Archive for Wednesday, May 23, 2001

THS basketball coach, counselor resigns

Mike Webb’s desire to teach leads to decision to leave Tonganoxie school district

May 23, 2001

Everyone seeks one thing that enriches their careers.

And now, Mike Webb, Tonganoxie High School basketball coach and career counselor, has decided it's time to pursue his love of teaching.

Webb, 43, resigned early last week in hopes of returning to the classroom. During the past seven years, he's missed teaching students.

"Everybody has to find their niche," Webb said. "I really think that mine is with the kids in the classroom."

Webb, who lives in Olathe, doesn't have another job, but he hopes to teach in the Olathe, Blue Valley or Gardner-Edgerton school districts.

Both THS Principal Mike Bogart and Superintendent Richard Erickson were surprised by Webb's decision.

"I sure would like Mike to stay," Bogart said. "I'm really going to miss him. He's really accomplished a lot here. He's been hard-working and tackles jobs without complaints. He's been a real asset. He had an excellent experience here and did a fine job."

Erickson agreed.

"He's really done a fantastic job," he said. "It's going to be critical that we can find someone that can continue to establish the vocational component. I was disappointed because he's been a great vocational counselor with us. I wish him well, though."

Athletics Director John Lee was also shocked by the news and believes Webb has had a positive impact on the school's basketball program.

"He's been fun to be around," Lee said. "Mike's a very likeable guy who communicated well with other people."

After just two years with the district, Webb's stay seems a little short-lived.

Even though Webb is leaving, he said the past couple months have been a lot of fun, so fun that he was eager to get to school each day.

Of course, he said, he'll miss Tonganoxie.

"Everybody here has been so good to me," Webb said. "I am very grateful. I really feel like I'm the one that has been blessed. This community has been very good to me. I've developed a lot of friendships and business relationships."

Atop Webb's accomplishments is his contribution to a new vocational counseling program. Webb has actively worked with students to prepare them for college and employment. Most recently, he helped establish an internship program at the high school for seniors.

"This will be a positive move for him since he wants to get back to teaching," said Darren Neas, junior high assistant principal, who worked closely last year with Webb. "He's really set our district on a good course. He's left some big shoes to fill, in my opinion. I hope the district works hard to find somebody to carry the baton."

For the past four weeks, Webb has struggled with the question of whether to leave Tonganoxie. He said many people might not understand his decision, particularly because he doesn't have another job. But it looked doubtful a teaching position would open soon in Tonganoxie, he said.

"I want to make sure that it is the right position," he said.

Before coming to Tonganoxie, Webb spent nine years at Kansas City Sumner Academy where he worked in various capacities.

He taught science, world geography and has worked with the internship program. And he's looking to return to science or world geography.

The coaching days

Most of all, Webb will miss coaching basketball. After all, that is what brought him to Tonganoxie.

Webb spent 22 years as an assistant basketball coach before coming to Tonganoxie.

"It's hard to walk away," he said. "Especially since being a head coach was my dream. It's a hard pill to swallow. It's a dream I always will miss. I'll miss walking out the door on game nights and seeing the crowd and relating with the kids on the court."

Webb said basketball has been an integral part of his life since he was a kid. Ideally, Webb would like to coach basketball full time. But, it doesn't look like that will happen.

Webb said some key wins in his two years will hang with him. One of those was the Chieftains' win in their first game at the De Soto basketball tournament in the 1999-2000 season. Another highlight was beating Lansing this year by about 30 points.

One of Webb's biggest goals as head coach was to surpass a .500 record. He came close both years. Last season, the Chieftains were 10-11 and this past season they were 9-12.

"That would have to be my biggest disappointment," Webb said.

But the team's future looks bright.

"There's a good foundation here," he said. "Good basketball can be played here in the next two or three years. I hope that I've helped lay that foundation."

To ensure his team heard the news from him, Webb announced his resignation during a players meeting.

"I know it was a shock for them," he said. "I told them that I wasn't going to answer any questions at that time."

Bogart said that Webb essentially has jump-started the basketball program.

"He's brought more structure and enthusiasm to the team," Bogart said.

Lee said Webb's lettering policy was one of the best. Webb required team members to make good grades and perform community service, including visits to area hospitals.

"He's brought a lot to the program," Lee said. "He really tried to make the players whole, well-rounded people."

David Walker, who's been the assistant basketball coach, is at the top of the district's list for candidates to fill the coaching position. Bogart said that he would be recommended for the position at the June 11 school board meeting.

Kyle Rodell, who graduated Saturday, said Walker would be a good candidate.

"Coach Walker is a great coach and has helped us a lot in the JV spot," Rodell said. "Coach Walker has also helped a lot on varsity. I think he'd bring a different energy and coaching style to the team."

Junior Jordan Glenn agreed that Walker would be a good match for the team.

"If he becomes head coach, that's fine by me," Glenn said. "I really like him, too."

A great person and coach

Webb had a powerful impact on a lot of people's lives. His players are first-hand proof of that.

"He's set a good example of how to have a great attitude in life and be devoted to beliefs," Rodell said. "He's been a good role model for us as people and not just as players."

Glenn had hoped Webb would coach next year.

"Pretty much everything about him was what I liked best," Glenn said. "He was like my best friend. I really cared for him; he was like another father to me. He's done so many great things. He's like my mentor."

Glenn said losing Webb was going to be very difficult because he was such a great coach and friend.

"I won't ever forget him," he said. "He's still MY coach and will always be my coach. Nobody can take that away. I've learned a lot of things about basketball, life, friendship and trust. He's taught me a lot and I am thankful for that.

"He's made me a better man and, for that, I'm proud to say that I love him in a way. He's my coach and friend. I really care for him and want the best for him. If this is the best choice for him, so be it. I understand."

A time of growth

"When I first began, I was overwhelmed with what I had to do as a counselor," Webb said.

Webb worked past that and also helped develop some solid programs at the high school. Webb said the biggest accomplishment on the counseling side was developing the intern program.

"If I'm able to leave any kind of legacy, I hope it's that I had a part in that," he said.

"I really feel like I'm a much richer individual, human being through working here," Webb said. "I feel like the people in Tonganoxie have embraced me and took me in. God had a reason for me to be here. I feel like I will always have a special place in my heart for Tonganoxie."

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