Casey fires boys basketball coach

May 06, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

LIBERTY - It didn't work out for Shawn Conley at Casey County, but he said he harbors no hard feelings even after being fired.

Conley, who coached Casey's boys basketball team for the past four seasons, was told last week he wouldn't be retained.

"I'm not bitter," Conley said. "I'm very proud of the job myself and the coaching staff did."

Conley was 33-79 as Casey's coach, and the Rebels never reached the 12th Region Tournament while he was there. And even though administrators and colleagues alike had high praise for him, that may have been the deciding factor.

"You can't beat coach Conley as a person," Casey athletic director Jerry Pierce said. "There's nothing but positive things I can say about coach Conley. But talent was scarce and expectations were big."

Conley said he was told Friday of the school's decision by superintendent Linda Hatter. He said it was his understanding that Hatter made the move based on a recommendation from principal Tim Goodlett.


"They told me it's a decision they really didn't want to make, and they felt like they had to," Conley said. "They didn't go into details, and I didn't ask them to."

Neither Hatter nor Goodlett could be reached for comment Wednesday.

"They just decided to go in a different direction," Pierce said.

He knew all was not well

Conley said he had met with Goodlett a couple of weeks earlier, and he said he knew all was not well at that time.

"I knew there were some parents that I knew were upset," Conley said. "It was just a matter of kids not playing and different persons' opinions about the way the program needed to be run."

Casey, which has had only one winning season in the last 10 years, could never win consistently during Conley's tenure there, but he said he saw progress in the program.

"We were able to make improvement every year with the exception of this year," he said. "And we saw some things happen off the court that were even more rewarding than anything that happened on the court."

The Rebels were 8-20 last season, though they won four of their first five games and took first place in a Christmas tournament in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

"Once we got back from Gatlinburg, we saw some dissension on the team that I didn't realize was there before," Conley said.

Second half of last season was a struggle

That led to the dismissal of some players, and Casey was further hurt in the second half of the season when leading scorer Derek Vest suffered a knee injury.

The Rebels lost 15 of 17 games in January and February, including 13 in a row.

"Expectations were higher than any year I've been here, but there were different circumstances that were not foreseen," Conley said.

Beyond the wins and losses, compliments for Conley came quickly.

"You couldn't ask for a better fellow, and I thought he did a great job as coach," said Jimmy Brown, who has been an assistant coach at Casey for 15 years under three coaches.

Brown was out of basketball until two years ago when Conley, who attends the same church, talked him into returning to the bench.

"I loved those years as a coach," Brown said. "I had a great time working with Shawn and (assistant coach) Phil (Williams).

"I wasn't expecting (the firing), but you never know in the basketball business."

Pierce also said Conley showed exemplary character on the court and in the classroom, where he teaches special education.

"There's nothing but positive things I can say about coach Conley," Pierce said. "He's an excellent teacher. He's the best guy you can have in the building from 8 to 3. Sometimes it's hard to deal with the cards that have been dealt to you."

He's taking some time to consider his future

Conley said he's taking some time to consider his future. He said he'd like to continue to coach, and he plans to explore the available jobs.

"I'm going to do some praying on that," he said. "I'll know pretty soon about what I'm going to do with that."

And Conley said he hopes for the best for the Casey program, which had junior varsity and freshman teams with winning records last year.

"I think the next two or three years coiuld be the best years you'll see at Casey County in quite some time," he said.

"There's no bitterness on my part. This is something that I know happens in this profession. I wish Casey County luck, and especially those kids."

Pierce said Casey is limited in its search for a replacement because there are job cuts on the horizon and the salary probably won't be raised.

"We don't have a lot of wiggle room," he said.

Brown said he was told Conley's firing did not affect the status of him and Williams.

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