The emotion is still raw for John Vickers.
The emotion is still raw for John Vickers.
On Monday, Vickers, a William Chrisman High School graduate who has been the Bears head boys basketball coach for the last 15 years, announced his resignation Monday afternoon in a post-school meeting with his players. His longtime assistant, Bill Adams, who has been an assistant the past 27 years (including time on the bench with Warren Landess and Bob Tonnies) also announced his resignation.
Vickers didn’t know the best way to break the news to his players. He admitted, it was a brutal day.
“Monday was the hardest day of my life,” said Vickers, who played for Landess and Adams and graduated from Chrisman in 1985. “It was a day I have been dreading and found it hard to prepare for. At least I went out with one of my best friends, Coach Adams.”
Vickers compiled a 161-232 record while at Chrisman and led the Bears to a pair of conference titles in 2001 and 2009. In 2009, he guided the program to its first district championship since 1980. Chrisman finished 13-11 this season.
“I’m very competitive,” Vickers said. “I want to win as much as the next guy, and Coach Adams feels the same way. There were times the past 15 years where we had to be creative and inventive to field the most competitive team.
“We didn’t always succeed, if you just go by our won-lost record, but we played an exciting brand of basketball and sent a lot of kids to college.
“A cornerstone of our program has been developing character in our kids, and I believe when players look back on their high school playing days, they remember the relationships and experiences they shared with their coaches and teammates and they don’t think so much about their teams’ records.”
Vickers was bombarded with questions from his players and students throughout the day Tuesday at Chrisman and he said he was able to maintain his composure and handle his teaching responsibilities, along with quelling some fears.
“A lot of the kids wanted to know if I was staying at Chrisman as a teacher and I told them absolutely,” said Vickers, who teaches government and sociology. “This is my home, this is where I want to be.
“When I graduated from Chrisman, I never thought I would come back to Independence and coach and teach at my high school. If I hadn’t come back to Chrisman, Terry Parker and his wife would have never introduced me to Stephanie Horner, my wife, and we now have four kids of our own.
“I am just so happy that Coach Adams and I were able to leave together. The last 15 years have been amazing, just amazing.”
Chrisman activities director Dan Ogle said Vickers was his first hire when he took over as activities director at Chrisman 15 years ago.
Page 2 of 2 - “John leaving is bittersweet,” Ogle said Tuesday. “It is very sad to see him go. Fifteen years, lots of successes, lots of kids and lots of memories.
“He was the first person I hired when I became full time AD. (Former) principal John Ruddy told me to go find a boys basketball coach. John was the assistant at Liberty and was just coming off an undefeated state champion team. It was an easy hire and a darn good one.”
Vickers said he will always owe a debt of gratitude to Ogle and Ruddy.
“They took a chance on a kid who had been an assistant for nine years at Liberty, and I can never thank them enough,” Vickers said. “It’s funny, I was Dan’s first hire and a while back we were talking and he said, ‘You’re the last one who’s still around from that first group we hired.’ It seems like a long time ago, but it all went by so quickly.
“But now, I can spend more time with my family. I can be a better father, a better husband and a better teacher, and that excites me.”
Ogle is pleased that Vickers will be able to spend more time with his family, which includes newborn son Samuel.
“I am very happy for him,” Ogle said. “Great family, four great kids, time in his life to do some other things. His Bears were predicted to finish last in conference, then finish second. They finished on an 11-3 run and a victory over the (Truman) Patriots. Great finish.”
Chrisman is now searching for new head and assistant coaches.
“We put out a search over Missouri and Kansas,” Ogle said. “We bring in some strong candidates, find a good one among the applications and tell them to get to work.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC