After a lot of years, victories and championships, Tucker Pappas is out as head coach of the Manchester High School girls basketball team
NEW FRANKLIN After a lot of years, victories and championships, Tucker Pappas is out as head coach of the Manchester High School girls basketball team.
Pappas said he learned six weeks ago – on Mother’s Day (May 14) - that he would not be returning for a 14th season.
"I didn’t get the mail the day before, and when I got it that Sunday, there was a letter from the district stating that my (supplemental coaching) contract was not being renewed," said Pappas, whose full-time job is as a home inspector.
Technically, supplemental coaching contracts are for one year and are automatically non-renewed each March, according to Manchester Schools Superintendent Dr. James Robinson. He said the majority of those contracts are then usually renewed, but that wasn’t the case with Pappas this time.
Why? What happened? What changed after his contract being renewed year after year for almost a decade and a half?
According to Pappas, the issue apparently is an ongoing disconnect with some parents.
Robinson, though, would not offer a reason.
"This is a personnel matter, and I don’t comment on personnel matters," he said.
Robinson was asked if it was difficult to part ways with such a successful coach.
"Whether or not we rehire coaches is not determined by their wins and losses," he said. "We’ve had coaches who have won but didn’t have their contracts renewed, and we’ve had coaches who have lost and had their contracts renewed. So it just depends on the individual situation."
Whatever the reason, whether it was the alleged disconnect with parents or something else, the bottom line is that Pappas is not coaching the Panthers anymore. And that’s a seismic change for a program that has been extremely consistent – both in terms of winning and coaching – for almost a quarter-century.
"I’m shocked, and I’m not shocked. I didn’t see it coming, and I did see it see it coming," Pappas said. "This has been going on for a long time, but I didn’t think it would come to this.
"I’m beyond upset."
Pappas was one of the winningest coaches in the region. The Panthers won the Principals Athletic Conference championship in each of his first nine seasons and also made a trip to the Division II regionals. They finished second in the league the next two years, followed by the program’s first losing seasons in nearly two decades, going 10-13 overall in 2015-16 and 5-18 in 2016-17.
"There are three or four girls returning, plus there is a real good player coming up from the eighth grade," Pappas said. "So if we could have avoided any major injuries – and that’s a big if - I was thinking that we could get things turned back around and have a pretty good team next year."
If that happens, then it will be with Shawn Zavodney as the new coach. He is no stranger.
Zavodnry did quite well as a longtime coach at Manchester Middle School, and has spent the past two seasons as the junior varsity coach under Pappas.
"We’re all comfortable with Shawn," Robinson said in reference to himself, Manchester High School Principal Jim France, former MHS Athletics Director A.J. Hite and new AD Mike Ankrom.
"He’s been a basketball coach for a while and won several league titles at the middle school. He also is heading into his second year as the varsity golf coach and served as an assistant in that program for several years."
A phone message left for Zavodney, who is a teacher at the middle school, was not immediately returned.
As for Pappas, he is a Manchester guy through and through. He had been with the program for 23 years, serving the first 10 seasons as an assistant under Bob Eckert. A program that had had a combined total of just three victories in three years before they took over, captured five league titles in a decade. And nothing changed after Eckert stepped down and Pappas took over. The Panthers kept rolling.
Pappas starred in basketball, football and baseball at Manchester High School before graduating in 1993 and is in a member of the school’s Swede Olsson/Jim France Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduating, he spent one season as the seventh-grade boys basketball coach before moving over to the girls the following year.
"I’m 43 years old, and I’ve spent 37 of those years in the Manchester school system in one form or another, either as a student or a coach," Pappas said. "It’s hard to believe that has ended."
His wife, Christina, also a Manchester graduate, has been the principal at the district’s Nolley Elementary School for almost a decade. After what happened to him, Pappas said his wife is "looking for another job."
The couple, who lives in Manchester, has two boys in the school system, including Trent, an incoming eighth-grader who is considered a top basketball talent.
"We will continue to live here – we’re not going anywhere – and the boys will remain students in Manchester for next school year," Pappas said. "But beyond that, I don’t know what’s going to happen with the boys as to where they go to school. We’ll evaluate things a year from now.
"With my coaching, I’ve missed a lot of my kids’ games, so the good thing with all this is that I’ll get a chance to watch them play and I’ll enjoy that."
Pappas is not sure if he’ll coach again, but says he has already had an offer to join the staff at an undisclosed district.
"It’s all just a lot to think about," he said.
Pappas added, "When we were in the midst of winning all those PAC championships, if someone had said that someday in the not-that-distant future I would no longer be the coach at Manchester, I would have laughed. If I wasn’t the coach, I would have said that the decision to leave would have been mine. I never thought it would happen this way."