York High boys' basketball coach Troy Sowers was just burned out.
It was for that reason that he handed in his resignation on Thursday morning, one day after his team was eliminated from the District 3-AAAA basketball tournament against Carlisle, 69-54.
"I think it was a culmination of everything," Sowers said. "Being a head coach for 20 years, you never quite know when it's going to hit you. You just come to the realization that you need a break. ... Basketball, if you want to do it right, is a year-round commitment. It's 365 days, and I always took the attitude of 'whatever it takes, I'm going to do it for my kids,' and when you attack things that way, you can't do it forever and I just feel like I'm burned out."
The Bearcats just completed a 12-11 season, their worst year in 10 seasons under Sowers since his first year in 2006-07, when his team went 12-13. Sowers' resignation comes shortly after his good friend Joe Chiodi resigned as the school's athletic director in January. Chiodi said he resigned after being informed that he wouldn't be retained as the school's AD.
Under Sowers, 46, York High became the premier team in the York-Adams League, as well as in all of District 3. He led the Bearcats to four Y-A League titles and three District 3-AAAA titles, including back-to-back championships in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
"I had the best 10-year experience that any coach could ever want," Sowers said. "We coached 18 games at the Giant Center. That's almost a full season of basketball at the Giant Center. We put 28 kids into college who went through our program. I put gold medals around all my guys' necks — three district titles and four county titles. I had the best experience I could have."
In the 2008-09 season, Sowers helped guide York High to a 32-2 record, including runner-up finishes in both the District 3-AAAA tournament and the PIAA Class AAAA tournament. Beginning that year, over the course of the next seven seasons, the Bearcats won the most games in Pennsylvania at the AAAA level, the highest class of basketball in the state.
Taking it to the next level: A 1987 graduate of York High, Sowers took over a program that was already trending upward when he was hired in the spring of 2006, but helped take it to the next level. As coach, Sowers' approach was to build a team around high-character players, an example that was noticeable on the court. Over the last two seasons, neither he nor any of his players were called for a technical foul in a game.
"Just from what I've heard and read and researched about York High, Coach Sowers had a phenomenal track record," incoming York High athletic director Ron Coursey said. "He's built and sustained a championship-level program and he's somebody that, whoever we hire as the next varsity basketball coach, is going to have gigantic shoes to fill."
Back in January, during an interview with The York Dispatch, Sowers said that he hoped to coach the program until he retired from teaching at the high school in nine years. But, he also said that because of the heightened expectations surrounding the program, he was finding himself more relieved than happy after wins and miserable after losses.
"Unless you're a head coach in football or basketball in high school sports, no one can understand it," Sowers said. "Because it never ends. At the level of play that we played at in high school basketball, we played the toughest schedule of anybody in District 3 year in and year out, there's small margins of error when you do that."
When Sowers took the York High job back in 2006, one of his two goals was to help put his players into college. In his 10 seasons, including his three seniors from this year's team, Kris Johnson, Trey Shifflett and Montrel Morgan, that number will total 28. Shifflett recently committed to Bethany College in West Virginia, while Johnson and Morgan both have full-ride offers to play at East Stroudsburg.
Focus on family: Right now, Sowers said that he just wants to focus on his family. For five months out of the year, he said that he wasn't getting home until at least 7 p.m. every night, and even when he was home, he wasn't all there.
While he doesn't know if this is the end to his coaching days, he said he's not ready to think about that because he's at peace with his decision.
In his 10 seasons as the head coach, he amassed an overall record of 225-67 (.771) and a league record of 120-23 (.839).
"I'm proud of what I did and I'm proud I worked as hard as I did," he said. "But, right now, I'm just real pooped out."
Next in line: While the position opening is still new, one candidate that could be interested in the vacancy is one of Sowers' longtime assistants, Clovis Gallon.
Gallon has a vested interest in the program, with two kids who will attend the high school next season, one of which played on the JV team this past season as a freshman.
Sowers said that if Gallon was interested in applying, he would highly recommend him for the job and that he's "earned his stripes" to become the next Bearcat head coach.
Huge holes to fill: When Coursey begins his tenure as the school's new AD on Monday, he'll be hard at work right from the jump.
With Sowers' resignation, he now has two coaching vacancies to fill in the two most high-profile prep sports — boys' basketball and football.
Former football coach Shawn Heinold resigned following the end of this past football season, when York went 0-10. Heinold went 17-44 in six seasons as head coach.
While Coursey did say that both positions are extremely important to fill as soon as possible, he did say that hiring a head football coach is the more pressing of the two. He's already had conversations with several school administrators to get an idea of what type of budget he's working with for the position and what the best type of fit will be for the school, but hasn't started the interviewing process yet. Coursey said he hopes to hire a head football coach within the next month.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com