Archive for Thursday, March 30, 2006

Price walks away from BSHS hoops

Bonner Springs coach stepping down to spend more time with family

March 30, 2006

While fighting back his emotions and trying hard not to tear up, Bonner Springs basketball coach Andy Price delivered what was undoubtedly the toughest speech of his coaching career last week at the team's end-of-the-year banquet.

Shortly after the individual honors were handed out, Price interrupted the transition to the team's highlight video with an announcement.

"I don't really know a good way to say it other than to just come right out and say it," Price said. "But I want to announce that this is my last year coaching."

With that, the 40 or so members of the Bonner Springs basketball family on hand to celebrate the team's season sat in shock.

"I thought he was going to announce that he was having another baby," BSHS junior Anthony Brown said. "It's going to be weird not having coach around next year."

Ironically, Brown's speculation on the announcement turned out to be the very reason for Price's resignation -- his family.

"Basketball has taken up so much of my time, I just feel like I need to spend more time with my family," Price said of his wife, Aimee, and 2-year-old son Tyler. "Coaching accounted for about 10 percent of my salary but took up 90 percent of my time. I don't know how to coach basketball without being totally involved in it, so in order to be fair to my family, and my career, I decided to step away from coaching."

The decision to hang up his clipboard was one that ate at Price until the night before his announcement. His first thoughts of retirement came at the end of last season, when fellow coaches Dan Streit and Bill Downing stepped away to spend more time with their families. But at that point Price decided he was not quite ready to hang it up. After the team's season-ending loss to Sumner in the sub-state semifinals this year, Price said he would make a decision by the team's banquet, but he did not reach the decision without suffering through a painstaking decision-making process.

"The guys who are coming back is what makes this so hard," Price said. "I couldn't sleep last night, just thinking about it."

Price leaves the Braves as the second winningest coach in school history. With a five-year record of 66-42, his 66 wins and .611 winning percentage both rank second behind Ed Nealy Sr.

But more important than any of the wins he delivered was the attitude that Price brought to the program. When he took over, Bonner Springs basketball players were viewed by most as trouble-makers -- lawless rebels who played cheap basketball and put themselves before the team on every occasion.

Almost instantly, Price reshaped that image, creating a team of hard-nosed, team-oriented players, who respected the game, the program and their opponents.

"It feels good to rank up there on the list of wins," Price said. "But that's not really why you coach. I'd like to be remembered for being a positive influence on these kids' lives and for how much I cared. In order to accomplish what we did, you have to have a coach who demands it, but you also have to have players who buy into it."

Although Price never reached his ultimate goal of qualifying for the state tournament, his Braves had more than their share of success during his tenure.

He guided the program to three winning seasons, two Kaw Valley League championships and to within a game of the state tournament once.

It was during that season -- which ended with a loss to Topeka West in the sub-state championship game -- that Price experienced his most memorable moment on the BSHS sidelines.

"I don't see how anything can compare to when Aaron Weathers hit that three-point shot at the buzzer to beat Lansing," Price said. "That was especially big because it helped us win the league that year. It wasn't just an incredible shot in a meaningless game."

One day after the announcement, Price sat in his office of the BSHS technology department a changed man.

"I just feel like a different person, almost," he said. "I'm sad not to be the coach anymore, but I'm also relieved, like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

That weight has shifted to the BSHS athletic department, which will not only have to replace Price, but its outgoing girls coach, as well.

Despite being faced with having to replace both varsity basketball coaches in the same year, BSHS athletic director -- and former girls basketball coach -- Garold Baker took time to reflect on what Price brought to the program.

"I don't think you can say enough about the guy," Baker said. "It seemed like he went above expectations with every team he had and he always got the most out of his players. The guy's good. And I hate to lose him. He's going to be awfully difficult to replace."

Although Price is stepping away from the BSHS basketball program, he will retain his role with the district's technology department and will likely devote some of his free time toward furthering his education.

As for the void inside him that basketball once filled, Price is hoping to stay involved with the game he loves by working with the BSHS players in the summer and continuing to run the school's summer league.

"It's kind of an unusual situation," Price said. "Not many coaches get to leave on positive terms. I just want to thank everyone who helped make this a great experience for me. I know when I got the job there were a lot of really good candidates who applied for it. And for Coach Baker and Dr. (Jerry) Abbott (BSHS principal) to go out on a limb for me is something I'll always appreciate."

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