Thursday, February 12, 2009

ATH: Coaching stuff

especially interesting because this is the first i've heard that one of my college roomies was going to be coaching right down the road from me . . . but withdrew . . .

Muehlstein says negativity led to resignation
Alex Byington, The Daily Times, Published February 12, 2009

COMFORT — Less than a year after being hired for his first head coaching job at Comfort High School, Keith Muehlstein again is searching for work.

“The negativity that exists — not everywhere, just in some segments — becomes a cancer to the team, and since you can’t really cut that cancer out, you’ve got to find a way to address it,” Muehlstein said, explaining the reasons for his decision. “So if you can’t fight it, you move on.”

Muehlstein replaced the long-since departed Lee Wiginton, who became the head football coach at Mexia, in February 2008.

This week, Muehlstein resigned from the athletic director/head football spot, along with assistant coaches Kane Harris and Doug Wheeler, and wives Amber Muehlstein and Tiffany Harris. All five taught in the Comfort Independent School District.

Muehlstein talked publicly for the first time since the resignations were unanimously accepted Monday by the Comfort ISD school board despite several community members voicing support for the 32-year-old athletic director.

Muehlstein sought to make his mark in Comfort as a first-year head coach with plans to establish roots in the Hill Country. But with several community members upset with his hiring, issues off the field quickly developed that made it nearly impossible to accomplish that goal.

“There was a segment that was obviously against me, and you either fight it or you move on,” he said. “And it’s hard to fight because next year or the year after, they’re still going to be here.”

Fighting “small town politics” for most of his 11 months on the job, things hit a boiling point this month when Muehlstein felt compelled to explain his decisions regarding the Bobcats football team in a letter published in the Feb. 4 edition of the Comfort News, a weekly Comfort newspaper.

Detailing 11 complaints voiced by several community members in an open-door meeting, Muehlstein defended everything from play calling and use of the spread offense to coaching assignments and players who quit or move away.

“This has taken on a life of its own — it’s not criticism, it’s gotten out of hand,” he said.

Although not the first choice to replace Wiginton, Muehlstein was picked for the Comfort job from several candidates after Smithson Valley assistant coach Brad Lind withdrew three days into his tenure for family reasons.

“When we got here, knowing how young we were, knowing what our schedule looked like early, we knew it was going to be a tough start,” Muehlstein said. “But we knew we were going to get it turned by the end, and we could still get in (to the playoffs), which is what we did.”

Beginning with six straight losses, Muehlstein helped re-energize the Bobcats, fueling them to four straight victories and a spot in the Class 2A-Division I playoffs.

But sending a team to its 10th playoff berth in the last 11 seasons was not enough for parts of the community.

“I really ain’t too worried about what everybody else thinks. I’m going to do what I think is best for the group, period,” Muehlstein said. “... There’s always going to be one mommy or daddy mad. So be it. I don’t care.”

Despite the majority of the criticism coming from a small segment of the population, estimated at around 25 people, their voices were heard loud and clear.

“Sometimes there are others that don’t have that same perspective (as a head coach), they want what’s best for their kid, or whatever other motive they may or may not have,” he added. “So there are always going to be people that disagree.”

Although it was a difficult decision, especially leaving behind so many kids he had built connections with, there was only one option.

“The kids have been great,” Muehlstein said. “And that’s the sad part of all of this ... that they’re the ones that are getting the short end of the stick.”

Now, Muehlstein is moving on, leaving his first head coaching job for an unknown destination.

“What really would have changed? The drama will still be the same drama and why would I subject myself or my family to that?” Muehlstein asked.

Muehlstein’s time at Comfort will fade to black come June. But the soon-to-be father has no doubt there are still plenty of games left in his future.

“The show doesn’t end here, it’s just the end of this chapter,” Muehlstein said.

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