A look at the plight of the former (?) LVHS' boys' basketball coach

Wow.

That’s all I can think of when I review how Larry Hogan’s career was blatantly ended as the Leavenworth High boys’ basketball coach last week.

According to the 35-year coach of the Pioneers, the decision was made one day after a Leavenworth Unified School District 453 school board meeting and five weeks before the next one.

If you make this move, get it approved by the board as soon as possible, write a nice press release about Hogan’s achievements and thank him for service well done.

You don’t do it before jetting off for spring break to avoid all of the phone calls supporting Hogan.

My investigation with entities of the city and county indicated that Hogan didn’t break the law. If he had, this column isn’t written, our news department deals with the next steps and the school district is lauded for doing the right thing. But that wasn’t the case.

Can we be fine with the administration wanting to try something new or go in a different direction? Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with that. What bothers me is that students and adults told me more than a month ago that school officials were talking to or “interviewing” others for Hogan’s position while the coach still held that title. If true, it is tacky. I asked USD 453 officials if this was true and they declined comment, citing personnel privacy laws.

If Hogan was thinking about retiring so he could compete on the Canadian curling team and let the school know to begin looking for a successor with his blessing, then that would make sense.

Hogan confirmed he was told the job was no longer his. He wouldn’t be the head boys’ basketball coach anymore and his position would be posted, which the human resources department confirmed to me last week. However, no posting is available at this time.

Could things have been done better on the basketball side? Sure. Anything can be done better. I could write this column better, for instance. Some of the team’s recent failings are attributed to not finding the right buttons to push or maybe a missing tweak here and there.

I get it. But let’s get real.

Some people – and clearly the administration – believe the results on the floor over the past few years should have been better. Hogan confirmed that a lack of wins played a role in his departure, precipitated by LVHS athletic director James Vanek.

I really like the boys currently on the team. If they went 0-20 it would not have changed how much I appreciate and respect how truly fun and decent those young men are. If they went 20-0 and were the same people, the wins wouldn’t mean a thing either.

But in truth, the team wasn’t an elite one. It might have been able to be a little better. But in truth, they weren’t a powerhouse.

Much of the team’s failures in recent seasons fall on the athletes as well. Was there talent? Yes, athletic talent, but the play didn’t match it. How much individual work was done in the offseason? Did they travel to KCK and KCMO on hot summer days and get some run on the well-known city courts? Did they push their learning curves and develop more instincts against men and playground legends? Some maybe, but not enough.

Then there’s the “Hogan is losing his touch” argument. Here is where we educate the multitudes of people who have the notion they actually understand sports, competition and accountability but really don’t.

When a coach “loses” it, it is a lot more apparent than the reasons you believe.

It was 2011 when Hogan led the team to its last state tournament. So is it a rut? Yes. But when a coach “loses it” the deterioration is gradual. It’s the inability to replicate previous excellence with the same measurable talent.

They went 16-5 in 2012 and then the bottom dropped out to 6-15.

You don’t “lose it” in one year unless there is some serious personal illnesses or issues going on – see Duke’s 1995 team. 

That kind of drop in one year is clearly more indicative of a measurable drop in talent. The players just weren’t as good.

This year’s team was OK, not very good or great.

Former players tell me they see a measurable talent drop. They give Hogan respect and wonder where the talent and hard work went. That’s further proof of not “losing it.”

When a team continually starts games in a 10-point hole, that is more indicative of the players not the coaches.

It is a player’s job to come to the game motivated and ready to go.

If a coach is horrible at his job or a bad person, OK, that could be a contributing factor.

If he was “losing it” and “gee those kids don’t respond to him …,” why were they able to, on probably a half dozen occasions, go into the locker room, make adjustments and pull off huge rallies for some wins or some brave losses?

If it’s not the Xs and Os, then he is one heck of a motivator.

If it’s not the ability to motivate, then he is dang good with making adjustments.

You can’t have it both ways. If you decide to give the players all of the credit – well, these aren’t the 2016 Chicago Cubs overcoming Joe Maddon.

So explain to me, what did he “lose” exactly?

I have said to Hogan “We can always do better, right?” and he has agreed. This is reality.  Everyone has their weak points and Hogan does as much as anyone. But were they that glaring that they unceremoniously dumped the Hall of Fame coach? I don’t think so.

I hope the coaches currently at LVHS keep working hard and do some wonderful stuff. But what happens when there is a cyclical talent drop? What if more and more parents believe that commitment means “Our spring break is more important than your practices?” What if other teams have a swell in talent and Leavenworth struggles to win half of its games?

I don’t take issue with the decision although I believe Hogan is taking the brunt of the blame for a decline in talent and that some kids have not stepped up and put in the work.

Hogan might have been able to do more to fight those trends. But in the end, it’s just not the way you treat a very good man who did a lot of good things for your community.

Coaches aren’t the only ones that can always do better.