than my basketball program but it was horrible to go eight months and not work with my kids. That is my point. In the big picture it was a little thing but it was a big factor to get things to where we wanted them in terms of skill level and work.”
Elida entered this past season with a team that had little or no varsity experience.
“As far as this year goes, Tyler Long, bless his heart was the rock for me and he was the only guy that had varsity experience and that was minimal,” Thompson said. “It was going to be a long road for us no question but there is lot of factors that made it doubly difficult.”
Thompson said he looks back fondly at his time as the head coach and said it took a lot of time and effort that he was proud of what he accomplished with the Elida program both as an assistant under Chris Adams and as head coach.
“I have worked as hard as I can work in what I truly love doing and I have always said that if they don’t think I am doing a good enough job then, sure, but I felt I have given my best shot year after year and not just as a head coach but the 20 years with coach Adams were wonderful years and I worked my butt off there too.”
Thompson will cherish the big wins and milestones and said the trip to the final four was one of the many highlights in his coaching career.
“Program-wise, the state tournament was outstanding. … The sea of orange. I remember looking up and saying ‘holy cow look at that,’” Thompson said. “I have goosebumps right now. We have had some really good years and to coach in the Elida Fieldhouse which I think is the best venue around and trust me I have taken some walks through it this week and I will take a few more yet. You can’t do what I’ve done and not miss it.”
Thompson added that he will also miss the camaraderie with his fellow coaches in the area and said he felt he has coached during the best era in northwest Ohio the last three decades.
In an interesting twist, Thompson was hired to resume his duties of being the head coach of the boys’ golf team but is unsure if he wants to continue in that position.
“I am not going to make a decision right now with the emotions I have running right now,” Thompson said. “It would be very easy to be bitter and not that I am not upset and you can’t measure the disappointment I have right now but I am an Elida Bulldog. I am just not going to be the head basketball coach right now.”
Thompson did not rule out coaching another basketball team but added that it would not be the same and does not see that happening.
“I can’t see myself putting in the effort and pride into the job like I have for the last 35 years so with that thought I don’t feel like I could do the job like I have done at Elida because that pride is not there,” Thompson said. “If I did have another coaching job I would give it my best effort but I wouldn’t have the pride I have for Elida and wouldn’t know how to go about it.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.